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Jihadist coalition claims control of Idlib
Jihadist groups belonging to the Jaysh al Fateh coalition say they have seized control of the city of Idlib, or at least much of it, from Bashar al Assad's forces.
In addition to the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, the Jaysh al Fateh alliance includes Ahrar al Sham, Jund al Aqsa, Liwa al Haqq, Jaysh al Sunna, Ajnad al Sham, and Faylaq al Sham, among others.
Social media sites associated with some of these groups have posted a steady stream of propaganda videos and photos throughout the battle since it began earlier this week. New images released today show the coalition's fighters celebrating the "liberation" of Idlib.
Some reports claim that fighters loyal to Assad continue to fight in select areas, but the jihadists appear to have taken over much of the city.
The jihadists' victory is the most significant blow to the Assad regime in months. And if they are able to maintain control of Idlib, it will give the anti-Assad groups, including Al Nusrah, a major stronghold in northern Syria. The only other provincial capital to fall since the beginning the Syrian war is Raqqa, which has long been held by the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that claims to rule as a "caliphate" over large portions of Iraq and Syria. Idlib is now the second capital to fall.
Al Nusrah and its allies have long had Idlib in their sights, but previous attempts to seize the city failed. Al Nusrah has made steady advances in the province of Idlib in recent months, seizing towns and villages from the regime and other rebels, including those receiving support from the West. And American-made TOW missiles captured from these rebels helped Al Nusrah neutralize Syrian tanks on the outskirts of the city at the onset of the battle.
The siege of Idlib was a complex assault requiring a high degree of coordination as the various coalition groups pushed into the city from multiple directions. The jihadists quickly captured multiple checkpoints, using suicide bombers and shock troops to dislodge regime loyalists. This cleared their path to the heart of the city.
Below are propaganda photos produced by three of the organizations that spearheaded the attack: the Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham, and Jund al Aqsa. While Al Nusrah is an official arm of al Qaeda in Syria, both Ahrar al Sham and Jund al Aqsa are also linked to al Qaeda. Still other rebels took part in the offensive as well.
The photos show jihadists in control of various government buildings and other key locations inside the city of Idlib. The photos produced by Al Nusrah and Jund al Aqsa contain the brands for their respective groups, as well as the Jaysh al Fateh coalition logo.
[Source: By Thomas Joscelyn, The Long War Journal, NJ, 28Mar15]
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