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Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria takes part in battle for the Al Ghab plain

The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), al Qaeda-affiliated Uighur jihadist group, has reported that its forces assisted in the capture of several villages in the strategic Al Ghab plain in northwestern Syria.

In an Arabic-language statement released last week, the TIP said that it "liberated Zuhour, Tal Khattab, Manshoura checkpoint, and the village of Frikka." The statement claimed that "the Nusayri [a derogatory term referring to the Assad regime] army collapsed and fled to Qarqur and Tal Hakamah, which made it easier for the brothers in the Turkistan Islamic Party to progress in other areas."

While the TIP said that its forces caused regime soldiers to flee to Qarqur, the village is since said to have been captured by the jihadist coalition Jaysh al Fatah. Faylaq al Sham (Syrian Legion), a member of the coalition, reported that its forces "liberated" Qarqur. Additionally, Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front group in Syria, and Ajnad Sham also took part in the fighting at the village. Some jihadist Twitter accounts said that the TIP launched a suicide operation in support of the battle, but there has yet to be any confirmation of this claim.

The TIP statement also said its fighters "met with the brothers from Jund al Aqsa at the Zeyzoun thermal plant." Both jihadist groups have released propaganda from the facility in the past few days. Jund al Aqsa published a photo of a burning building in the complex, while the TIP has released a 13-minute video detailing the capture of the plant.

According to recent tweets from a TIP-affiliated account, the two jihadist groups also launched joint-operations at the town of Ziyarah. The account claimed that the insurgents destroyed one regime tank and two armored personnel carriers, and took one BMP as "spoils." The village has since been said to have been captured by the two groups.

The Jaysh al Fatah coalition, which is comprised of several jihadist groups, is fighting elsewhere in the Al Ghab plain. The Uzbek al Qaeda-affiliate Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad issued a video showing its fighters at Tal Wasit. The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, and Ahrar al Sham released photos detailing fighting in a number of villages. The capture of the Al Ghab plain would allow the jihadists easier access into the Assad stronghold of Latakia and further south into Hama province.

[Source: By Caleb Weiss, Threat Matrix, The Long War Journal, NJ, 09Aug15]

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