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Jaysh al-Fatah denies Jund al-Aqsa defections to the Islamic State
by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi • Aug 25, 2015 at 7:16 am
Jaysh al-Fatah is a coalition of Syrian Islamist rebels and jihadis that has driven the Assad regime out of all major towns in Idlib province and is currently fighting in the Sahl al-Ghab area. The most hardline components of the coalition are Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria's al-Qa'ida affiliate, and Jund al-Aqsa, an officially independent jihadi group founded in 2013 as a third-way between al-Qa'ida and ISIS (the latter now simply the Islamic State). To this day, Jund al-Aqsa's official policy towards the Islamic State is one of neutrality, and since the beginning of 2014 the working relationship has been one of close cooperation with Jabhat al-Nusra. But there are also Islamic State sympathisers within the ranks, some of whom (e.g. the former Dutch soldier Yilmaz, also a well-known jihadi social media personality) have gone all the way and joined the Islamic State. These Islamic State sympathisers, who likely also exist in other components of Jaysh al-Fatah (e.g.the Salafi group Ahrar al-Sham), may be acting as Islamic State sleeper cells responsible for carrying out the recent bomb attacks and assassinations in Idlib targeting the leaderships of Jaysh al-Fatah groups.
The latest rumours claim that some 50 members of Jund al-Aqsa abandoned their positions and defected to the Islamic State. Jaysh al-Fatah has officially denied these claims. In speaking of purging those with links to the Islamic State, there does seem to be acknowledgement of a problem of sympathisers. Regardless of the veracity of the denial of this latest set of 50 defecting, it is notable how strongly Jaysh al-Fatah stands by Jund al-Aqsa. Despite the outreach of Ahrar al-Sham to the West, there is clearly no willingness on the ground to jettison the alliances with the jihadis for risk of fragmenting Jaysh al-Fatah, which as a military alliance has had great successes but at the same time inevitably entails enabling of the likes of Jabhat al-Nusra and Jund al-Aqsa, the latter of which has been involved in killing civil judges in Idlib and arresting individuals on charges of collaboration with Jamal Ma'arouf (leader of the now defunct Syrian Revolutionaries Front expelled from Idlib). Alongside Jabhat al-Nusra, Jund al-Aqsa has also targeted civil Free Police stations in Idlib.
Below is the full statement translated by me.
"In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Statement: Defending the honour of our brothers in Jund al-Aqsa
Praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds, and prayers and peace be upon the seal of those sent, who said- "The one who defends the honour of his brother, God will keep him from the hellfire on the Day of Judgment"- and on all his family and companions. As for what follows:
Social media sites have recently circulated rumours of 50 members of Jund al-Aqsa joining Da'esh [Islamic State], taking with them a number of anti-aircraft guns: and claiming that they abandoned their positions on the frontlines of the Muslims, so the army moved forward from them!
So it has become obligatory upon us in Jaysh al-Fatah to clarify that this talk is divorced from the truth, and that not one of our brothers has joined Da'esh, and they did not abandon their positions but rather the contrary to that. For our brothers in Jund al-Aqsa have undergone fine tribulations in the ongoing battles in Idlib and Sahl al-Ghab. And they have brought forth pure blood which we ask God to accept for us and them. And they continue to purge their ranks from anyone with a link to Da'esh and we urge them on further. And may God reward them best and make them a thorn in the throats of the enemies of Islam and the Muslims, and raise through us and them the banner of religion. Oh God, Amen.
Shari'a Committee- Jaysh al-Fatah."
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