Five Syrian jihadist groups based in western Aleppo have joined together and announced the formation of the Supporters of the Khilafah (Caliphate). The group vowed to impose an Islamic state and fight democracy.
The five groups, which US intelligence officials described to The Long War Journal as local units within the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, announced the creation of the Supporters of the Khilafah in a short video that was released on YouTube on Dec. 12. In the video, scores of Islamists, many dressed in military fatigues and brandishing RPGS and assault rifles, are seen standing on what appears to be a hill while the announcement is read. Numerous black banners of jihad are seen being flown by the fighters.
“We are the leaders of the following brigades,” one of the commanders, who is not named, stated. He then listed the brigades as the “Ansar Al Sharia Brigade, Abdullah Ibn El-Zubeir Brigade, The Men of Allah Brigade, The Martyr Mustafa Abdul-Razzaq's Brigade, and the Swords of The Most Compassionate Brigade.”
The group said it “will strive actively to overturn the criminal, kaafir Baath regime” of President Bashir al Assad, and “will object to the conspiracies of the plotters, both internal and external (to Syria), and to bring down their sly plan: the plan of a civil democratic state.”
The Supporters of the Khilafah also indicated that they will seek to take the fight outside of Syria.
“And that we will work with the sincere people of our Ummah [the worldwide Muslim community] to establish the Islamic Khilafah state, and to use it to end decades of colonization and enslavement,” the statement said. “And to return to the way we were — as the nobles of the East and the West.”
The Supporters of the Khilafah also cautioned “our brothers” against taking Western aid and weapons.
“And indeed we invite our brothers who are fighters in the sincere brigades that they walk our path, and to declare their release from being tied to these new agents [of the West],” the statement said. “And we warn them against offering compromises in their religion, for the sake of receiving money or weapons. Because certainly, therein lies their destruction.”
Syrian jihadist groups coalescing
US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal that Syrian jihadist groups are continuing to unite under the banner of the Al Nusrah Front, which was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on Dec. 11 [see LWJ reports, Syrian jihadists, including al Qaeda's Al Nusrah Front, form Mujahideen Shura Council, and US adds Al Nusrah Front, 2 leaders to terrorism list, for more information].
In the terrorism designation, the US called the Al Nusrah Front “a new alias” for al Qaeda in Iraq, and said Al Nusrah is under the direct control of Abu Du'a, the emir of the Iraqi terror group.
In the past month, jihadist groups have organized under Al Nusrah's banner in both Aleppo and Deir al Zour. On the same day the US government announced that al Qaeda in Iraq's Al Nusrah Front was a terrorist organization, Al Nusrah and nine other jihadist groups banded together in the Syrian province of Deir al Zour and formed a Mujahideen Shura Council. The move is reminiscent of al Qaeda in Iraq's creation of a Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq in 2006, a development that was quickly followed by the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda's political front.
And in mid-November, 14 jihadist groups based in the Syrian city of Aleppo banded together to reject the newly formed National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. The 14 groups, which include the Al Nusrah Front, called instead for the establishment of “a just Islamic State.”
Despite Al Nusrah's known affiliation with al Qaeda and its radical ideology, Syrian opposition groups, including the supposedly secular Syrian National Coalition, have rallied to support Al Nusrah. In recent days, 29 Syrian opposition groups have signed a petition that not only condemns the US's designation, but says “we are all Al Nusrah,” and urges their supporters to raise Al Nusrah's flag [see Threat Matrix report, Syrian National Coalition urges US to drop Al Nusrah terrorism designation].