Suqour al-Sham

FormedSeptember 2011
DisbandedApril 2015
First AttackMay 28, 2012: Suqour al-Sham and the Shuhada Jebel al-Zawiyah Battalion attacked a government checkpoint outside the village of Mughara in Idlib province. The militants seized weaponry, including a tank and an anti-aircraft armored personnel carrier (unknown casualties). [1]
Last AttackJanuary 2, 2015: Suqour al-Sham coordinated with Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham to detonate explosives placed under an army post in the province of Idlib. This attack began a larger campaign to take control of the town of Ariha and the area surrounding Arbaeen Mountain in Idlib (unknown casualties). [2]
UpdatedAugust 5, 2016

Narrative Summary

Suqour al-Sham was a Syrian opposition group that sought to replace the Assad Regime with an Islamic State. [3] Ahmad Abu Eissa founded the group in Syria’s Idlib governorate after his brothers were killed in armed civilian clashes with the Assad Regime in 2011. Through a series of mergers with smaller brigades, Suqour al-Sham quickly became one of the most powerful opposition groups in Idlib, and it expanded to the Aleppo and Damascus provinces by 2013. [4] [5]

Suqour al-Sham was active in multiple Syrian opposition coalitions. It was affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in 2011, and became a founding a member of the FSA linked Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF) umbrella organization in 2012. [6] Additionally, Suqour al-Sham leader Ahmad Abu Eissa was elected as the head of the SILF in 2012. [7] Despite its close FSA ties, Suqour al-Sham did not take orders from the FSA’s Syrian National Council, and began to distance itself from the FSA in 2013. On September 23, 2013, Suqour al-Sham joined the Islamic Coalition, a political group that called for the implementation of Shariah law in Syria and for the opposition to the Assad Regime to be run only by groups fighting inside Syria. It also opposed the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which had the support of the FSA’s Syrian National Council, a group comprised mostly of exiled Syrians. [8] [9] [10] [11] In November 2013, Suqour al-Sham left the SILF in order to join the Islamic Front. [12]

In November 2013, Suqour al-Sham helped found the Islamic Front, an umbrella group of 40,000-70,000 fighters that sought to replace the Assad Regime with an Islamic government. [13] [14] Suqour al-Sham’s commander, Ahmad Abu Eissa, served as the Islamic Front’s leader until the umbrella group collapsed in 2014 due to disagreements between Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam. [15] [16] [17] Although it was once one of the strongest members in the Islamic Front, Suqour al-Sham’s strength declined after it began targeting the Islamic State (IS) on January 3, 2014. [18] The decision to target IS disgruntled many senior Suqour al-Sham leaders such as the group’s top religious leader, Abu Abderrahman al-Sarmini, who defected in January 2014 in protest. Conflict with IS also prompted Liwa Dawoud and Liwa Siyoof al-Haq, two of Suqour al-Sham’s strongest factions, to declare peace with IS, and defect from Suqour al-Sham; the two groups would later form the Army of the Levant (Jaysh al-Sham) with deserting IS members. [19] [20] Suqour al-Sham was severely weakened by these defections and the IS assassination of Suqour al-Sham’s top military commander, Mohamad al-Dik, in February 2014. [21] On February 5, 2014, Suqour al-Sham signed a ceasefire with IS after the group besieged 500 Suqour al-Sham fighters in the Sha’er oil fields in the province of Hama. [22] [23] 

After the Islamic Front’s dissolution, Suqour al-Sham continued to coordinate attacks against the Syrian army with Ahrar al-Sham and Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra). On March 22, 2015, Suqour al-Sham merged into Ahrar al-Sham, and its former leader, Ahmad Abu Eissa, became a deputy responsible for Ahrar al-Sham’s political affairs. [24] 

Leadership

  1. Abu Abderrahman al-Sarmini (Unknown to January 12, 2014): Sarmini was Suqour al-Sham’s top religious leader. He resigned in 2014 to protest Suquor al-Sham’s growing violence against the Islamic State (IS).[25]
  2. Mohammed al-Dik (Unknown to February 2014): Dik, also known as Abu Hussein, was Suqour al-Sham’s military commander. He was killed by the Islamic State in February 2014.[26]
  3. Ahmad Abu Eissa (Unknown to March 23, 2015): Eissa, also known as Abu Issa and Ahmed al-Sheikh, served as Suqour al-Sham’s commander until the group merged with Ahrar al-Sham in 2015. Eissa and his brothers joined the opposition in 2011 as armed civilians during clashes with the Assad Regime in Idlib. After his brothers were killed in 2011, Eissa founded Suqour al-Sham. Eissa also lead the founding of the named Syrian Islamic Liberation Front umbrella group, becoming its leader in 2012, and the head of the Islamic Front umbrella organization in 2013.[27]

Ideology & Goals

Initially, Suqour al-Sham’s leader, Ahmad Abu Eissa, was a proponent of a moderate Islamist state that would hold elections and guarantee full rights for minorities and seculars. However after joining the Islamic Front umbrella group, Eissa recanted his statement and advocated for a completely Islamic state in Syria. [28]

Name Changes

Suqour al-Sham did not change its name.

Size Estimates

Designated/Listed

Suqour al-Sham has not been designated as a terrorist organization.

Since December 2015, the UN Security Council has been trying to assemble a list of terrorist groups in Syria. Lebanon and Egypt support classifying Suqour al-Sham as a terrorist group, but they have not been able to achieve a unanimous consensus. [30] [31]

Resources

Qatar reportedly financed the Islamic Front, an umbrella organization that included Suqour al-Sham. [32] Additionally, Suqour al-Sham amassed Syrian military weapons through raids of regime compounds, defectors, or sales from corrupt officers. These weapons included rocket propelled grenade launchers and machine guns.  [33]

External Influences

Analysts disagree on the extent to which Saudi Arabia influenced Suqour al-Sham. Some analysts claim that Saudi Arabia played a large role in establishing the Islamic Front, an umbrella group that included Suqour al-Sham, and had 40,000-70,000 members at its peak, Syria’s largest alliance of opposition forces. However, other analysts argue that there is little evidence to support this claim aside from Saudi Arabia’s funding for Islamic Front member Jaysh al-Islam. [34] [35]

Geographical Locations

Suqour al-Sham was formed in Jabal al-Zawiya in the province of Idlib. It expanded into the Aleppo and Damascus provinces in 2013. [36]

Targets & Tactics

Suqour al-Sham targeted the Assad Regime as well as the Islamic State until the group signed a ceasefire with IS on February 5, 2014. [37] [38] 

Suqour al-Sham employed many small arms skirmishes and IEDs, and it often attacked military outposts in order to gain weapons. [39] Suqour al-Sham also clarified that its car bombs were not martyrdom or suicide operations. Instead, it gave captives or suspected spies cars that had been secretly rigged with explosives, and remotely detonated them when they reached military checkpoints. As of July 2012, they intentionally avoided civilian areas when conducting operations. [40] 

Political Activities

Although Suqour al-Sham was initially affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), it began to distance itself from the FSA when the FSA affiliated Supreme Military Council’s (SMC) political wing, the Syrian National Council (SNC), joined the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. [41] [42] [43] On September 23, 2013, Suqour al-Sham joined the Islamic Coalition, a political group that called for opposition to the Assad Regime to be run only by groups fighting inside Syria and opposed the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. [44] [45]

Major Attacks

  1. May 28, 2012: Suqour al-Sham and the Shuhada Jebel al-Zawiyah Battalion attacked a government checkpoint outside the village of Mughara in Idlib province. The militants seized weaponry, including a tank and an anti-aircraft armored personnel carrier (unknown casualties).[46]
  2. October 9, 2012: Suqour al-Sham fighters seized the town of Maarat al Nauman from government forces in the Idlib province (unknown casualties).[47]
  3. May 2013: Suqour al-Sham coordinated with Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra) and other opposition groups to overrun several military camps in the Idlib province. According to Al-Nusra, the total opposition force included 2,000 fighters, 8 tanks, and an armored vehicle (unknown casualties).[48]
  4. January 3, 2014: Suqour al-Sham joined members of the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front as part of an opposition assault against Islamic State (IS) positions across Syria. The initial attack pushed IS out of most of the Idlib province and city of Aleppo, and weakened IS control in Raqqa province (unknown casualties).[49]
  5. January 2, 2015: Suqour al-Sham coordinated with Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham to attack an army post in the province of Idlib. This assault began a larger campaign to take control of the town of Ariha and the area surrounding Arbaeen Mountain in Idlib (unknown casualties).[50]

Relationships with Other Groups

Though Suqour al-Sham never announced a formal affiliation with Al Qaeda (AQ), it did coordinate attacks against the Assad Regime with AQ affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. [51] [52]

Suqour al-Sham opposed the Islamic State (IS) and began targeting the group on January 3, 2014. [53] However, this decision to target IS disgruntled many senior Suqour al-Sham leaders such as the group’s top religious leader, Abu Abderrahman al-Sarmini, who defected in protest in January 2014. Conflict with IS also prompted Liwa Dawoud and Liwa Siyoof al-Haq, two of Suqour al-Sham’s strongest factions, to declare peace with IS, defect from Suqour al-Sham, and eventually form the Army of the Levant (Jaysh al-Sham) with deserting IS members. [54] [55]  Suqour al-Sham was severely weakened by these defections as well as the IS assassination of Suqour al-Sham’s top military commander, Mohamad al-Dik. [56]  On February 5, 2014, Suqour al-Sham signed a ceasefire with IS after the group besieged 500 Suqour al-Sham fighters in the Sha’er oil fields in the province of Hama. [57] [58]  

Suqour al-Sham was active in multiple Syrian opposition coalitions. It was affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in 2011, and became a founding a member of the FSA linked Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF) umbrella organization in 2012. [59] Additionally, Suqour al-Sham leader Ahmad Abu Eissa was elected as the head of the SILF in 2012. [60] Despite its close FSA ties, Suqour al-Sham did not take orders from the FSA’s Syrian National Council, and began to distance itself from the FSA when it joined the Islamic Coalition on September 23, 2013. [61] In November 2013, Suqour al-Sham left the SILF in order to join the Islamic Front. [62]

Suqour al-Sham helped found the Islamic Front, an umbrella group of 40,000-70,000 fighters that sought to replace the Assad Regime with an Islamic government. [63] [64] Suqour al-Sham’s commander, Ahmad Abu Eissa, served as the Islamic Front’s leader until the umbrella group collapsed in mid-2014 due to disagreements between Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam. [65] [66] [67] 

Suqour al-Sham merged into Ahrar al-Sham on March 22, 2015, and its former leader, Ahmad Abu Eissa, became a deputy responsible for Ahrar al-Sham’s political affairs. [68] 

Community Relationships

No Information.


References

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