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Shakeup rattles major Islamist group in Idlib

Ahrar al-Sham, once one of the largest factions of the Syrian opposition, has divided into two wings: one with ties to the Free Syrian Army and another close to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
A rebel fighter from the Ahrar al-Sham brigade walks past the debris of damaged buildings in the rebel-held besieged town of Harasta, in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of Damascus, on November 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ABDULMONAM EASSA        (Photo credit should read ABDULMONAM EASSA/AFP via Getty Images)

IDLIB, Syria — A crisis within Ahrar al-Sham erupted on Oct. 20 when the movement’s Shura Council, led by Jaber Ali Pasha, dismissed the head of the movement’s military wing, Capt. Anad Darwish, nicknamed Abu al-Mundhir, and his deputy Abu Suhaib. 

The dismissal followed a group of the movement’s military leaders calling for reinstating the former leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Hassan Soufan. Soufan, who was dismissed in 2019, is known for being very close to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a UN- and US-designated terrorist organization and the dominant outfit in Idlib. Ahrar al-Sham's leadership feared he would make the movement part of HTS.

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