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Lebanese Daily Al-Akhbar: Hurras Al-Din Will Undergo ‎Rebirth, Emerge As Al-Qaeda Representative In Syria

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On July 14, 2018, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah and the Syrian regime, published an article predicting that Hurras Al-Din, the recently established pro-Al-Qaeda organization in Syria, will soon be reborn under new leadership comprising former prominent Al-Qaeda commanders, with the sole aim of "ruling the jihadi scene" in Syria. Suhayb 'Anjarini, the author of the article, says that Hurras Al-Din's recent accomplishments secured it large amounts of Kuwaiti funding and promises of increased financial support if its future operations intensify and if the organization's size increases.

Remarking on the group's founding, 'Anjarini says that Hurras Al-Din was, in February 2018, "established to be an official representative of Al-Qaeda in Syria" to revitalize Al-Qaeda's presence in the country following the "jihadi divorce" between Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN) and Al-Qaeda, referring to the 2016 severing of ties between JN and Al-Qaeda.[1] 'Anjarini says the organization is now preparing to play a more active role, as it has increased its membership in recent months due to large infusions of funds, and promises to further increase funding "among the Syrians" as well as attract "new waves" of non-Syrian muhajireen (i.e. foreign fighters). Hurras Al-Din has also, according to the author, attracted "tens" of Uyghur fighters who split from the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) following its alliance with JN aka Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) in the recent infighting among rebel groups in Syria.[2]

'Anjarini says the organization is poised for a "rebirth in the current month" after months of "inactivity" following its formation. Information obtained from "behind-the-scenes" reporting by jihadis indicates that Hurras Al-Din has "completed its self-structuring and is ready to fill the void left over by the factions' in-fighting in the jihadi arena," says the writer. Further, says 'Anjarini, the new source of funding is "likely" a new "room" funded by a Salafi movement in Kuwait. These Salafis wish to "revitalize" Al-Qaeda-related activities in Syria. However, says 'Anjarini, this increased funding "promise" is based on three conditions being met: an increased "size" of operations, increased number of mujahideen, and increased "base" of operations.

Reflecting on the group's activities until this past June, 'Anjarini says the organization's field combat consisted of "localized" attacks in "Latakia's northern countryside, Aleppo's southern countryside, and Hama's northern countryside." But, says the writer, Hurras Al-Din distinguished itself early this month in an attack in Hama's northern countryside that targeted Tel Bazzam, north of Suran. 'Anjarini says the attack was significant because it was a test of Hurras Al-Din members' discipline and their obedience to the chain of command, as opposed to the size or results of the attack, which "did not change the landscape." The other indicator of the importance of this operation, says 'Anjarini, was that it was "the first time" an operation was conducted under the command of the "Jordanian arm of the organization," and was launched from an area that had Turkish military monitoring points.

Commenting on the early stages of its formation, 'Anjarini says that Hurras Al-Din focused on portraying itself as Syrian in appearance by installing the Syrian Abu Hummam Al-Shami as Hurras Al-Din's general commander. Formerly, Al-Shami aka Samir Hijazi acted as JN's general military commander. But, says the writer, this "direction" will not help Hurras Al-Din in the upcoming stage, with the "ambition" of attracting more foreign fighters to "rule the jihadi scene." 'Anjarini mentions that there are indications that the next stage will include publicly declared activities by Hurras Al-Din's "shadow commanders," but, he adds, there is a possibility these "non-Syrian Al-Qaeda" commanders' roles will also be publicly announced.

The writer says that Hurras Al-Din "includes a number of notable Al-Qaeda faces, most of whom belong to the 'Jordanian [Salafi-jihadi] movement."

Prominent among these leaders, says 'Anjarini, are four names who are "confirmed members of the Shura Council of Hurras Al-Din," and whose "symbolism" is clearly the reason why Hurras Al-Din attracted international jihadis. They are: Abu Julaybeeb Al-Urduni (Iyyad al-Tubasi), Abu Khadijah Al-Urduni (Bilal Khuraysat), Sami Al-'Uraydi (former shari'a official in JN), and Abu Al-Qassam Al-Urduni (Khalid Mustafa Al-'Aruri). The latter, says 'Anjarini, is a historically renowned Al-Qaeda leader and had been an assistant to Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi. Uncorroborated information sources, says 'Anjarini, further state that the Shura Council also includes the notorious Egyptian Al-Qaeda leader Saif Al-Adl. 'Anjarini says that Al-Adl and Al-'Aruri were both freed from "Iranian prisons" as part of a 2015 prisoner exchange deal set up by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). 'Anjarini says that it is "likely" that Al-Adl will assume a "larger role in the Shura Council, closer to actual command of Hurras Al-Din."

Regarding the "jihadi chaos in Idlib," wherein many factions are constantly fighting, 'Anjarini says that Hurras Al-Din demonstrated restraint and avoided the fight. Such an attitude, he says, has turned the group into a "new destination" for jihadis who wish to avoid any internal fighting. To this end, 'Anjarini says that Hurras Al-Din, during the early stages of its formation, issued a "charter of jihadi principles," a copy of which was sent to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri along with the group's pledge of allegiance to him, in which it expressed its intention "not to engage in any internal fitna [strife]."

'Anjarini alludes to information indicating the welcoming of HTS leader Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani to Hurras Al-Din's growing role as a prominent jihadi group, as it would "ensure it [i.e. Hurras Al-Din] becoming an attractive [target] to any international assault carried out in Idlib under the headline of 'fighting terrorism.'"