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'Guardians of Religion' extremist group under siege in Syria's Idlib

The Guardians of Religion Organization, which has close ties to al-Qaeda in Syria, is under pressure from US drone strikes and a possible assault by Russian-backed Syrian forces.
This picture taken on August 16, 2019 shows a smoke plume rising following a reported air strike in Kfar Ruma in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. - Air strikes on August 16 by Syria's regime and its Russian ally killed 15 civilians in the area controlled by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Idlib province, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The strikes came as regime forces battled HTS jihadists and allied rebels in the region, where fierce fighting

Jabhat al-Nusra — currently known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) — split from al-Qaeda in 2016. Jabhat al-Nusra's hard-line current Fateh al-Sham saw the split as a betrayal to al-Qaeda and two years later, in February 2018, pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and formed a new jihadist group called the Guardians of Religion Organization (GRO).

Some of this current’s most prominent leaders are Jordanian jihadists such as Jabhat al-Nusra's Khaled al-Arouri (nicknamed Abu al-Qasim al-Urduni) and members of the Shura Council Samir Hijazi (Abu Hammam al-Shami or Faruq al-Suri), Sami al-Aridi (Abu Mahmoud al-Sham) Bilal Khreesat (Abu Khadija al-Urduni), Faraj Ahmad al-Naanaa and Abu Abdel-Karim al-Masry.

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