Kata’ib al-Jabalawi: A Pro-Assad Militia from Homs

By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

KataibJabalawyemblem
Emblem of Kata’ib al-Jabalawi. The top reads: “Syrian Arab Republic.” The bottom: “Katibat al-Jabalawi” (al-Jabalawi Battalion, interchangeable with Kata’ib al-Jabalawi). The person in the centre of the emblem is one Mazen Jabalawi, about whom more below.

The Homs area is home to a number of pro-Assad militias, including Liwa Khaybar and the Leopards of Homs. Kata’ib al-Jabalawi is another militia from Homs. The group’s name derives from a prominent pro-Assad commander and ‘martyr’ called Mazen Ali Ahmad (al)-Jabalawi. He was originally from the Alawite village of Jabalaya located to the northwest of Homs city, and was said to have been killed in Deraa on 11 November 2013. A contemporary tribute to him posted on social media identifies Jabalawi as the leader of a contingent who fought in many battles across Syria:

“The mujahid commander, amir of martyrs, the martyr hero Ali Khazzam with the leader hero, leader of the group of glory, honour and sincerity that rushed since the beginning of the events in Homs to defend the people of Homs, the martyr hero Mazen Jabalawi, the brother-in-law of the martyr Ya’arab al-Darbuli who was martyred in Deraa a week ago. The martyr commander Mazen Jabalawi has been newly-wed since only two months ago. The martyr leader Mazen Jabalawi waged many battles with his martyr companions in most of the towns of Syria: Homs, Homs countryside, Aleppo, Aleppo countryside, Deir az-Zor and finally Deraa, where he wished only to be a newly-wed in her while breaking the siege from companions-in-arms. The martyr Mazen Jabalawi: Bab Hawd, Jurat al-Shiyah and al-Khalidiya [areas in Homs city] know him very well. Every stone in them knows this hero and the members of his group. Ask the pigs of old Homs how many woes this lion made them taste. Ask Qusayr how many pigs were trampled on at his hands. Ask the noble people in Homs about the field commander Mazen al-Jabalawi who took martyrs as brothers to him, heeded the call and has joined them as a noble newly-wed leader not knowing defeat.”

The formation in his name- Kata’ib al-Jabalawi- notably turns up in March 2014 in a pro-opposition report on pro-regime militia dynamics in Homs, relying on an alleged leaked document, which “on one of its pages points to the appearance of a new type of militias and considers them to be more dangerous than the [National] Defence militias themselves, and it dubs the militia as being called ‘Kata’ib al-Jabalawi’ that became independent of the National Defence, and harbours hostility to the Syrian army and all the battalions and militias loyal to it, including Hezbollah.” In one instance, the document supposedly says that Kata’ib al-Jabalawi carried out an ambush against rebels in the Sakra region in eastern Homs countryside, bringing the bodies to the heart of Homs and inviting media to cover the event. However, the militia barred the Iranian channel al-Aalem from covering the event on account of its coverage of news related to Hezbollah, while threatening any outlet that credited other forces besides Kata’ib al-Jabalawi as participants in the operation. On social media, some brief references can be found to Kata’ib al-Jabalawi in 2014, as per below:

KataibJabalawi2014
From a pro-regime account from Homs: “The greatest jihadi organization in the path of Truth: Kata’ib al-Shaheed al-Jabalawi” (cf. this post from November 2014).

In the current form that can be found on social media, active promotion of Kata’ib al-Jabalawi can be traced to around the spring and early summer of 2015. This is rather similar to the Leopards of Homs, which dates back in its first iteration to 2012- with its leader Shadi Jum’a becoming involved in National Defence Force circles in Homs and then apparently identified as leader of a contingent of his own by 2014- but in the current iteration on social media can be traced to roughly the same time frame of spring and early summer of 2015, as it became affiliated with the al-Bustan Association of prominent regime businessman Rami Makhlouf. Likewise, Kata’ib al-Jabalawi as it is currently promoted, under the military leadership of one Abu Ahmad Khalid Wusuf and the general leadership of an Abu Ibrahim, shows an affiliation with the al-Bustan Association. Indeed, one page set up for Kata’ib al-Jabalawi is dedicated to various ‘martyrs’ for the group and explicitly mentions the affiliation. The militia is also defined as part of the “Popular Defence Forces in Homs“- a term used to refer to the Leopards of Homs as well. Sample activities that point to the al-Bustan Association affiliation include the provision of protection for an iftar celebration set up last month by the al-Bustan Association to commemorate the anniversary of Hafez al-Assad’s death.

In keeping with the idea of continuity with Mazen Jabalawi, claims and commemorations for ‘martyrs’ can be found going all the way back to at least 2012. Examples follow below.

Name Year of birth Marital status Date and place of death
Tamam Muhammad Mansour 25 November 2013: Deraa
Aamer Ahmad Ibrahim 1986 Single 9 June 2013: Hasya’ (south of Homs city)
Ahmad Sweid Khadur 1976 Married with three children 2 June 2013: Qusayr
Jawd Jihad al-Muhammad 1989 Single 5 July 2012: Jurat al-Shiyah
Eisa Hussein al-Hassan 1984 Single 5 July 2012: Jurat al-Shiyah
Aymenn Hassan al-Khidr 1977 Single 5 July 2012: Jurat al-Shiyah
Ahmad Jihad Gharib 1986 Single 5 July 2012: Jurat al-Shiyah
Shadi Ali al-Ali 1983 26 June 2012
Tamim Nasr Abboud 1972 Married 22 June 2012: Jurat al-Shiyah
Suleiman Majid Dilla 1994 Single 22 June 2012: Jurat al-Shiyah
Hassan Hashim Khudur 1994 Single 12 June 2012: Umm Sharshuh (north of Homs)

(Sources: here and here)

More recent engagements of note include fighting in East Ghouta, where Kata’ib al-Jabalawi has claimed at least one notable ‘martyr’ in Ammar Jamal Mahmoud, who was killed on 29 November 2015 and had previously been renowned for his role in the fighting in Deraa, where Kata’ib al-Jabalawi had also been fighting in early 2016. In addition, Kata’ib al-Jabalawi participated in operations in the Qaryatayn area to the east of Homs against the Islamic State that ultimately led to the recapture of the town by early April 2016: during this operation, the militia most notably claimed a ‘martyr’ in an individual named Ali Abbas Muhammad, who was said to have been killed on 21 March 2016. Katai’b al-Jabalawi had also taken part in operations in eastern Homs countryside in the previous summer as the Islamic State had been making rapid advances across the Homs desert at the expense of the regime: for instance, the group claimed a ‘martyr’ in an individual called Kenan Dayub, killed fighting in the Sha’er field area, and some fallen fighters in the Jazal area. Finally, the group participated in the siege of Zabadani through the summer of 2015 (claiming that one of its fighters by the name of Muhammad al-Qasim was killed on 26 August 2015) in addition to fighting in the al-Ghab plains in the northwest of Hama province as the Russian intervention commenced.

The history of Kata’ib al-Jabalawi points to a complex evolution over time, evolving from pro-Assad militia networks in Homs that cannot simply be reduced to monochromatic labels like shabiha, which as Aron Lund notes has often been adopted uncritically as a generic term when its applicability is much more specific. The militia with the seemingly closest parallel history is the Leopards of Homs. Both the Leopards of Homs and Kata’ib al-Jabalawi seem to have grown within the Homs National Defence Force networks, then became their own outfits in some way before apparently reforming under affiliation with the al-Bustan Association in 2015. The al-Bustan Association affiliation can perhaps be seen as part of a wider project of bringing Homs militias seen as loose cannons under the cover of the Syrian state, particularly if we give credence to the early 2014 report suggesting tensions between Kata’ib al-Jabalawi and other pro-Assad actors in Homs at the time.

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Update (21 July 2016): An earlier reference to Kata’ib al-Jabalawi and an al-Bustan Association affiliation can be found at least as early as May 2014. Therefore the chronology of the group’s evolution seems to diverge somewhat from that of the Leopards of Homs. Also of note was participation in an operation in the Damascus area in late 2014.

Comments (18)


1. Majedkhaldoun said:

Akbar
The demonstrations with Sisi were not more than few thousand , the claim it was 40 million was far far far far away from truth, I saw the demonstrations against him it was by millions, the election that was done in Egypt after Sisi came to power was only less than 10% , , , I still like for you who believes in democracy to condemn Sisi , and his crimes , as I do

Assad must leave , as Syria will not get better till he leaves, his supporters are transferring money outside Syria , to Belaraus and Iran
As for Trump , I hesitate to vote for him , but mike Pence is good man ,

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July 19th, 2016, 2:10 pm

 

2. ghufran said:

Rebels in Handarat, Aleppo beheaded a 13 year-old Palestinian boy for supporting regime troops and posted the pictures and a video on the net.
The brutal crime received a lot of attention from the media.

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July 19th, 2016, 2:15 pm

 

3. ghufran said:

coalition jets including those from France killed
over 160 civilians in 6 weeks in Manbej area alone.

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July 19th, 2016, 6:53 pm

 

4. Akbar Palace said:

Akbar
The demonstrations with Sisi were not more than few thousand , the claim it was 40 million was far far far far away from truth, I saw the demonstrations against him it was by millions, the election that was done in Egypt after Sisi came to power was only less than 10%

We can’t use demonstrations to elect leaders. They become violent and many people die, especially in the ME. The demonstrations against Morsi were VERY large and I am sure they were larger than the demonstrations in Turkey against the coup.

, , , I still like for you who believes in democracy to condemn Sisi , and his crimes , as I do

Assad must leave , as Syria will not get better till he leaves, his supporters are transferring money outside Syria , to Belaraus and Iran

Every situation is different. Sisi is WRONG for leaving control of the country in the hands of the military. He is WRONG for rounding up MB and throwing in jail without a trial (assuming that he is).

Equally disturbing is Erdogan’s round-up of perceived threats and secular opposition.

But, I have to admit, I tend to be more lenient toward Sisi. His language is calmer and he is less bellicose. I also appreciate his ability to work closer with the Zio Entity. I think common sense sometimes gets lost. Who are the “bad guys” and who are the “tyrants”. I see both Erdogan and Sisi as tyrants, but Sisi “less” so. You will disagree I am sure.

As for Trump , I hesitate to vote for him , but mike Pence is good man ,

Yes, Pence seems like a good conservative person. Quiet and more politically correct. Trump has alienated some people, and rightly so. Trump needs to stop putting his feet in his mouth. Nevertheless, I’m going Trump.

Regards Majedkhaldoun,

AP

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July 20th, 2016, 10:34 am

 

5. ALAN said:

Shameful defect in the performance of the permanent members of the Security Council!
Russia bear the moral responsibility when invited France 4 the war on terrorism in Syria named it “French ‘allies”after the terror attacks in france, While Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have exercised the managed all types of terrorism in Syria on the sight of Russia and China
It is necessary to remind Russia and China to assume their responsibilities in maintaining the civilians and their property and not to allow taking of their lives under the protection of t the laws during the wars period
https://www.rt.com/news/352255-france-syria-civilians-dead/

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July 20th, 2016, 5:51 pm

 

6. Majedkhaldoun said:

42 helicopter missing from Turkish Air Force they were in Incirlick base

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July 20th, 2016, 9:50 pm

 

7. Ghufran said:

Read and laugh :
Turkish police arrested the pilots who downed the Russian jet over Syria.

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July 20th, 2016, 9:53 pm

 

8. Marc said:

So what is so important, new, ground-breaking or news-worthy about this?

Do you finally admitt your irrelevancy to what’s going onin Syria after the honey moon is over with savage rebels?

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July 21st, 2016, 8:16 am

 

9. ghufran said:

A deal can be reached in Syria is jihadists are isolated and the regime stops trying to win battles in areas not under its control. Both sides have realized that Syria is too important to allow one side to have a decisive win, it makes sense to end the war and allow locals in many regions to run their own business without having to accept the presence of regime troops. No Syrian soldier should die in Raqqa and Deir Azzour to please the regime and its backers. If Aleppo’s siege succeeds the rebels will have no choice but to enter into negotiations with the regime, so expect the battle in Aleppo to be fierce and bloody unless Erdogan is paid and decides to implement a hands off policy in Syria, if he does that the war will not last long except in areas under ISIS and Nusra control. KSA can not spoil the deal without support from Turkey and the US.
Rebels and their supporters will not abandon Nusra until they get something in return, the price is negotiable but a payment has to be made.

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July 21st, 2016, 10:48 am

 

10. ghufran said:

50,000 arrested in Turkey by orders from a man who leads an Islamist party that won 52% of the votes. Thousands of government employees, teachers, professors and police/ soldiers were sent home. Turkey is on the wrong path.

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July 21st, 2016, 11:55 am

 

11. ALAN said:

French Intelligence Says 100 Jihadis Still Join ISIS via Turkey Every Week
French military intelligence estimates that about 100 foreigners continue to enter Syria from Turkey each week to join Islamic State, French daily Le Figaro reported on Wednesday.

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July 21st, 2016, 2:06 pm

 

12. ALAN said:

murder;
extermination;
enslavement;…
crimes;
other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.

powerful video: https://youtu.be/bmRPkfAN2EU

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July 21st, 2016, 2:46 pm

 

13. Majedkhaldoun said:

Terrorism creates terrorism, when someone causes injustice and commits crime against someone else the other guy relative will revenge and that is called terrorism , but few people blame the first guy who started the injustice ,
Two French soldiers holding African girl from feet and arms and swinging her body over fire , that is certain to cause her family to turn to terrorism, we must not forget that the terrorists who were having fun burning that girl are as terrorist as the terrorists who took revenge
When are we going to end torture?
Fear will spread in communities that practice injustice , fear is a strong weapon , it is the enemy of freedom , it is the weapon that dictators use to maintain their murderous rule , owning gun reduces fear, that is why dictators are afraid of their people owning guns, the governments has huge military power , yet rarely allow people to own gun , owning gun is necessary to defend democracy against dictatorship

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July 21st, 2016, 4:38 pm

 

14. Majedkhaldoun said:

God says و لا يجرمنكم شنآن قوم ان تعدلوا ، اعدلو هو اقرب للتقوى،
this is Islam that everyone can read in Quraan, , Mr. Erdogan is Moslem , and I trust he will abide by Quraan, does anyone has objection to Quraan?

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July 21st, 2016, 8:54 pm

 

15. Majedkhaldoun said:

Russia has just bombed a base in Syria that has been used by US and British troops

Russia have its approval to halt air bombing in Syria and to guarantee the regime withholding bombing in Syria if US reduce the sanction on Russia

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July 21st, 2016, 10:44 pm

 

16. Ghufran said:

Syria is a great place for armies from all over the world to practice and try new weapons. Nobody is watching and nobody is counting victims. The excuse of fighting terrorists comes handy everytime foreign armies presence is challenged.
يا أمة ضحكت من جهلها الامم

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July 22nd, 2016, 12:42 pm

 

17. Ghufran said:

Do not get surprised if the ikhwanji and thawrajiyyeh posters defend erdogan, they and erdogan belong to the same species.
Erdogan Scorecard:
Education Ministry: 15,200 teachers fired.
Interior Ministry: 8,777 employees fired
Finance Ministry: 1,500 employees fired
Energy Ministry: 300 employees fired
Erdogan’s Office Staff: 257 people fired
Directorate of Religious Affairs: 492 staffers fired
Generals and Admirals: 85 generals and admirals jailed pending trial
Judicial: 2,745 judges fired
Police officers: 8,000 fired
Coup participants: 9,322 security personnel, judges, prosecutors, religious figures detained

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July 22nd, 2016, 1:11 pm

 

18. Majedkhaldoun said:

hypocrites they say something and means the opposites, منافقون، they are always against what is just and good, they are accusers, they take advantage of naive people, but they are easy to spot by smart people

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July 22nd, 2016, 6:02 pm

 

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