Sunday, 23 November 2014

Jihadist groups in Syria

Ansar al-Deen Front

Emblem / Twitter 

Ansar al-Deen (Arabic: Supporters of the Religion Front) is a jihadist alliance that was announced itself on 25 July 2014. The aim of this alliance is to implement Sharia law, unite forces and to fight and overthrow the Syrian regime.

This alliance operates in different areas across Syria like Latakia, Aleppo and Idlib. The groups involved in the coalition have around 3,000 diverse fighters except from Harakat Fajr Sham al-Islamiya which has fighters mostly Syrians from Aleppo.

Ansar al-Deen commanders/ founders / Twitter 

The alliance contains of three different groups:

Harakat Sham al-Islam
Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar
Harakat Fajr Sham al-Islamiya

Besides fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime, Ansar al-Deen is also providing security, running administrative and judicial systems in the liberated areas in collaboration with other rebel groups in Syria. Ansar al-Deen also called on its supporters to join them individually or by groups.

It has declared that is not affiliated with any other sides in the Syrian revolution. The alliance has attempted to maintain neutrality in the conflict which broke between Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other rebel groups in the January 2014.

Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar

Emblem / Twitter 

Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Arabic: Army of Emigrants and Supporters) is a jihadist group led by Salahuddin al-Shishani. The group has participated in many battles in Aleppo and Latakia alongside other rebel groups against the Syrian regime troops.  The group is made up mostly of Chechen, Dagistanis, Azeris, Kazakhs and small number of Syrians and Arabs. The numbers of fighters is estimated to be around 1,500 fighters. It was designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department on 24 September 2014.

Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar fighters / Twitter 

The group was formally known as Muhajireen Brigade and it was established in summer 2012, and it was led by Abu Omar al-Shishani then in March 2013, Muhajireen Brigade merged with two Syrian jihadist groups Jaish Muhammad and Kataeb Khattab, to form the group Jaish Muhajireen wal-Ansar. The Green Battalion which has mostly Suadi and Arab fighters swore allegiance to the group around October of 2014.

Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar during the battle of Handarat / Twitter 

Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar fighters capturing Syrian regime spy hideout/ Twitter 

In late November 2013, Abu Omar al-Shishani swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/ Daesh. Many fighters of the group did not support Abu Omar al-Shishani’s  decision to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/Daesh since most members already swore allegiances to  to Dokka Umarov, leader of the Caucasus Emirate and later on in December 2013, they appointed another Chechen leader known as Salahuddin al-Shishani as their commander of the group. 

Harakat Sham al-Islam

Emblem / Twitter 

Harakat Sham al-Islam (Arabic: Islamic Movement of the Levant) is a Jihadist group that was established in August 2013 by three Moroccan detainees who had been released from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Ibrahim bin Shakran, Ahmed Mizouz and Mohammed Alami. It was also designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department on 24 September 2014.

Harakat Sham al-Islam fighters / Twitter 

Before the creation of Harakat Sham al-Islam most Moroccan fighters who came to Syria from Morocco and Europe joined well known jihadist groups like Nusra Front and Islamic State/Daesh, until when Ibrahim bin Shakran arrived to Syria with few Moroccan jihadists from Morocco and decided to create Harakat Sham al-Islam in Latakia which later attracted most of the Moroccan jihadist in Syria and recruited Moroccans from Morocco to join this new group. The group is mostly made up of Moroccan fighters and few Arab fighters which estimated to be around 700 fighters and a large number of them were in prisons in Morocco.

Harakat Sham al-Islam fighters / Hespress 

Harakat Sham al-Islam became known when they participated in the 2013 Latakia offensive. The following year the group was one of the three major factions, alongside Nusra Front and Ansar al-Sham (Islamic Front) that look part in the 2014 Latakia offensive. Harakat Sham al-Islam also has also participated in Aleppo battles like battle for Kindi Hospital and the Aleppo Central Prison.

Harakat Sham al-Islam fighters / Chamalpost 

In April 2014 during the 2014 Latakia offensive the group’s leader, Ibrahim bin Shakran was who was also known as Abu Ahmad al-Muhajir  was killed in a battle with Syrian regime forces and pro regime militia, many members of his group was killed also like group's military commander Abu Safiya al-Masri and group’s military planner Abu Ahmed al-Maghrebi. Later on 25 July 2014 the group joined Ansar al-Deen and became part of the the jihadist alliance. 

Harakat Fajr Sham al-Islamiya

Emblem / Twitter 

Harakat Fajr Sham al-Islamiya (Arabic: Islamic Down Movement of the Levant) is a jihadist group that is led by Abu Abdellah al-Shami , The group has mostly local Syrian fighters from Aleppo and its suburbs. This group has participated in many battles alongside Nusra Front and Islamic Front in major battles like Battle of Aleppo Central Prison and Battle of Al-Kindi Hospital.  The Ideology of this group is similar to Nusra Front and Islamic State/Daesh where they are calling for an Islamic State\Caliphate and Implementing Sharia law.  

Harakat Fajr Sham al-Islamiya fighters / Twitter 

Junud al-Sham

Emblem / Twitter 

Junud al-Sham (Soldiers of the Levant) is an independent jihadist group of Chechen fighters that are numbered around 300 fighters and its located in Latakia, the group is led by Muslim Abu Walid al-Shishani.

Junud al-Sham fighters gathering / Twitter 

Junud al-Sham fighters gathering / Twitter 

Murad Margoshvili who is known by his Nom de guerre as Muslim al-Shishani or Muslim Abu Walid al-Shishani, who is a known Chechen commander in Syria. Muslim al-Shishani has long experience in combat since he served in the air defence division of the Soviet Army then when Soviet Union fell he joined the Dagestan War by fighting alongside Ibn Khattab and Shamil Basayev who led the International Islamic Brigade in Chechnya and Dagestan, then in 2012 Muslim left the Caucasus to join the war in Syria and formed a group named as Junud al-Sham.

Muslim al-Shishani / Twitter 

Junud al-Sham became known when it participated in 2014 Latakia offensive alongside other rebels like Islamic Front, Nusra Front and Harakat Sham Islam in a joint operations against the Syrian regime forces and pro regime militia in Latakia. The group also has a close relationship with Saifullah al-Shishani group which is part of the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front. Junud al-Sham also installed training camps in Latakia to train the new foreign recruits when arriving to Syria.  

Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz

Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz (Arabic: Soldiers of the Caucasus group) is a Caucasian jihadist group which is aiming to gather all Caucasian fighters in Syria under one group to fight the Syrian Regime forces.

Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz was formally known as Ahrar Sharkas (Arabic: Free Circassians) that was formed in February 2013 by few hundred Syrian Circassians of Qunaitra to fight the Syrian Armed Forces that was destroying villages and killing people in the name of fighting terrorism. The group Ahrar Sharkas was part of the Free Syrian Army in Qunaitra before it defected from it and formed a new group under the name of Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz which has two branches in Syria, Latakia and Qunaitra.

Formation of Ahrar Sharkas Brigade / Youtube 

The group is made up of Syrian Circassians and Syrian Abkhazians, including a small number of Jordanian Circassians who joined them recently from Jordan to fight alongside them in Syria. They participate in offensives and battles alongside other rebel groups like Islamic Front, Free Syrian Army and Nusra Front against Syrian regime positions in Latakia and Qunaitra which is known to be one of the hottest battlefields in the Syrian Revolution.

Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz fighters / Facebook 

Abkhazian fighter (left) and Circassian Fighter (right) / Facebook 

This group did not participate in ISIS-Rebel conflicts that broke out in 2014 and stayed neutral like other groups as Ansar al-Deen Front and other smaller groups and claimed to co-operate with any group to fight the Syrian regime forces. Later in November 2014 Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz merged forces with Khalifat Jamaat which is a Chechen jihadist group located in Latakia and led by Emir Abdul Hakim al-Shishani who now leads his group and Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz as one group under one command. 

Jund al-Aqsa

Jund al-Aqsa emblem / Twitter

Jund al-Aqsa (Arabic: Soldiers of Aqsa) is a jihadist group which was formed in northern Syria which is against Islamic State/Daesh and loyal to its rival Nusra Front. Jund al-Aqsa was founded by Abu Abdul Aziz al-Qatari, who was a close friend of Sheikh Abdul Azzam, who was known as the father of the Afghan Jihad in the 1980s and close adviser to Osama bin Laden. It draws its inspiration from scholars like Hamid bin Hammad al-Ali al-Kuwaiti and is in contact with the likes of Sheikh Maqdisi and Sheikh Suleiman Ulwan, the former being one of the most important scholars within the Jihadist dialogue.

A fighter carrying Jund al-Aqsa flag / Orient News 

Jund al-Aqsa's fighters are rich in military experience since many of its foreign fighters have previously fought in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. Approximately 70% of the group are Syrian and the rest are foreigners and estimated to be around 1,000 fighters.

They participated in battle alongside Nusra Front against Syria Revolutionary Front led by Jamal Maarouf in the countryside of Idlib which ended in defeating him and capturing his bases and HQ. The group’s ideology is similar to Nusra Front which is an affiliated to al-Qaeda which promotes jihadisim and implantation of strict Sharia law in Syria after the overthrow of the Syrian Regime.

Jund al-Aqsa checkpoints / Twitter 

Jund al-Aqsa mostly operates in the suburbs of Idlib and also has some appearances in the northern suburbs of Hama, it mostly fights against the Syrian regime forces and its supported shitte militants but in November 2014 in participated in battle against moderate rebel groups like Syria Revolutionary Front and Hazzm Movement in the suburbs of Idlib, according to Syrian Activists Jund al-Aqsa was a spearhead in the battle against the Syrian moderate groups.

Jund al-Aqsa Tank / Twitter

The group previously was part of Islamic State/Daesh and it was located in Northern west of Syria before Islamic State/Daesh was pushed out from Latakia and suburbs of Idlib. Jund al-Aqsa didn’t in the battle between Syrian rebel groups and Islamic State which broke out in January 2014. Jund al-Aqsa was not a known group in the Syria war due to its small size and less media attention.


Assabeel – four jihadist groups form a new alliance (Arabic)

Zaman al-wasl – Interview with Abu Abdellah al-Shami (Arabic)

Hespress – Moroccan Jihadists in Syria (Arabic)

The Wall Street Journal - After Guantanamo, Freed Detainees Returned to Violence in Syria Battlefields (English) - Increasing Numbers of Central Asian Jihadists in Syria (English)

James Town - A Profile of Syria’s Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa’l-Ansar (English)

US Department - Designations of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (English)

The long war Journal - Chechen commander forms 'Army of Emigrants,' integrates Syrian groups (English)

Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz - Facebook page (Arabic and English) 

Orient News – Jund al-Aqsa, a new jihadist group (Arabic)

Huffington Post - Why Did Jund Al-Aqsa Join Nusra Front in Taking Out 'Moderate' Rebels in Idlib? (English)

From Chechnya to Syria – Muslim Shishani’s Junud as-Sham (English)

The Long War Journal - State Department adds Chechen, Moroccan-led jihadist groups to terrorist list (English)

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