“In Idlib, Harakat Hazm gave up their positions to Jabhat al-Nusra “without firing a shot”, according to some reports, and some of the men even defected to the jihadists.”
“As a movement, the SRF is effectively finished,” said Aymen al-Tammimi, a Syria analyst. “Nusra has driven them out of their strongholds of Idlib and Hama.”
“For the United States, the weapons they supplied falling into the hands of al-Qaeda is a realisation of a nightmare.”
Read the full report here
A Message to the People of Jihad and those who Love Jihad
By Sheikh Abu Qatada Al-Filistini (my Allah keep him firm and free him)
In the name of Allah the Most Beneficent, the most Merciful. And His aid we seek… All praises are due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon the Messenger Muhammed, the truthful one, his family and companions.
This is a letter that I write with deep sorrow, and if it were not for the covenant that Allah took upon the creation, I would have not rushed to writing this letter. By Allah, I struggled with myself not to release this letter as much as I could. However, I could not do so, fearing that I would conceal the truth that I believe. I tried my utmost in private and in public to repel all harm from all those affiliated with Jihad and the people of Jihad, however some of them are drowning in falsehood, evil and misguidance. Their main priority is to ruin the Jihad and not to do good towards it. The onus these words should be held by the command of the Islamic State of Iraq and their branch in the land of Ash-Shaam (Syria).
It has become clear for me with certainty and without a shadow of doubt that this group with its military and Islamic leadership, and whose actions testify that they are ‘the dogs of Hellfire’. And they are most deserving of the description of the Prophet (peace the peace and blessings be upon Him): “They kill the people of Islam and they leave the people of the idols [idol worshippers]. By Allah! If I live to see them, I will kill them like the people of ‘Aad were killed.”
I do not hesitate to pass this judgment, because of their evil actions. I tried as much as possible to forward advice to them until they stopped listening to the word of truth, advice and guidance. I say these words of mine to those who remain ascribed to them who have an ounce of Sunnah, Deen or Taqwa, fearing to spill the blood of the Muslims, and this is the Prophetic saying regarding such people.
This Prophetic description regarding such contemporary people leaves no need to research another name for them. Some will say that the Islamic definition of the Khawarij is not fitting to their creed, for the [Khawarij] believe that the one who performs a major sin is an apostate. However, the Prophetic description guided us to their attributes without consideration of their motives. The attributes of their leaders at the time of ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) are the same attributes today. Therefore, no one should debate except regarding the Prophetic ruling. Examples of such people are those who fight the people of truth, like Jabhat Al-Nusra may Allah protect them, their commanders and scholars, ameen.
Those that blame the leaders and command of Jihad, like [the wise] Al-Zawahari, or those that claim that he has changed [his manhaj] are those who play with words. This is because they have no experience regarding the path of Jihad, nor do they understand the belief of the people of Jihad, their words or method. It is strange that those claiming that Dr. Ayman (may Allah protect him) has a different ideology to Abu Abdillah [Osama] Bin Laden. Nobody listens to these people except those similar to those making such claims, who do not know the history of people or their achievements.
As for those that accuse others of misguidance because of their words and their terminologies, they are more deserving of being described as misguided, liars and ignorant. Even though all of this didn’t affect me much, their crime is what makes it incumbent upon us to announce our innocence and our disavowal, because the Prophetic description fits them.
I know that there will be insignificant men who will say many things. The least of this being “the man is in prison and knows nothing”. I say: “By Allah! I know more than what they know”. The case is not the lack of information I am receiving, but the lack of information that I can release. I am in a situation that I am not able to release statements every day, like others. For this reason the field has been left for the minors and the fanatics clinging to the Dawla like the ignorant clings to his tribe without understanding or awareness.
I am not addressing these people in particular in this statement. If the innovation in the religion spreads amongst the people, it is like the sickness of a dog weakening it and blinding his sight and insight. I thank Allah because from a different perspective, the matter reached this stage so the truth appears and the ranks are distinguished, and so the difference between the Jihadi groups and the extreme innovative groups is made known. I feel sympathy for our Mujahideen brothers in the land of Ash-Shaam for all the pain they feel as a result of the crimes committed at the hands of those who were once fighting the tyrants alongside them, but their madness led them to regard that the blood of their former comrades as Halal, out of ignorance and extremism.
I call upon all the Mujahideen and those who love them to carefully study the hadith of the Prophet (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon Him) “there will remain a group of my Ummah…”. This is so they can know that the continuous chain of this group is that which the criminals are trying to break by means of slandering the leaders of Jihad and their commanders and those who nurtured the Jihad with their efforts, sweat and blood. Nay! They even sacrificed their families, children and time. After this, these criminals come forth with such disastrous statements. Therefore, I thank the beloved students of knowledge in Jabhat Al-Nusra such as Dr. Sami Al-Oradi, Abu Maryiya Al-‘Iraqi and Abu Abdillah Ash-Shami, as well as others like Al-Mohaisni, for their patience and their efforts in clarifying the truth and repelling the ignorant statements of the ignorant. I know that I cannot mention here all of the people of knowledge in Syria, Ash-Shaam.
This Jihad is affected by the hating enemies just as it is affected by ignorant ones who love Jihad. [Those who love Jihad but are ignorant] harm the Jihad just as much as the enemies. Let the people of truth be patient with the pain they have faced from the crimes of these people. Let the people of knowledge and insight ponder upon the hadith of the Prophet regarding these people: “I will kill them like the people of ‘Aad were killed”. This saying was not implemented upon the Jews in Khaybar, in Bani An-Nadeer nor Bani Qaynuqa’. It was not implemented with Quraish. And they were all his worst enemies. This is because the madness of their dog can never be rectified, and the one who survives amongst them is harmful upon the Ummah of Mohammad (may the please and blessings from Allah be upon Him).
This is the case with the history of this group. In some cases one or two men would survive and quickly spread their misguidance in the deserts and the places where knowledge is scarce, which results in them returning to what they were once upon. These people today are the same group that existed in the past. There is not the slightest difference between the two. If a questioner asks about the ruling regarding them or the proof for this, they should refer to the people of Jihad. It is shocking that they have reached a level where they have taken the people of Jihad to be their enemies, ascribing the attributes of murtaddeen (apostates) to them, assassinating their leaders, considering their wealth Halal. After all of this, what is there left for the questioner to hesitate about!
These are my words regarding them. I will meet Allah with this stance, and if it were not for the benefit of Jihad, and if I could have kept quiet, I would have done so. By Allah, I only seek to advise you with these words. I only seek to uphold the Sunnah, repel the ignorant and claim the innocence of Jihad from them. These are my words which I say in a position that I cannot respond to the questions of the people, nor can I respond to those who oppose me or have doubts. One has little life left to worry about other than pleasing Allah as much as one can. The aforementioned is the opinion of other scholars who stem from the same roots. However, each individual has his excuses and his way.
May Allah guide all to what is pleased and beloved to Allah. May Allah give victory to Jihad and its people. Ameen, ameen.
And all praises is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
Date of publishing:
28 Jumada Al Ukhra, 1435
28th April, 2014
On Sunday 23rd March, rebels in Syria launched offensive (of which AlNusra, an AlQaeda affiliated group, was but one of many participants) into Latakia province via Idlib and East Latakia (AlAnfal offensive). Among the towns and villages seized from Assad regime troops in the advance, was Kessab and its Turkey border crossing. Three days later the world was hit by the largest viral social media disinformation campaign in history.
A cacophony of hoax images, misused videos, and Syrian State TV reports (including the 80 killed 12 beheaded story, which was then taken and cited by tens of smaller outlets giving the illusion of a large source basin) spread through social media like wildfire. Once again, Assad is pulling the minorities propaganda card.
A “#SaveKessab” trend riled up a global community of expat Armenians, Twitter teenagers, and Keeping Up With The Kardashians viewers; to arms (i.e. iPhone fingers). Catchy propaganda posters with gory images coupled with lent voices from famously stupid famous people fed fuel to the Twitter fire. Hoax images are mostly being posted first to Instagram with the ArmenianUnity and SaveKessab instagram pages being so far the most notorious for posting misused and hoax images.
(Below: Famously stupid famous people lending their fans and followers)
The result thousands of wannabe politically-enlightened good-will “activists” (Who have never heard of Kessab in their lives, don’t know where it is, and utterly blissfully ignorant of the Syrian conflict) ravenously retweeting, tweeting and hashtagging the ongoing “Mass murder and genocide of Armenians in Kessab by the Turkish military and AlQaeda, a continuation of the 1915 genocide” – because as per the rules of Twitter, enough retweets can stop a non-existent genocide from happening. Welcome to the internet.
Makes you think why Kessab earns a global trend, where was such Save_____ hashtags for the brutal massacres in Syria’s Banias? Ghouta? Jdeidat alFadl? Halfiyeh? Deir Ba’albeh? Sanamain? Darayya? etc etc.
Here is a summary of the authentic images, videos and sights from Kessab, showing churches unharmed and residents untouched: http://nshakfeh.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/the_facts_about_kassab/
The only released image from Kessab showing “rebel atrocities” in Kessab that is authentic, is this one of a church with its cross removed, an action which saw sharp rebuke and if direct video proof is anything to go by, has not been repeated. I repeat, I do not condone any action of sectarian basis, desecration of any holy site, or have any support to Jabhat alNusra who participated in the Anfal offensive:
But, Church with cross removed =/= Genocide.
I must stress as I have plenty before, I and “we” acknowledge the horrors of the 1915 Armenian genocide and condemn it along with any discrimination against Armenians who are fully a part of Syria and its society. It must also be stressed that the wave of racist, abusive and outrageously bigoted responses many have received for debunking Assad state media on Kessab, most commonly along the lines of “Go f*** yourself you dirty Muslim pig of a Turk”, are not appreciated.
Now onto the catalysts:
One particular video has been repeatedly shared and posted as the base proof of “mass execution and genocide of Armenians in Kessab” reportedly showing Al-Qaeda affiliated fighters executing Armenian civilians.
Here is the most commonly shared still of the video, which has been repeatedly reposted many hundreds of times:
The video is 4 months old (from 4th January) and is of 10 captive regime troops being executed by AlNusra front in Aleppo. Nothing to do with Kessab.
Here is a re-upload of the video by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights with a report attached: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZljM2NGR5II&feature=youtu.be
Another video seen spread around is of “two Armenians stopped and executed in Kessab by AlNusra”. Seen this uploaded a few times, here’s an example: http://www.veooz.com/videos/hH256Zj.html
Its actually a famous old video of ISIS executing 2 Alawite truck drivers in Iraq, August 2013:
Now to the most famous and widespread gore propaganda poster on Kessab. I cannot bear to think how many times this has been posted on to Instagram and Twitter – The first upload that went viral (I believe) being on the ArmenianUnity Instagram page. In either case it sums up the a few of the most misused images in the SaveKessab hoaxes.
Here is the image compilation tweeted in typical format:
The bottom image has been dealt with so lets take the rest apart.
Top left is perhaps the most famous propaganda hoax of the Syrian conflict and seemingly the second most widespread individual image on the SaveKessab trend- initially used by Assad propagandists to claim Syrian rebels rape and mutilate Christian girls, now recycled for Kessab:
And as has been explained an unbelievable times over the past few years, its from a gore-horror film from 2005, “Inner Depravity”, directed by some twisted person Remy Couture.
Next is the top right image, the one I personally found the most outrageous, claimed to be an “Armenian Christian child in Kessab beheaded by Turks and/or Rebels and/or AlQaeda and/or The Bogeyman”
Here’s another variation of the image also being misused aplenty in the SaveKessab campaign.
This is Fatima Meghlaj, a young muslim girl decapitated by Assad artillery shelling on her house in Idlib, 2012. Her image became one of the symbols of the Syrian revolution:http://www.therevoltingsyrian.com/post/31731941551/her-name-is-fatima-meghlaj-2-years-old-from-kafr
Of course, its not the first time Meghlaj’s image has been misused by Islamaphobic propaganda to demonise rebels: http://themuslimissue.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/graphic-muslim-trophy-in-syria-lifeless-body-of-decapitate-christian-child/
Now the bottom left beheading image:
his is a still from a hoax, of a hoax. Initially used by the Assad regime to claim rebels beheading priest Francois Murad with two other priests in Ghassaniya, North Syria, and prompted a global internet sensation in July 2013.
Of course, it was later debunked to be another unknown execution of prisoners by ISIS in Mashhad Ruhin, and dismissed by Human Rights Watch and the Vatican: http://m.ibtimes.co.uk/syria-catholic-priest-beheading-video-murad-485700
Now it is being used to claim Christians being killed by *insert something to do with Turkey, or AlQaeda, or Turkey, or Israel, or Turkey, or Turkey* in Kessab.
Lastly, the bottom right image:
Earliest uploads of the image claim it to be of Yusuf Abiddin, beheaded by AlNusra front in June 2013, so, also not Kessab: http://thahop.com/blogs/1/2651/warning-man-kidnapped-and-behea
Now here comes another majorly viral image claiming to show a Church in Kessab with its cross removed and replaced by AQ flag.
As is the nature of such things, they will inevitably get picked up and trumpeted by any Islamaphobia propaganda outlet within viewing distance of the internet, Walid Shoebat’s blog in particular.
Anyways the image is from a church in Raqqa, hundreds of km away and under ISIS control (under which the churches were desecrated):
Then there’s this, posted many times making a comparison to the 1915 genocide and claiming the lower image to be of Christians beheaded by rebels in Kessab.
The image is from February 2014, showing four Kurds from the Jabhat alAkrad rebel group beheaded and mocked by ISIS in the town of ‘Azaz before ISIS was driven out of the town by a rebel coalition. The image was widely uploaded and the first detailed report of the beheadings is here: http://aranews.org/en/home/kurdish-region/1049-isil-fighters-behead-four-kurds.html
Now this, self expalantory. Oh lol:
Once again, another ISIS crimes from Raqqa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1aPWH0_crU
The crucified man was later identified to be an Islamist rebel fighter from Ahrar alSham, a group which participated in the Kessab assault. Irony is never lost.
This one was also particularly outrageous:
“This is deep, yet some people have the nerves to deny that there’s innocent Christians being killed”
Haha, because there aren’t.
Notice the top of the tweeted image maliciously cropped out to hide the tweet origin, being in 2013 from @Hhassan140, an editor on TheNational?
Honestly if you’re gonna make propaganda make it vaguely plausible at least. The actual image is from Decembr 2013 and it went viral across the internet, showing a boy injured after a barrel bomb attack on Aleppo, the words being reported by a local LCC page apparently.
And of course, what’s an Assad propaganda campaign without recycled Red Cross images from the May 2013 Banias Massacre? Its just not ever complete without it. “WOW” indeed. Moving right along.
This image has also propped up a few times under the SaveKessab trend:
Image is from Aleppo 2012:
Here’s another such propaganda poster, this time claiming to show a boy shot in the head by *insert something turkey turkey erDOGan*.
Not 100% what the origin of the image is but earliest upload dates in 2006 state it as a victim from a bomb blast in Bahrain:
(This article was published in a western run news and not everything mentioned here reflects our views)
Source: Carnegie Endowment
By: TAM HUSSEIN
Islamist brigades have grown exponentially in Syria’s rebel ranks over the past three years, partly due to the decline of the mainstream groups fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). In northwestern Syria, one of these ascendant Islamist factions is a group that analysts know very little about but that now helps shape the crucial battles in Syria’s coastal region: the Ansar al-Sham Battalions.
Ansar al-Sham, whose name translates in English to “Helpers of the Levant,” is mostly active in the Latakia and Idlib Provinces in Syria’s north, where I recently traveled to report on and study the Syrian uprising. It is clear that the group has grown in strength over the last three years. It has allied itself with other Islamist groups in the so-called Islamic Front, a major coalition announced in November 2013 that is now embroiled in heavy fighting against the jihadi faction known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. Having successfully adapted to the shifting tides of rebel politics, Ansar al-Sham now seems set to benefit further from the ISIL being pushed back.
BUILDING SUPPORT BY HUMANITARIAN WORK
According to Aron Lund’s paper, Syria’s Salafi Insurgents: Rise of the Syrian Islamic Front, Ansar al-Sham formed out of eleven core battalions. Since Lund’s report was published in March 2013, its numbers have grown to over 2,500 men, according to Abu Mohammed, who leads the al-Zahir Baybars Battalion, which is a subfaction of Ansar al-Sham.
When traveling in the rebel-held areas of northern Latakia, I was able to see that Ansar al-Sham plays a crucial role in aid delivery in the areas where it dominates. The group has been catering to internally displaced persons, and it seems to have supplanted the international aid organizations in delivering humanitarian relief to some of these areas. White tents with the Ansar al-Sham logo prominently displayed are on show in the fields of northern Latakia.
Interestingly, the group also highlights its aid work in its propaganda, such as on its YouTube channel, to an even greater extent than its battles with the regime. It is as if the organization is following a strategy similar to the classic Muslim Brotherhood doctrine, seeking to win the population over through social work.
A SECRETIVE LEADERSHIP
The founder of Ansar al-Sham has so far been unknown. Many analysts have tried to point to to the London-based Salafi preacher known as Abu Basir al-Tartousi, since there are YouTube clips of him together with the group. But Abu Basir has denied being the leader of Ansar al-Sham and says he works with many groups.
Abu Mohammed, the Ansar al-Sham subcommander, told me that the group was originally founded by a man from Latakia City called Abu Omar. Abu Omar is an adherent to Salafi Islamist doctrine and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who returned to his native city to take over the family sweetshop. Other sources confirm this: Salam Abdelkarim, who is the Latakia correspondent for the pro-opposition Shaam News Network and himself a native of Latakia, also knows of Abu Omar and says he was admired by the local Sunni boys because he refused to be intimidated by the regime and stuck to his religious convictions.
The sweetshop owner, though, is not the military strategist. Abu Omar seems more involved in providing guidance and funds, and there appears to be a close link between Saudi Arabia and Ansar al-Sham when it comes to the aid work. Military strategy instead falls to a Chechen member of Ansar al-Sham known as Abu Musa al-Shishani, who is wary of the limelight.
Despite the Chechen’s presence in its leadership, Ansar al-Sham remains overwhelmingly Syrian, consisting of a mixture of local army defectors, shopkeepers, workers, farmers, and artisans. While the group is not averse to foreign fighters, I have visited a number of local battalions attached to Ansar al-Sham and didn’t come across a single foreigner. According to Abu Jihad, second in command to Abu Mohammed in the al-Zahir Baybars Battalion, the fighters of Ansar al-Sham are organized in a military register (diwan) and each is paid a salary of $60 per month. Relative to what a Syrian citizen would earn doing national service, that is an acceptable income.
BALANCING BETWEEN THE FSA AND THE JIHADIS
Politically, Ansar al-Sham wants a Sunni Islamic state within Syria’s borders and rejects secularism. The group has managed to straddle the ideological fault lines of the uprising, even as Latakia became the scene of conflict between FSA factions and radical jihadis. In summer 2013, a group of ISIL members led by the Iraqi jihadi known as Abu Ayman al-Iraqi killed the rival FSA commander Abu Basir al-Ladhiqani, a member of the FSA’s Supreme Military Council, raising ISIL-FSA tension throughout Syria.
According to one of its commanders, called Abul Harith, Ansar al-Sham does not work with the FSA. But neither does it fight the FSA, and Ansar al-Sham has in fact forged local alliances with FSA commanders such as Abu Basir al-Ladhiqani, even though its members grumbled about his conciliatory policy toward the Alawites and perceived hubris.
Most Ansar al-Sham commanders that I interviewed clearly condemned the ISIL’s Abu Ayman al-Iraqi for killing Abu Basir al-Ladhiqani. Yet, on the ground at least, Ansar al-Sham did not break ties with the ISIL completely, despite considerable tension between them—partly, one suspects, because many of the ISIL’s members in northern Latakia were local Syrian boys who are connected to Ansar al-Sham members through family and social ties.
From the numerous interviews I did with its members, it is clear that many Ansar Sham commanders and fighters support the approach of the al-Qaeda–aligned faction known as the Nusra Front, which has decided to focus on removing Assad before building an Islamic state. The group has also had good relations with smaller jihadi factions, like the Ansar al-Mujahedin Battalion led by Sheikh Suqor or the Sham al-Islam Movement led by Abu Ahmed al-Maghrebi, which has a large North African contingent.
OPEN TO ALL ISLAMISTS
Moreover, the vagueness of Ansar al-Sham’s religious ideology makes it attractive to religiously conservative Sunni Syrians, including wealthy funders of the rebellion. Its close ties with members of Syria’s Sunni religious class, like Dr. Khaled Kendo, and the fact that its commanders do not actively embark on a program of religious indoctrination means that Ansar al-Sham is able to absorb Sunni Muslims of all persuasions. The group delivers religious lectures, but these are held by local clerics in touch with the community. Abu Mohammed and his battalion, which used to belong to the FSA network, is a good example of how Ansar al-Sham recruits. Abu Mohammed admits that he wanted to join Ansar al-Sham partly due to a lack of funding but also because of his own religious evolution. He met with Abu Omar, whose vision of Islam he deemed to be “more correct.” A decision to join Ansar al-Sham was then made by Abu Mohammed and his second-in-command, Abu Jihad, and their fighting men acquiesced.
The way in which Ansar al-Sham has played its cards and its presence in the important coastal region suggests that if the Islamic Front alliance manages to regain its footing after the infighting with the ISIL has ended, this medium-sized Islamist group could go on to play a larger role both in rebel politics and the Syrian civil war.
Senior AQ Mujahid and Jabhat al-Nusra official Sanafi al-Nasr has been martyred.