Liwa al-Tawhid

FormedJuly 2012
DisbandedDecember 25, 2014
First AttackJuly 29, 2012: Liwa al-Tawhid and other opposition forces seized portions of Aleppo from the Assad Regime in July 2012. Liwa al-Tawhid’s commander Abdel Qader Saleh claimed that the group controlled more than 40% of the city of Aleppo’s neighborhoods. (unknown casualties). [1]
Last AttackMarch 9, 2014: Liwa al-Tawhid and Al-Nusra pushed IS out of Azaz, a crucial boarder town with Turkey in Aleppo Province. (unknown casualties). [2]
UpdatedAugust 5, 2016

Narrative Summary

Liwa al-Tawhid (the Tawhid Brigade) was an Aleppo-based militant group that was formed by several small opposition brigades to fight the Assad Regime in July 2012. [3] The group’s goal was to replace the Assad Regime with a moderate Islamic state that had a basis in Shariah law, but included civilian rule, elections, and protection for minorities. [4] Liwa al-Tawhid rose to prominence in July 2012 after becoming one of the first opposition groups to control territory in Aleppo. [5] One of its two co-founders, Abdel Qader Saleh, also became a well-known revolution figurehead, especially in Aleppo. [6]

Liwa al-Tawhid initially pledged allegiance to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and it supported the FSA’s creation of a Supreme Military Council (SMC) in December 2012 and joined the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF), an SMC-linked umbrella organization, in January 2013. However, Liwa al-Tawhid often acted independently of FSA-affiliated groups. [7] [8] On September 23, 2013, it distanced itself from the FSA and SMC by joining the Islamic Coalition, a political group that called for the opposition to the Assad Regime to be run only by groups fighting inside Syria, and that opposed the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which is a political group that merged with the SMC’s political wing. [9] In November 2013, Liwa al-Tawhid officially left the SILF in order to join the Islamic Front umbrella group. [10] 

In 2013, Liwa al-Tawhid was well respected amongst opposition groups and successfully negotiated a ceasefire between IS and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Azaz, a city in the province of Aleppo. [11] The group also cooperated with IS to fight the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in late 2013. [12] However, Liwa al-Tawhid along with its Islamic Front allies began targeting IS in early 2014. [13] Clashes erupted between IS and Liwa al-Tawhid in January 2014 when Liwa al-Tawhid temporarily drove IS out of the city of Aleppo. [14] In response to growing hostility with Liwa al-Tawhid and other militant groups, IS began targeting the leaders of opposition groups and killed a prominent Liwa al-Tawhid member, Adnan Bakour. [15] After these attacks, Liwa al-Tawhid continued targeting IS, and in 2014 a member of the group called its fight with IS “more severe than any fight with the regime.” [16]

In July 2014, Liwa al-Tawhid, Ahrar al-Sham, and other former members of the Islamic Front, which dissolved in mid-2014, agreed to merge their Aleppo-based fighters and operate under the name Islamic Front, not to be confused with the Islamic Front umbrella group. Since this merger, there have been conflicting reports on if Liwa al-Tawhid is still operating independently. In March 2016, Liwa al-Tawhid allegedly published a video that showcased its three man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), which are shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that are often used by opposition forces to target Assad Regime planes. [17] [18]

Leadership

  1. Youssef al-Abbas (Unknown to November 2013): Abbas, also known as Abu al-Tayyeb, served as the chief of either intelligence or finance. He was killed in the same airstrike that killed Abdel Qader Saleh.[19]
  2. Abdel Qader Saleh (July 2012 to November 2013): Saleh, also known as “Hajji Marea,” was a former businessman and a popular figure within the Syrian rebellion. Saleh was one of Liwa al-Tawhid’s two founders and commanded its military affairs. He was officially ranked under Salameh, but some analysts considered Saleh to be Liwa al-Tawhid’s de facto leader. In addition to his role with Liwa al-Tawhid, Saleh was involved in the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council command structure, where he served as the Assistant Deputy to the Commander-in-Chief for the Northern Region. Saleh was killed in a regime airstrike that also killed several other Liwa al-Tawhid leaders. Liwa al-Tawhid did not disclose the name of Saleh’s successor due to security concerns.[20]
  3. Abdul-Aziz Salameh (July 2012 to July 2014): Salameh, also known as Hajji Anadan and Abu Jumaa, was one of Liwa al-Tawhid’s two founders. Salameh commanded Liwa al-Tawhid’s political affairs. After Liwa al-Tawhid merged to form the Islamic Front in Aleppo, Salameh became the Islamic Front’s commander. Salameh was eventually elected to command the Levantine Front, a group that includes the Islamic Front, not to be confused with the Islamic Front umbrella group. [21]

Ideology & Goals

Liwa al-Tawhid sought to replace the Assad Regime with a moderate Islamic state that had a basis in Shariah law, but included civilian rule, elections, and protection for minorities. [22]

Size Estimates

Designated/Listed

Liwa al-Tawhid was not a designated terrorist organization.

Since December 2015, the UN Security Council has been trying to assemble a list of terrorist groups in Syria. Russia, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates support classifying Liwa al-Tawhid as a terrorist group, but they have not been able to achieve a unanimous consensus. [27] [28]

Resources

Liwa al-Tawhid received resources from France, Qatar, and Turkey. In 2012, the group used money it received from France to buy ammunition. [29] Qatar and Turkey also financially supported Liwa al-Tawhid and allegedly provided the group with advanced weapons such as anti-tank missiles. [30] It is unclear when these countries began funding Liwa al-Tawhid. 

Liwa al-Tawhid reportedly had QW-1 missiles, which are made by China and used by Iran. A spokesperson for the group reported that the militants captured the weapons from Syrian government forces. [31] In March 2016, Liwa al-Tawhid allegedly published a video that showcased its three man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), which are shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that are often used by the opposition forces to target Assad Regime planes. [32] [33] 

In addition, Liwa al-Tawhid was among a host of Syrian militant groups that employed child soldiers. [34]

External Influences

Liwa al-Tawhid received funding from France, Qatar, and Turkey. Additionally, some analysts claim that Saudi Arabia played a large role in establishing the Islamic Front, an umbrella group that included Liwa al-Tawhid and had 40,000-70,000 members at its peak, which made it Syria’s largest alliance of opposition forces. [35] [36]

Geographical Locations

Liwa al-Tawhid was based in Aleppo Province and in 2012, it claimed to control 40% of the city of Aleppo’s neighborhoods. [37] [38] Additionally, it conducted operations near Damascus and Idlib. [39] [40] 

Targets & Tactics

Like many opposition groups, Liwa al-Tawhid uses IEDs and Kalashnikov rifles in battles against the Syrian army. [41] 

Political Activities

Liwa al-Tawhid was hostile to negotiations with the Assad Regime. On September 23, 2013, it joined the Islamic Coalition, a political group that called for the 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. [42] Liwa al-Tawhid subsequently left the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council, which continued to support the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces’ negotiations with the Assad Regime. [43] Additionally, the group claimed that the Geneva II peace conference, a UN-sponsored conference that included the Assad Regime and the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, was an attempt to “extend the life of the [Assad] Regime” or replace it with a similar regime. [44] [45] 

Major Attacks

  1. July 29, 2012: Liwa al-Tawhid and other opposition forces seized portions of Aleppo from the Assad Regime in July 2012. Liwa al-Tawhid’s commander Abdel Qader Saleh claimed that the group controlled more than 40% of the city of Aleppo’s neighborhoods (unknown casualties).[46]
  2. April 22, 2013: Liwa al-Tawhid and Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra) cooperated with the Nasser Salahuddin Brigade, Dera’ al-Assima, and Liwa al-Habib al Mustafa in a series of attacks against Syrian army units and outposts in the Damascus countryside. According to Al-Nusra, the militants destroyed several tanks and killed over 150 Syrian soldiers (150+ killed, unknown wounded).[47]
  3. May 2013: Liwa al-Tawhid participated in a joint offensive with multiple opposition groups, including Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, against Assad Regime military camps in the Idlib countryside (unknown casualties).[48]
  4. January 2014: Liwa al-Tawhid drove the Islamic State (IS) out of the city of Aleppo. During its retreat, IS reportedly shot and killed the detainees it was holding in a hospital basement (40-50 killed, unknown wounded).[49]
  5. March 9, 2014: Liwa al-Tawhid and Al-Nusra pushed IS out of Azaz, a crucial boarder town with Turkey in the province of Aleppo (unknown casualties).[50]

Relationships with Other Groups

While no reports indicate a formal affiliation with Al Qaeda (AQ), Liwa al-Tawhid coordinated attacks with AQ affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. [51]

Liwa al-Tawhid initially cooperated with the Islamic State (IS) and successfully negotiated a ceasefire between IS and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Azaz, a city in the province of Aleppo, in September 2013. [52] However, Liwa al-Tawhid along with its Islamic Front umbrella group allies began targeting IS in early 2014. [53] Clashes erupted between IS and Liwa al-Tawhid in January 2014 when Liwa al-Tawhid drove IS out of the city of Aleppo. [54] In response to growing hostility with Liwa al-Tawhid and other militant groups, IS began targeting the leaders of opposition groups and killed prominent Liwa al-Tawhid member Adnan Bakour. [55] 

Liwa al-Tawhid initially pledged allegiance to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and it supported the FSA’s creation of a Supreme Military Council (SMC) in December 2012 and joined the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF), an SMC-linked umbrella organization, in January 2013. However, Liwa al-Tawhid often acted independently of FSA-affiliated groups. [56] [57] It began to distance itself from the FSA and SMC when the SMC’s political wing, the Syrian National Council (SNC), joined the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. [58] [59] On September 23, 2013, Liwa al-Tawhid 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. [60] Liwa al-Tawhid subsequently left the SMC, which continued to support the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces’ negotiations with the Assad Regime. [61]  In November 2013, Liwa al-Tawhid left the SILF in order to join the Islamic Front. [62] 

Liwa al-Tawhid was an active member in 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] Liwa al-Tawhid helped found the Islamic Front in December 2013, and Liwa al-Tawhid’s Abu Omar Hureitan was appointed as the Deputy Leader of the Islamic Front’s Shura council. [65] [66] After the Islamic Front umbrella group collapsed in mid-2014 due to disagreements between Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam, Liwa al-Tawhid merged with other former Islamic Front units in Aleppo and continued operating under the name Islamic Front, not to be confused with the Islamic Front umbrella group. [67] While the Islamic Front umbrella group dissolved, many of its member groups’ fighters began defecting to IS. In particular, multiple Liwa al-Tawhid brigades either became defunct or began cooperating with IS. One of the most prominent former Liwa al-Tawhid battalions to cooperate with IS is the Manbij Martyrs Battalion. [68]

Community Relationships

No information available. 


References

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