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Al-Qaeda-linked leader again descends on Idlib streets to polish his image

Once more, the leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Syria’s Idlib is making appearances in public places and visiting camps in a bid to present himself as a popular leader and to have his organization’s name removed from the international terrorist list.
A Syrian man reacts as water floods tents at a camp for the internally displaced near the town of Kafr Lusin in the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, by the border with Turkey, on January 19, 2021. - Flooding following heavy rain at displacement camps in northwest Syria has killed a child and damaged or destroyed the tents of thousands of people, according to residents and aid workers. (Photo by Aaref WATAD / AFP) (Photo by AAREF WATAD/AFP via Getty Images)

ALEPPO, Syria — Abu Mohammed al-Golani, leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States, the United Nations and others, has recently made public appearances in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib. On Jan. 23, he was seen touring the camps of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Idlib and was photographed with camp officials, who complained to him about the damages done to their dwellings as a result of the rainstorms.

The frequent appearances of Golani in Idlib raises several questions as to HTS’ plans, and the message its leader is trying to convey.

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