Terrorism |

Idlib, Hama extremists targeted by assassins

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

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Hurras al-Din commander Abu al-Waleed al-Tunisi was traveling in this vehicle when it was bombed in rural Idlib. He was killed in the blast. [Photo circulated on social media]

Extremist groups in rural Idlib and Hama provinces are fortifying their positions in an attempt to protect themselves in the wake of a wave of assassinations that targeted their foreign fighters and commanders, a local activist said.

Al-Qaeda aligned Hurras al-Din and Ansar al-Tawhid, who both have a presence in rural Hama and Idlib, have fortified their headquarters and positions after the recent killings, Idlib activist Haisam al-Idlibi told Diyaruna.

Assassinations targeting foreign fighters from the two groups have taken place in several parts of Idlib and Hama, he said, leaving at least 10 of them dead.

Two Hurras al-Din fighters are seen during recent fighting in rural Hama province. [Photo circulated on social media]

An armed fighter with al-Qaeda aligned Hurras al-Din is seen in rural Idlib province. [Photo circulated on social media]

A Hurras al-Din commander known as Abu al-Waleed al-Tunisi was assassinated when the car he was travelling in was bombed in the eastern Idlib town of Taftanaz, al-Idlibi said.

Al-Tunisi suffered burns and died en route to a medical post in the area.

Al-Idlibi noted that the area is controlled by Tahrir al-Sham, but said the extremist alliance did not issue a statement or comment on the incident.

Internal disputes

Separately, more than 10 foreign fighters (from China and Belgium) were killed at two sites; one near the town of Khirbet al-Naqous in northern rural Hama, and the other near the town of Mushairfeh in southern rural Idlib.

"The assailants entered those areas, targeted Hurras al-Din and Ansar al-Tawhid fighters, and then fled without being caught," al-Idlibi said.

The areas surrounding those sites also are under the control of Tahrir al-Sham, which has not issued any statement or reaction, other than to deploy a large number of its fighters to the area and fortify its positions, he added.

Al-Idlibi pointed to internal disputes within Hurras al-Din between foreign fighters and Arab commanders that have escalated to the point that the various grievances have been aired on social media.

Hurras al-Din fighters accused the group's emir, Abu Humam al-Shami, of corruption, and claimed he had been mistreating the group's fighters, he said.

Hurras al-Din was founded in 2018 and comprises elements who espouse al-Qaeda’s ideology and had refused to join Tahrir al-Sham.

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