Iraq News

Tahrir al-Sham rounds up dissenters in Idlib town

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo


A Tahrir al-Sham commander speaks to a group of men attending a preachers' training in Idlib province. The alliance has deployed a large number of its preachers in most villages and towns in order to gain control of mosques and recruit youth into its ranks. [Photo courtesy of Musab Assaf]

Tahrir al-Sham is continuing its expansionist activities in Syria's Idlib province, where it seeks to extend its influence militarily and socially, a local activist said.

The extremist alliance has been conducting daily raids to round up those who oppose it, Idlib activist Musab Assaf told Diyaruna.

It also has deployed a large number of its preachers in most villages and towns, he said, in order to gain control of mosques and recruit youth into its ranks.

At dawn Monday (October 15th), more than 200 Tahrir al-Sham elements raided the town of Ain La Rose on the western edge of Idlib province, Assaf said.

They stormed homes in the town, smashed their contents and beat up their occupants, while searching for individuals known for their opposition to Tahrir al-Sham, whose names appear on the alliance's wanted list.

Fifteen people were detained during the raid, which included the deployment of a small surveillance drone that hovered over the town, Assaf said.

Seven are from the Qantar clan, he said, and most work as teachers in the area.

Mustafa Fares Qantar was executed in front of his house.

An attempt to extend control

Most of those detained by Tahrir al-Sham are members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Assaf said, noting that the alliance had previously detained a number of them, including members of the Qantar clan.

Some spent close to three years in the alliance's ill-reputed al-Iqab prison, he added, most notably Abdullah Qantar, an FSA commander who is believed to be the target of the raid, along with a group of people working with him.

Tahrir al-Sham tried to conceal the reason for the raid, claiming it was directed against the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), who it claims is behind a recent spate of kidnappings, assassinations and bombings.

Assaf said the matter has nothing to do with "security", but rather serves as "a means of extending the alliance's religious and social control in the area".

Tahrir al-Sham's deployment of preachers in Idlib is designed to tighten its grip over mosques and religious circles, he said, and to recruit youth into its ranks.

A new batch of preachers graduated from the Imam al-Shatibi Institute in the town of Kafr Oweid in southern Idlib province, he said, where they received training on persuasion and recruitment methods as well as weapons training.

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