In regard the infightings between Ahrar al Sham and Jund al Aqsa…

The clashes erupted again in a very suggestive time, perhaps it was not only one issue that led to this, but a set of factors that helped the situation escalating to this level. It is not the first time the conflict between these two factions happened, only this year we had three cases followed by each other, first in July, then in September and exactly one month later in October.

As covered here it was a series of factors which included violations from both sides that led Ahrar and Jund to these infightings, in general, the mainly reason was the accusations of Ahrar al Sham that Jund al Aqsa kept IS cells in its own ranks, as noticed, unfortunately event that took place during this period of time did not help proving otherwise.

Until October, the fights between the two factions were small, mainly consisted of accusations exchanged between their members. Real clashes happened when Ahrar attacked Jund in Ghaab Plains, but did not last long and were taken as something not so serious. In October though, the issue escalated leading to the death of many mujahideen including commanders during more than 72 hours of conflict.

Suggestive Time

The result of the last Sharia court haven’t even came out(?) when Ahrar al Sham attacked Jund al Aqsa this time, again with accusations of Jund being part of IS. But the question everybody is asking is: Why now?

This time specifically has been a crucial to groups in Syria, right after their loss in Aleppo and during the preparation of Jaysh al Fath to start a new offensive to break the siege, a moment that needs a huge unification of groups, including Ahrar, that is part of Jaysh al Fath coalition.

In this meanwhile, Jund al Aqsa, that is not part of Jaysh al Fath anymore, started their offensive in North Hama, a smart move that divided Assad forces between Aleppo and Hama. Jund al Aqsa made an impressive advance in the area, capturing cities that were in control of Assad’s forces for years, everything in a fast speed. The gains in Hama were to be praised as Jund made what Rebels were trying to do for a long time.

During the last days of the offensive in Aleppo, with Assasists advancing, Ahrar al Sham left Ramouseh and sent its troops to fight with FSA and Turkey against IS in Jarablus and right after the end of Aleppo offensive, when the city got besiege again, Ahrar decided to send troops to North Hama as well to help Jund al Aqsa with this offensive, despite the conflicts between them.

Weeks after the beginning of Hama operation and coincidently, or not, a week before Ahrar’s new accusations, Jund al Aqsa was put in the US Terrorist List due to the Hama operation, the date of this decision is also very questionable.

Days after the clashes erupted again between them. Jund al Aqsa announced they would start legislating accordingly to Sharia Law in all areas captured by them in North Hama, decision that did not please Ahrar al Sham. Despite being a Islamist/Salafist group, Ahrar does not share the same Islamic views as Jund al Aqsa, being a more moderate group, that plays between Jabhat Fath al Sham and FSA, Ahrar judges Jund al Aqsa as extremists. This
dissatisfaction is well expressed when Ahrar announces that one of its conditions to stop fighting Jund would be that Jund leaves its positions in Hama giving it to another group and stop legislating by Sharia in their captured locations.

Hours before the clashes erupted again between them, IS carried out a suicide attack against members of FSA and Ahrar al Sham in the frontier of Idlib and Turkey, in a rebel territory. And in the same week, Ahrar arrested a small group linked to IS in Saraqeb and claimed Jund al Aqsa demanded their release.

Jund al Aqsa Merge with Jabhat Fath al Sham

It would be ignorance to say that so much infightings and accusations would not damage a group’s reputation. Jund knew that so much conflict would put the group’s veracity to test, and would rise doubts about their real position in the jihad in Syria, independently of the results of any judgment.

Few options were left for them in this case. Jund al Aqsa a, until then, neutral group, was been forced to pick a side in the war. Jund declared itself neutral since the “fitnah” (infighting) started between Jabhat al Nusra and IS in 2013, it refused to join any side to fight the order and did not made takfir on any group. They were the only group in Syria who did not join the war against IS.

This decision raised doubts among mujahideen and supporters. Jund al Aqsa always followed a more radical interpretation of Islam. More extreme than Jabhat al Nusra, Jund’s Aqeedah and manhaj were closer to the one of IS. Although Jund did not have bayah to any group, its leaders relied on al Qaeda’s leaders and many times, especially after the split between Jabhat al Nusra and al Qaeda, Jund was addressed as the last Al Qaeda linked group in Sham. On the other hand, their ranks were mixed, with many of its fighters refusing to express any hate towards the Islamic State.

In order to preserve its fighters and avoid infightings between Islamists groups in Sham, Jund al Aqsa had to make a decision: Rather cross Khanaser road and join the Islamic State or stay and give bayah to Jabhat Fath al Sham. We reached a moment in Syria jihad that been a small and neutral group is a threat, due to the circumstances, there is no room for neutrality anymore.

Finally, Jund opted for the second option, giving bayah to Jabhat Fath al Sham in 9th October, with few conditions which includes releasing the prisoners requested by Ahrar al Sham. With this, Ahrar al Sham was also forced to stop the infightings; otherwise they would be fighting Jabhat Fath al Sham now, their own allies in Jaysh al Fath coalition.

There is wisdom behind everything, good and bad. As stated in the Quran, perhaps we dislike something that is beneficial to us. Infightings and fitnah is not something good but these events are what mold the situation, and perhaps it can end up changing things to better. Maybe it did not happen in the way most of us wished but the unification of groups in Syria is starting in one way or the other.

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Published by Pashtun Cat