Deir ez-Zour becomes jihadist battlefield

Article Summary
The schism between the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra is growing.

The “emir of the Caucasus” Ali Ashab (Abu Mohammed Dagestani) has made his decision regarding the strife between Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), declaring support for the former and attacking Omar al-Chichani. Meanwhile, ISIS received a gift from heaven when one of the “Khorasan Sharia emirs,” who is on Saudi Arabia’s most-wanted list, arrived in Syria to pledge allegiance to ISIS emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Over the past two days and amid this global schism of jihadist organizations, tensions rose in Deir ez-Zour, Syria, where massacres and beheadings reportedly were happening on the mere suspicion that a person supported the other side.

In the past few hours, Saudi national Abu Malik al-Tamimi al-Najdi arrived in Syria. His real name is Anas Ali Abdul Aziz al-Nashwan and he is No. 3 on Saudi Arabia's list of 47 most wanted, issued by the Saudi Ministry of Interior in 2011. Nashwan managed to escape after the list was released. He left his country for Afghanistan, where he was appointed “Sharia emir.” He is the author of a book that is popular among jihadists these days, “The Mujahedeen Guide to the Most Important Verdicts of the Apostate.”

According to the latest information, as soon as he arrived in Raqqa, Syria, Nashwan swore allegiance to ISIS emir Baghdadi. Two months earlier, a Khorasan emir, Abu al-Huda al-Sudani, pledged allegiance to ISIS. On the one hand, this shows the size of the fissures caused by the “jihadist fitna [strife]” to the structure of the global al-Qaeda. On the other hand, it was a very significant morale boost for ISIS, coming just weeks after the last audio recording by ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani demanded the world branches of al-Qaeda take a position toward ISIS and that staying silent would be interpreted as taking a certain position.

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The 'Caucasus emir' supports Jabhat al-Nusra

In another important indicator about the global jihad schism, the “Caucasus emir” Abu Mohammed al-Dagestani (who took over after former emir Dokka Abu Usman was killed) declared his support to Jabhat al-Nusra and to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri's position against ISIS. But Dagestani described the situation as "fitna," a term no longer acceptable to Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies, which no longer hesitate to accuse ISIS of outright apostasy.

Dagestani revealed critical information about ISIS military commander Omar al-Chichani, that he was on a mission to serve as the “legitimate representative of the emirate” abroad. That would dispute stories that Chichani came to Syria without any jihadist experience.

Despite acknowledging Chichani’s successes at first, Dagestani expressed his displeasure about the latter’s position on the fitna. Dagestani accused Chichani of breaking the pledge of allegiance and disobeying orders to stand on the sidelines, noting, in particular, that Chichani’s sin was not in pledging allegiance to ISIS but in his later insistence to attract the rest of the “mujahedeen” to ISIS’ ranks. That caused a rift in Jaish al-Muhajirin wal Ansar, which broke up into several battalions. Yet Dagestani has not totally let go of Chichani, having expressed his hope to “return to Jaish al-Muhajirin wal Ansar because we see his [Chichani’s] sincerity and because he has good talents in military affairs.”

But the question remains: Why did the Caucasus emirate declare its position toward ISIS and attack its most prominent leader, Chichani, at this time in particular? Note that Chichani pledged allegiance to Baghdadi a year and a half ago, and Jaish al-Muhajirin wal Ansar split up more than six months ago.

We can’t help notice that the anti-ISIS statement by the Caucasus emirate came just days after a similar statement by Jaish al-Islam in the Islamic Front, declaring war on ISIS after it was accused of killing dissident emir Abi Hammam.

Both statements were issued in conjunction with the escalation of events in Iraq and ISIS achieving major progress in the field, taking over several large cities and border crossings between Syria and Iraq, especially the al-Qaim crossing toward the Syrian city of Albukamal, which is still controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra.

This coordinated campaign against ISIS is likely linked to the Iraq events and the fear by some countries with good relations with jihadists that things will get out of control, especially since ISIS now stands near the borders of these countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Turkey, presenting those countries with a serious threat.

The link of Jaish al-Islam with Saudi intelligence needs no proof. And the good relationship between the Caucasus emirate and Turkish intelligence also needs no proof. It seems that Saudi Arabia and Turkey prefer to send their messages via a messenger that resembles the recipient, so the latter understands the message clearly.

Deir ez-Zour

In the meantime, Deir ez-Zour in eastern Syria is experiencing further escalation and tension, especially after the city became the arena for a bone-breaking battle between ISIS and al-Nusra.

The tension reached significant levels yesterday [June 24] when al-Nusra arrested a number of Military Council officers who had repented. Some reports said they had pledged allegiance to ISIS. Al-Nusra attacked their headquarters on the outskirts of the city of al-Mohassan, near al-Taim oilfield, and slaughtered them. Some were beheaded. Among those killed was the commander of the Allahu Akbar Brigade, Lt. Abu Harun. ISIS sources asserted that his confessions included scandals affecting the Sahwa forces and that those confessions were recorded and would be published at a later date. Also killed was the commander of al-Saiqa Brigade, Abu Rashid. Seven others were killed but their names weren’t known.

Local sources said that since the officer were killed, al-Mohassan has been living under great pressure that might erupt at any moment, especially since many of the leaders of the two parties were trying to give the events a tribal tinge and play the chord of revenge and counterrevenge.

There have been unconfirmed reports that al-Nusra elements left their positions in the border town of Abukamal. A tense calm prevailed in the city after information that ISIS has taken over al-Qaim crossing, which is adjacent to the city. Abukamal’s inhabitants feared that ISIS might cross the border and attack their city, especially since the city has been turned into a field of rumors and counterrumors, which have added to fears and confusion.

In the city of al-Mayadin, whose status has become dangerous after ISIS took control of nearby al-Mohassan, the Albomustafa clan is trying to fill the vacuum in the city and put out a document to manage city affairs, amid unconfirmed reports that the Albomustafa clan is closer to ISIS than to al-Nusra.

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Found in: syria, political conflict, jabhat al-nusra, al-qaeda
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