Why were the Turks kidnapped in Lebanon and who are the Liwaa Asifat al-Shamal who are holding the Shiites in Syria.

Aron Lund writes:

Liwa Asifat al-Shamal, or the Northern Storm Brigade, is the main group, or one of the main groups, in Aazaz, north of Aleppo and very close to the Turkish border. They’re a mid-sized faction in the northern countryside – not tremendously important to the revolution in general, but a major force in their core area around Aazaz, which is strategically important for rebel logistics.

Their original leadership was involved with border smuggling before the revolution (the late Ammar Dadikhi, “Abu Ibrahim”), but they took up arms pretty early on. They also seem to be quite seriously involved with fighting in the north, as evidenced by the role they played in the Mennagh siege, and they have relations with the SMC and other legit opposition bodies. So despite some shady business, it’s clearly not a “fake” rebel outfit.

Their main importance comes from controlling the Bab al-Salama crossing into Turkey ever since it was captured in 2012. I assume they’ve used that to wield power over (and perhaps extract money, guns, ammo, aid from) foreign sponsors and other battalions using the crossing. At any rate, they grew into a force to be reckoned with after seizing the border post. They’ve also set up a media center there, and help provide security and services for a lot of international visitors who come from Turkey. There’s been some good articles and tv features by people meeting/embedding with their forces, and they got quite a lot of  attention when John McCain dipped in through Bab al-Salama, if you recall that.

Recently they’ve lost some influence, after Liwa al-Tawhid (a much bigger SMC faction which is also from the northern countryside, but quite busy with the war in Aleppo City) forced them to re-negotiate their division of labor, presumably after applying some sort of pressure. According to the new rules, Asifat al-Shamal will have to share control over Bab al-Salama 50-50 with Tawhid. The terms of the deal mean that they have joint control over border facilities & inspections, as well as the responsibility to run checkpoints along the road down towards Aleppo –  and, although it doesn’t say so, they will presumably split any benefits arising from this. The deal also stipulated that Asifat al-Shamal will have to submit to the Aleppo Sharia Commission (a non-SMC judiciary and proto-government in northern Syria, which Tawhid backs along with more radical Islamist factions) in all legal matters/disputes. They hadn’t done that before. Whether the deal has been successfully applied on the ground yet, or at all, I don’t know.

Asifat al-Shamal is also the group that kidnapped a group of Lebanese Shia, who tried to pass through Bab al-Salama in summer 2012, saying they were pilgrims. They’re still holding them. Originally Dadikhi insisted that the Shia were secret agents of Hezbollah, IRGC or some other hostile organziation, but they later seemed to drop that line, since no one believed it. Nowadays they simply say they want female and other prisoners freed in return for releasing the hostages. In practice I assume they’re just after money at this stage, or if it’s a prestige thing, or simply a way to get press attention. Or maybe they really think they’re Hezbollah. I don’t know. Turkey has allegedly been involved in negotiations.


This is a few days old, but here’s a very interesting pro-government view from the Nubl & Zahra Shia community, of what happened at Mennagh airport at the time of capture:https://www.facebook.com/zhraa.nubbol.n.n/posts/566600950053289.From this description, it seems like a pretty desperate breakout. The SAA forces left 15 men in a “martyrdom” force behind to cover the retreat – all were killed or captured. The others then split into groups and fled towards the few remaining pockets of government control around Mennagh. One group made it to the Shia town of Nubl, but apparently only thanks to air cover from the government, while another fled towards the Kurdish villages of Afrin, where they were granted asylum by the Kurdish YPG forces.

That last part is interesting. The YPG has let it be known that they “captured” a group of fleeing SAA soldiers from Mennagh, and confiscated all their guns and tanks. But this version, which appears to be written by someone in direct contact with the defenders of the airport, says the Kurds saved them, provided hospital care to the wounded, and even ambushed and annihilated a rebel unit that was tailing them (Jabhat al-Nosra by their account, but they call everyone Jabhat al-Nosra). That’s more or less consistent with how the YPG presents its politics: they will provide humanitarian assistance to everyone in need, and are open to negotiated passage, but try to enter Kurdish areas without permission and you’re dead.

But – the Nubl/Zahra pro-gov version also talks about YPG-SAA coordination before the fall of the base, and speaks warmly of the Kurds as their comrades in arms. This  suggests a level of cooperation between the SAA and YPG which undermines YPG attempts to portray themselves as essentially neutral between the Arab sides.

That said, it concerns a very particular region, Afrin, where both Kurdish and Shia villages have been under Arab (particularly Islamist) rebel pressure. So although the situation might seem similar in other places, I’m not sure you can necessarily extrapolate this to other areas.

(Also, here’s the Islamic State communiqué on the capture of Mennagh, if you haven’t seen it: http://jihadology.net/2013/08/07/new-statement-from-the-islamic-state-of-iraq-and-al-sham-on-the-battle-of-the-last-ten-days-liberating-the-mannagh-airbase-in-the-state-of-aleppo)


AN Writes:

There was news that an agreement was reached with Liwa Asifat al-Shamal to where a certain number of female detainees would be released from government prisons in exchange for 2 of the 9 hostages before Eid, but negotiations failed. On Friday, first day of Eid for Shiaa muslims, a Shiaa group calling itself “the visitors of the Imam Al Mortada” kidnapped two Turkish pilots in Beirut because they believe that Turkey has the power to release the hostages and is involved in the kidnapping. After the kidnapping, news came out that earlier this month, Turkey had informed that UN that it will pulling part of its UNIFIL contingency out of Lebanon and limiting its participation to Turkish marine forces. Turkish government asked its citizens in Lebanon to leave the country following the kidnapping.


From Dr. Landis Twitter feed:

Joshua Landis (joshua_landis) on Twitter

Comments (1,860)

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1851. Juergen said:

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August 27th, 2013, 2:31 am


1852. Juergen said:

interesting vison:

” In a world in which there reasonable politics would reign,the following could happen soon:after a telephone conversation in which Barack Obama would credibly assure the Russian president that Russia could use its port on the Syrian Mediterranean coast for at least fifty years Putin agrees to a resolution to the Security Council, after which, based on the International Standard of the “responsibility to protect” (R2P), an international intervention force would be authorized to end the civil war in Syria as soon as possible.”


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August 27th, 2013, 3:30 am


1853. Ziad said:

Storm Clouds Gathering

Download for leaked Britam Defence document showing plans to frame Syria with chemical weapons.


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August 27th, 2013, 10:54 am


1854. revenire said:

Juergen your cannibals are recruiting child soldiers from Za’atari – they’re running low on men. Now is your chance to ride, strapped to a cruise missile, to victory.

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August 27th, 2013, 11:00 am


1855. revenire said:

Heads-Up maybe 1-2 people will read your long, boring post. I skip it and only comment to laugh at your rumors.


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August 27th, 2013, 11:00 am


1856. Ziad said:

What The Media Isn’t Telling You About The Syrian Chemical Attack :

Al Nusra Front Also Has Sarin Gas

Since the reported chemical attack last Wednesday, the Obama administration and members of Congress have been pushing the line that Syria’s President Bashar al Assad ordered the use of a chemical weapon on the outskits of Damascus.

According to CNN, one U.S. officials claims “There is nothing credible to indicate that the rebels, either the Syrian National Council or even al-Nusra Front, have used chemical weapons,” the official said. “Only the Assad regime is responsible for chemical weapons use.”

But that statement is false. When it comes to this latest incident, at this point we don’t know what kind of chemical might have been used. Nor do we know who used it. Some of the claims early on from “unnamed government sources” were that sarin gas was used in that Damascus suburb. The use of sarin gas would point toward the Assad regime, would it not?

Not necessarily. What our national media isn’t telling you is that in May Turkish security forces found a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front. Where did the sarin gas come from? We don’t know. But clearly, Al Nusra Front has access to sarin gas and was planning a use for it.


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August 27th, 2013, 11:16 am


1857. Ziad said:

Syrian Kurdish leader says Assad not to blame for attack

(Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not be “so stupid” as to use chemical weapons close to Damascus, the leader of the country’s largest Kurdish group said.
Saleh Muslim, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said he doubted the Syrian president would resort to using such weapons when he felt he had the upper hand in the country’s civil war.

He suggested last Wednesday’s attack, which the opposition says was carried out by government forces and killed hundreds of people, was aimed at framing Assad and provoking an international reaction. Assad has denied his forces used chemical weapons.

“The regime in Syria … has chemical weapons, but they wouldn’t use them around Damascus, 5 km from the (U.N.) committee which is investigating chemical weapons. Of course they are not so stupid as to do so,” Muslim told Reuters.


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August 27th, 2013, 11:30 am


1858. Rammi said:

Guys, if you are against military intervention and bombings of Syria, I ask you to sign and help me spread this petition. http://tinyurl.com/n9g7jzc
Thank you.

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August 28th, 2013, 7:11 pm


1859. ghufran said:

you know how bad things are in Syria when Lebanon is seen as a safe haven for air travel to Syria:
اقترحت سورية على لبنان فتح مطار رياق امام الطائرات المدنية السورية والمتوجهة الى سوريا اضافة الى الطائرات الاجنبية، لأن مطار دمشق خطر ويتم اطلاق قذائف عليه ومطار رياق قريب من المصنع اي الحدود اللبنانية السورية ويسهل كثيرا على حركة الطيران السورية الهبوط في مطار رياق والاقلاع منه. الا ان السلطة اللبنانية لم تعط جوابا على الموضوع.
وفي هذا المجال اقترحت وزارة النقل فتح مطار القليعات في الشمال ومطار رياق اضافة الى مطار بيروت وتشغيل المطارات الثلاث لأن مطار بيروت قد تم تصميمه ليسع لستة ملايين راكب سنويا ويومها قامت القيامة على الرئيس الحريري لأنه يصرف الاموال على المطار وكلف يومها المطار 550 مليون دولار واصبح يتسع لستة ملايين راكب. اما فعليا فقد اصبح مطار بيروت يستعمله اكثر من 9 ملايين راكب سنويا. وبالتالي فإن فتح المطارات الثلاث سيعطي حركة للركاب لاختيار المناطق التي يذهبون اليها، مع تنظيم مع منظمة اياتا الدولية بمراقبة المطار ووضعها تحت سلطة النقل ومنظمة اياتا وتطبيق الشروط الامنية والفنية في المطارات مع العلم ان مطار رياق ومطار القليعات مجهزان مثل مطار بيروت واكثر بأجهزة رادار كانت تستعمل للطائرات الحربية تعطي الدقة اكثر من مطار بيروت في الهبوط فيها. لكن الجهات الحزبية اعتبرت ان هذا الامر مرفوض لأسباب سياسية ولكيفية استعمال الركاب للمطارات مع العلم ان الامن العام اللبناني قادر على ضبط حركة الركاب وامنهم ومنع اختراق المطارات من قبل ارهابيين او المرور عبرها لان الامن العام لديه العناصر والتقنية والاجهزة لمراقبة المطارات الثلاث مثلما يراقب مطار بيروت.
ويتوقع مراقبون انه لو تم فتح مطار القليعات في الشمال فإن حوالى مليون سوري سوف يستعملون المطار على الاقل ليتوجهوا الى الساحل السوري. اما بالنسبة لمطار رياق فيتوقع استعماله من قبل مليوني سوري للتوجه الى دمشق. ويؤمن فتح المطارين مدخولا يصل الى 120 مليون دولار سنويا كبدل عن هبوط الطائرات ودفع الرسوم واستعمال الركاب للمطارات لأنه يتم اخذ علاوة على تذاكر السفر مثل مطار بيروت وهذه العلاوة تؤمن مع الرسوم وهبوط الطائرات 120 مليون دولار سنويا اذا تم فتح المطارين.
وقد قدرت اللجنة التي درست الموضوع ان لبنان لن يكون بحاجة الى مساعدات خارجية لاستخراج النفط لأنه يحتاج الى 100 مليون سنويا لاستخراج الغاز والنفط من البحر من دون شركات اجنبية وعندها يكون مصدر الـ100 مليون دولار يأتي من الـ120 مليون دولار التي يؤمنها مطار الرياق والقليعات.

المصدر: الديار

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August 30th, 2013, 10:39 am


1860. Major rebel factions drop exiles, go full Islamist - Syria Comment said:

[…] Why were the Turks kidnapped in Lebanon and who are the Liwaa Asifat al-Shamal who are holding the S… […]

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September 24th, 2013, 9:13 pm


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