Recently, Syrian revolutionary factions have launched a sweeping offensive against Assad regime positions in Idlib city, the last remaining large urban bastion of regime control in the province. Jabhat al-Nusra and its affiliates have made some not insignificant gains.
However, this hasn’t come without the typical strife that seems to increasingly be a factor within the revolutionary movement. Clashes have erupted in some areas of Idlib between Jabhat al-Nusra (Syria’s most powerful indigenous anti-Assad Islamist faction), and the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front, a Free Syrian Army organisation led by the enigmatic Jamal Maarouf, oft accused of corruption by some among his own ranks. Maarouf has, to his credit, refused to give in to Obama’s plan to turn the FSA into a sahwat which would fight his enemies and ignore Assad… Until now?
I’m not going to pretend that I know what has gone on between the two groups. However, I was scanning Twitter as per, and came across an interesting link posted by Charlie Winter, a researcher on jihadism in Syria and Iraq at the Quilliam Foundation. It shows a translation of a statement by a Jabhat al-Nusra fighter on the events that transpired in Idlib with the SRF. It’s well worth a read, but of cause should be read with caution, given the fact that that all sides are prone to bias.
I have added occasional clarifications when references are vague (for those unfamiliar with the conflict).
(Jabhat al-)Nusra and other “mujahideen” were busy with the battle in Idlib City when SRF backstabbed them in Idlib.
The mujahideen took men back from Idlib city and sent them towards SRF (positions). Nusra have taken several SRF checkpoints and besieged several SRF areas. The fighting begun because a group within SRF defected and joined Ahrar al-Sham.(1)
SRF attacked that group in their base where some Nusra soldiers were present as well. SRF imprisoned several ansar (helpers)(2) and muhajireen (immigrants).(3) So the fighting begun and Nusra called for reinforcments from Rif Halab. While the reinforcments were heading to Idlib, they reached a Hazm(4) checkpoint.
They tried talking to them and asking if they could pass, but got no answer, so they took another way and were ambushed by Hazm. A Nusra convoy which consisted of 150 mujahideen and heavy weapons waited ten minutes (while getting fired upon) before attacking back and making Hazm retreat.
Several leaders and shariyeen (judges) tried to contact Hazm to try and solve the problem, but got no answer. In the end they got an answer and that was that Hazm would not stop before Nusra and other groups laid off SRF in Idlib. The Nusra emir (leader) then gave the order to engage Hazm.
Hazm set up checkpoints along roads and was given the order to capture any “Islamist”; Soldiers from Nusra, Jund al-Aqsa, Suqor al-Shaam, Ahrar al-Sham and other Islamist groups were captured. So Nusra set up checkpoints as well, and captured many Hazm soldiers as well. Not all Hazm (members) are alike, some of them are rigtheous, some of them defected when they were given the order to detain “Islamists” and some of their leaders gave up checkpoints to Nusra and stayed neutral.
(The) emir said that anyone who doesn’t fight and gives up his gun will be safe.
(1) A powerful Syrian resistance group, with an Islamic flavour. Not proscribed by any government as a terrorist organisation.
(2) An Islam term meaning “helpers”, originally used to refer to those in Medina who helped the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Used in this context by jihadist groups, it means indigenous fighters (ie Syrian Jabhat al-Nusra fighters).
(3) Arabic for “immigrants”, a term originally used to refer to the early Muslims who followed the Prophet (SAW) on the hijra (the journey from Mecca to Medina). In the context of jihadism, it is used to refer to foreign fighters.
(4) Harakat Hazzm, a powerful FSA-linked group.
English summary via Abd al-Fakir on Twitter.
The original testimony from the Jabhat al-Nusra fighter in Arabic.