Jihadis in Syria: The Cracks Start to Show

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Civilians and Islamist fighters pray over the body of Tareq Naser, an Islamist fighter who died during clashes on Sunday, during his funeral near the village of Fafeen in Aleppo's countryside 17 September 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Zain Karam)

By: Radwan Mortada

Published Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The emergence of extremist Islamists groups joining in the war against the Syrian regime has been a cause of serious concern to many on both sides of the conflict. As groups and factions split over their ideological and political agendas, fierce fighting is repeatedly breaking out in the opposition camp.

Several days ago, the commander of a group calling itself al-Qaeda in the Levant, was assassinated. Abu Mohammad al-Shami, better known as al-Absi, was killed by Islamist fighters from the Salafi-leaning al-Farouq Battalion, which is also ideologically affiliated with al-Qaeda.

These Jihadis conspired with elements from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to ambush and kill Absi in a border area near Turkey. Two different accounts are being circulated regarding his death.

According to the first, the assailants caught him by surprise, abducted him and then took him to an unknown destination where they stabbed him to death and disposed of his body. Reportedly, Sheikh Abu Basir al-Tartusi and the commander of Ahrar al-Sham Brigade, Abu Abdullah, tried to intervene to secure Absi’s release before he was killed, but to no avail.

The second account purports that the assassins had asked Absi to meet them to discuss some issues and then killed him.

Absi’s death led to violent clashes between his group and militants from the Farouq Battalion backed by fighters from the FSA, killing scores and leaving more injured. The clashes have been described as being among “the most serious to have occurred since the beginning of the uprising among Jihadi elements” who flocked to Syria from Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Europe and beyond.

Absi had come as an emissary of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda front-group, to establish an Islamic emirate in Syria. Absi was, along with his battalion, “the first to liberate the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, raising the black flag [of al-Qaeda] over official buildings there,” according to a Salafi Jihadi source.

There are many possible motives for Absi’s murder, including disputes over influence, leadership, and the application of Sharia as well as accusations of treason. In this context, the source revealed to Al-Akhbar that “the reason for [Absi’s] assassination was the tolls he imposed on the flow of weapons.”

Following Absi’s takeover of the Bab al-Hawa crossing, the Jihadi leader levied protection payments from all arms smugglers and the groups receiving weapons shipments through the crossing. These taxes were often paid in the form of a portion of the shipment, sometimes up to 30 percent, and were turned over to Absi personally. He reportedly claimed the arms were being stashed away in preparation for the decisive battle looming, “the great battle expected to occur after the fall of the regime,” according to the Jihadi source.

Absi’s actions angered the Farouq Battalion, which is active in Aleppo and Idlib, as well as the FSA. The two groups set their many differences aside and agreed to eliminate Absi after securing a green light from Turkey. The Turkish side had sought to persuade Absi several times to exempt Turkish arms shipments sent to groups affiliated to Turkey, but he refused on the grounds that his Islamic duty required him to take a cut.

Absi’s assassination was not the first time the Jihadis have killed one of their own.

According to reports coming from Idlib and Aleppo obtained by sources in the Syrian opposition, clashes between Islamist militant groups have become more frequent as they compete for power and influence, each one asserting that their religious interpretation is the only true path.

There also appears to be a cultural clash between non-Arab Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Balkans and Chechnya on the one hand, and Arabs from Syria, Libya, Tunisia and Jordan on the other, over the exploitation of sex slaves.

Some Islamists consider these women to be spoils of war, especially the wives and daughters of regime supporters, but local fighters are more apprehensive about the issue. Dozens of women have reportedly been sexually assaulted.

Others within the movement have firmly stood up to these groups and rejected such practices. For one thing, they believe that this will turn sympathetic Syrians against them.

These power struggles play out over a number of issues, but a trend has emerged of justifying assassinations by accusing the target of collaborating with the regime.

The result of this fracturing is that Syria is being divided into territories controlled by rival militant groups that dare not cross into another area without expecting a bloody confrontation.

Meanwhile, Al-Akhbar has learned that a number of Lebanese and Palestinian Jihadis who went to Syria to join the fighting have since forsaken the movement and returned home after witnessing the fierce internal fighting.

“We are now afraid of the regime falling, because our people have already started slaughtering one another. We can only guess at what will happen tomorrow, when the regime collapses,” said one of these disillusioned fighters.

Many Islamist leaders contacted by Al-Akhbar believe that this splintering is damaging to their cause and even threatens the revolution itself. Reconciliation efforts led by global leaders of the Islamist movement are currently under way, with several delegations dispatched to Syria. So far these initiatives have not borne fruit.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


The West should be supporting Assad in this one and not the FSA terrorists. If the Assad regime falls this country will fall into the same abyss as Iraq and to some extent Libya where various religious groups are fighting among themselves to gain control and exert their extremist views on the rest of the population through suicide attacks, car bombings, random shootings etc.

Before the uprising at least there was order in the country, now it's a free-for-all and the USA and her allies are stupidly backing the wrong side as they did in Iraq, Libya and Egypt. Islamic extremists don't care about the West, in fact they despise us and our way of life, yet we continually send aid and money to these terrorist groups.

Wow, so you must be a crying crocodile about your White House supporting the "wrong side"? Okay.

But let me give you one better suggestion. Instead of backing your beloved dictators, how about you people just shut the hell up and get your pathetic foreign affairs out of the Middle East? I know you Americans hates us Arabs as "terrorist animals" (I really don't give a damn), but the more you support the dictators (or the more you get involved and interfere with the MidEast politics), the more America and her citizens are going to get trouble.

“We are now afraid of the regime falling, because our people have already started slaughtering one another."

This scenario now being played out in muslim countries was predicted and beautifully described,as "Islamic cannibalism" some time ago by a former muslim.Read and learn.


So captured women are now 'sex slves'. Another demonstration of the falseness of the Muslim claim to be more respectful of women than western cultures. Also shows that the non Arab jihadis are there to further the Islamic jihad and not to help the
Syrians. After all any semblance of democarcy is exactly what they hate
the very thought of.

So you read about some jihadis taking women as sex slves but did not read about other jihadis that didn't agree to it. Selective reading I guess :). It was always clear that jihadis in Syria are not there to help Syrians but to impose their version of Islam. Muslims don't need to claim anything, you just need to read what is women's place as per prophet's teaching.

Woman place?are you kidding me?a woman is not an animal,she does not have a 'place' !!now you really need to go behind the cows to where you came from!

No, the problem is that the Moslems cannot seem to get in agreement as to what their profit actually taught. Not surprising, as he said one thing while his followers were a small group, then he was saying the opposite after he bamboozled enough people...
I say we just quit sending them money (completely) and give them time to do what they do best... After a few years, the 1.3 billion Muslims will be 1.3 million, and we won't have had to pull a single trigger...
If you need a more pro-active approach, we can always get a message to all of the reasonable people in their countries that they have 30 days to get to a safer place, and then turn the sand-box into a glass-sheet, and the problem of the religion of peace will be a non-issue!
- Rats... the latter idea won't work, as too many gullible Westerners believe the lies about the "peaceful Moslems". They live as 6th century barbarians. What does anyone expect? When talking about Islam, you want to keep your expectations quite low, otherwise you will surely be disappointed...

As a pakistani american i somewhat agree with you. Teachings of prophet pbuh were written after 200 years of his passing away. In the mean while Prophet pbuh own family was killed or forced to step aside one by one. If history proves any thing, it is that after His passing away, it was Arab imperialism at best. Just like Romans, Byzantine or Persians. But after some centuries when Mongols came and were converted, it changed. It was only after Oil discovery in 20th century that Arab imperialism emerged back and what happened in Iran, the so called Islamic revolution broke the last straw and now it is blooming everywhere like mushrooms (sadly in west too). I will also blame US policies as they too supported neo Islamism or gave a green light to Arabs, in order to restrict Iran influence (remember saudi oil fields are home of shiites). Not thinking that shiites are very small minority in muslim world and they could and cant do a greater harm to us. But on contrary Salafiis, wahabiis or deo bandis consist of majority. Now this jinni is out of the bottle and Muslims like me know that we are in between rock and a hard place.

If the Syrian democratic opposition really want power and legitimacy, there is one way to do it... fight against the foreign jihadis. More details at: http://www.progressivepress.com/blog/dirty-war-syria#savesyria

against Jihadis like the Mahdi Army or Hezbollah too?

Rafidi cannot be a Mujahadeen. Only a Sunni can be a Mujahadeen. Jihad belong only to Ahl Al Sunna!

And your reason is?

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