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Al Nusrah Front, allies strike 2 Shiite towns in Idlib province
The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, and its jihadist allies have launched significant attacks targeting two predominately Shiite towns in Idlib province, Fua'a and Kafriyeh. Al Nusrah, Ahrar al Sham and Jund al Aqsa, which is an al Qaeda front group, have released propaganda images from the siege. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the al Qaeda-linked Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) is also taking part in the operation. All of the groups belong to Jaysh al Fateh, the jihadist coalition that overran much of the Idlib province earlier this year.
Jihadists on social media have claimed that several suicide bombers and/or remote-controlled vehicle bombs have been used. This is likely what the SOHR is referring to in its account when it writes that "4 booby-trapped vehicles" were detonated. "Meanwhile," SOHR says, "the number of rocket shells launched by [Nusrah] and other Islamist factions has risen [to] 250," killing and wounding civilians in the process.
For months, the fighting in Fua'a and Kafriyeh has been linked to the conflict in Zabadani, a small city in southern Syria that is close to the border with Lebanon. Bashar al Assad's regime and its allies, including fighters from Hezbollah, have been laying siege to parts of Zabadani, which reportedly houses a significant number of Nusrah Front fighters and jihadists from other groups. The two sides have negotiated ceasefires in the past, such that pro-Assad forces would halt their operations in Zabadani as long as Al Nusrah and its jihadist brethren backed off in Fua'a and Kafriyeh.
Ahrar al Sham, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group that is closely allied with Al Nusrah, has been responsible for negotiating with the UN and Iran when it comes to Zabadani. Representatives from Ahrar al Sham reportedly met with an Iranian delegation in Turkey to discuss the situation. The talks failed to quell the violence, however.
While the jihadists are advertising their attacks in Fua'a and Kafriyeh, recent Iranian propaganda has focused on the supposed gains made in Zabadani.
Separately, Al Nusrah also claimed earlier today, via one of its official Twitter feeds, that it had launched new operations in the Qalamoun region (along the Syrian-Lebanese border) in order to break the "siege" of Zabadani.
Below are some of the propaganda images published Al Nusrah and Jund al Aqsa from their latest operations in Fua'a and Kafriyeh. The photos are all watermarked with both the individual organization's logo, as well as the logo for Jaysh al Fateh.
[Source: By Thomas Joscelyn, Threat Matrix, The Long War Journal, 18Sep15]
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