Jihad Intel: Vital Intelligence on Designated Islamic Terrorist Organizations

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Database: Identifiers of Designated Islamic Terrorist Organizations

Jund al-Aqsa

Designated terrorist by the U.S. State Department.
Base of operations: Syria

Background: Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

Jund al-Aqsa ("Soldiers of al-Aqsa") is a jihadi group comprising both foreign fighters and native Syrians, primarily operating in Idlib and Hama governorates. Originally set up as an ostensibly independent group early 2013 with neutrality in the dispute between Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State, in practice the group has been closer to Jabhat al-Nusra, working closely with it in its areas of operations in Idlib and Hama. In fact, it seems it was set up as a front group to prevent defections to the Islamic State as the latter was gearing up to announce an official presence in Syria and attempting to subsume Jabhat al-Nusra. Over time, the links with al-Qaeda have become clearer with several known al-Qaeda operatives identified in its ranks, even as many lower-rank recruits are suspected of harbouring sympathies for the Islamic State. The group's leadership also made clear in a statement in 2015 its ideological alignment with al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri

The group's more hardline approach to relations with other groups, particularly in terms of control of territory in Idlib province, sparked tensions and eventually culminated in open conflict with other Syrian rebel groups in October 2016, with the efforts against Jund al-Aqsa spearheaded by Syrian Salafi group Ahrar al-Sham. Since Jund al-Aqsa also refuses to fight the Islamic State unless in strict self-defence, the group faced accusations of being secretly in league with the Islamic State. In response, Jund al-Aqsa opted to merge officially under Jabhat Fatah al-Sham- the rebranded successor to Jabhat al-Nusra- through an allegiance pledge (bay'a).

Jund al-Aqsa Emblem
Jund al-Aqsa Flag
Jund al-Aqsa: Media Committee

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