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Defections threaten Ahrar al-Sham jihadist motion in Syria

IDLIB, Syria — The proprietor of the well-known @MzmjerSh Twitter account of a jihadist from Syria revealed in a thread June 22 that Ahrar al-Sham is experiencing main defections inside its ranks. 

@MzmjerSh focuses on jihadist affairs and the person behind it’s believed to be a former jihadist chief in Jabhat al-Nusra.

“The Ahrar al-Sham motion is presently witnessing a serious turning level, since about 1,000 fighters, who type the spine of the commando forces and the particular forces, have defected. The division got here on account of disputes with the motion’s management over some inner reforms that these fighters had demanded,” @MzmjerSh mentioned.

He added, “Ahrar al-Sham chief Amer al-Sheikh tried to downplay the significance of those defections by saying that not more than 300 fighters could defect, wishing them luck ought to they select to take action. Sheikh appears unaware that such a division will deal a extreme blow to the motion and can be adopted by extra defections, resulting in the motion fully collapsing.”

He mentioned there are expectations that this massive variety of defected fighters will be part of the Sham Entrance since they’re closest to it. 

@MzmjerSh identified {that a} chief within the Sham Entrance, one of many formations of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Military (FSA), had knowledgeable him that the Sham Entrance may not be very enthusiastic concerning the thought of together with such a lot of defected fighters from Ahrar al-Sham, for a number of concerns, most significantly, the elevated monetary burden. He famous that this transfer was additionally opposed by Turkey.

In the meantime, well-informed sources inside Ahrar al-Sham informed Al-Monitor that the defections inside it are ongoing, however they aren’t on the stage of battalions and brigades — they’re solely particular person defections which have few penalties.

A gaggle of fighters from Ahrar al-Sham had beforehand joined the ranks of the Sham Entrance underneath the management of Chief of Basic Employees Abu al-Laith al-Homsi.

About 400 fighters belonging to what’s referred to as the Homs Bloc of Ahrar al-Sham had defected earlier this 12 months and joined the FSA’s Sham Entrance, following a variety of appointments made by Sheikh. The Homs Bloc represented a 3rd of Ahrar al-Sham’s combating forces underneath the management of Abu Faisal al-Ansari, and was thought-about as an elite combating drive within the motion.

On this context, one of many leaders who not too long ago defected from Ahrar al-Sham nicknamed Abu Amer al-Homsi, residing in Idlib, informed Al-Monitor, “We left Ahrar al-Sham due to all of the rivalries on the management stage. We had no extra legal guidelines to observe and the motion become teams bickering over positions and pursuits, which made it lose its power. Some members are loyal to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham [HTS], others assist the FSA — so leaving Ahrar al-Sham and becoming a member of [other] factions was a given. To not point out that the motion additionally did not pay the salaries of a number of members.”

One other Ahrar al-Sham chief informed Al-Monitor on situation of anonymity, “Rumors concerning the motion falling aside are unfounded. Ahrar al-Sham nonetheless has a serious presence and it’s combating the Syrian regime forces in Idlib and the Kurdish events within the northern countryside of Aleppo and northern Raqqa. There aren’t any main defections occurring — all factions lose members to different Syrian opposition factions regularly. Ahrar al-Sham won’t dissolve itself nor will it be part of HTS or the Sham Entrance.”

Majd Kilany, an Idlib-based researcher on the Jusoor Heart for Research, informed Al-Monitor, “The Ahrar al-Sham motion has been experiencing some difficulties since Sheikh took over and made some selections with out referring to main figures throughout the motion. This occurred after Ansari defected and joined the Sham Entrance with fighters from Ahrar al-Sham’s particular forces, so the motion confronted some difficulties on the administrative and monetary stage.”

He added, “The remaining members at the moment are torn between staying or becoming a member of different factions which are extra steady financially and logistically. Some outstanding figures reminiscent of Abu al-Ezz Ariha, the previous deputy commander of the motion; Abu Bakr Farouk who’s in control of the commando forces; and Hassan al-Hamdo, a soldier with the commando forces, are in search of to seek out higher alternatives to outlive in mild of the difficulties and challenges dealing with the motion, particularly after Amr took over and was accused of getting near [HTS commander in chief Abu Mohammed] al-Golani.”

Kilany harassed that the vacation spot of a lot of the defectors from Ahrar al-Sham can be towards the Sham Entrance, which seeks to broaden its affect within the areas managed by the pro-Turkish factions. It’s the largest faction with a excessive monetary capacity to soak up extra fighters.

Kilany identified that Ahrar al-Sham goes by a tough patch and will find yourself being dissolved until the motion’s leaders put their private pursuits apart and permit for public curiosity to prevail.

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