Notes on the Growing Struggle between ISIS, Nusra/Ahrar, & other factions of the FSA

By Joshua Landis . –  November 17th, 2013 –  Infighting among rebel groups is more ferocious than ever. ISIS is becoming more radicalized as it tries to consolidate its rule over large chunks of the rebel zone. This means fighting other militias. As a result, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham are working together more closely than ever both to counter ISIS and to take power from weaker factions of the Free Syria Army.

The Radicalization of ISIS

ISIS assigned a sixteen year old as military emir of Azaz, north of Aleppo. An ISIS prisoner from Asifat al-Shamal, the militia that ISIS defeated to take Azaz, was able to escape from his captors. He says the 16 yr old ISIS Emir regularly tortured the prisoners.

The rebels on the coast are uniting against ISIS. This comes after recent clashes between a Free Syrian Army unit (al-Hijra li-Allah) and ISIS in which 4 ISIS soldiers were killed. Following the clashes, the FSA unit opened negotiations with ISIS to release the prisoners it had captured, but instead, ISIS executed 6 of the 10 prisoners it held, after brutally torturing them. Here is video of the bodies of their martyrs killed by ISIS in the countryside of Latakia It includes video of them alive as well. ISIS accused the victims of killing 4 non-Syrian ISIS fighters in the same area after stopping them on a checkpoint in the town of Rabi’a.

On Sunday an ISIS leader executed a member of the Shari’a Court who went to mediate and stop the fighting between the two groups.

One result of this fighting is that Jabal al-Turkman in Latakia is now split between the ISIS and the rest of the groups. Nusra is trying to negotiate a settlement between the ISIS and FSA. Nusra has given ISIS an ultimatum to avoid avoid fitna (civil strife), within a period, which may be several weeks, ISIS must hand over its emir, Abu Aymen al-Iraqi, clear its checkpoints, and leave the coast for good.

The beheaded man, Muhammad Faris, الشهيد ” محمد فارس

The story of the ISIS mistakenly beheading an Ahrar al-Sham soldier takes a new turn. Mounting evidence suggests it was not a mistake, but intentional. A picture has been released that shows the decapitated body of the soldier wearing a shirt that has the logo of Harakat Fajr al-Islamia on it, this is the local Ahrar al-Sham affiliate. This suggests that the killers could not have been mistaken about his identity or affiliation before beheading him. The ISIS soldiers were also reportedly heard to say that “The villains (Ahrar/Ashrar) of Sham are protecting apostates.”

Decapitated body with clear logo of Ahrar al-Sham related militia

In the letter next to Abu Muslim, the emir of ISIS in Aleppo, Abu Abd al Malik, the sharia officer in Ahrar al sham says: We inform you that we are keen to calm things down and remove the elements that lead to strife, especially in these difficult days, and for that, the Sharia office attempted, as soon as news of the slaughtered brother arrived, to visit the headquarter of the Dawla’s sharia leaders in an attempt to find a Dai’a who would kill the fitna and give us back the brother’s head. And the emir of ahrar al sham in Aleppo sent a delegate to communicate with your officials and restore the head al karim (honorable/precious). لاستعادة الرأس الكريم

Hassan Abboud, head of Ahrar al-Sham, talks about one of his experiences with Abdulqader Saleh (commander of Liwaa al-Tawhid, the largest militia in Aleppo, during which Saleh kissed his hand.

….a month ago, Abdalqader took me to a side room and held my hand, he then looked into my eyes with the corner of his eye shinning and filled with tears. And he said with his Aleppo country accent “I beg you, i don’t want to fight a Muslim, find us a solution”. He then fell on my hand and started kissing it repeatedly. “I beg you” so he became the second man who’s hand I kissed without rules.

Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham Work Together to “Cleanse” Deir al-Zour of other FSA militias

Nusra and Ahrar al sham cleansed the city of Mayadeen in Deir ezor from the groups that falsly claim to be part of the FSA. The couple took away the weapons and headquarters of 3 group that “falsely claimed” to be part of the fsa after receiving many complaints about these groups behavior.

One of the groups that Nusra attacked belongs al Firqa al-Khamissa in the FSA which also includes Ahfad al-Rassoul. None of the allies of the group that was attacked moved to support it or even issued a condemnation of the attack. indicating how strong Nusra and Ahrar have become in the region.

The Haya al-Sharia, which is run by Nusra, issued a statement before each attack on a local groups and accuses them of being thieves and shabiha in justification of their attack. At the same time, al-Haya has been on a campaign to expand its control over the oil fields in the Jazeera area. Most recently they added a large oil field to their holdings, which is a main source of electricity and gas in the area.