An extremist faction named ‘Religion’s Guards’ has recently emerged in the countryside of Idlib. It took advantage of the recent fighting between HTS and Ahrar Al Sham and announced its establishment. Since then, it has started calling upon other military factions to join its ranks.
HTS offshoot ‘Hurass Al-Deen’ is not less dangerous than HTS itself because of the extremist ideology it adopts. It has direct links with Al Qaeda, which was the reason that led many of HTS affilaites and commanders to defect and join the new faction.
Some private sources indicated to Idlib24 that commanders of HTS-linked factions held a meeting on 27 February during which they agreed to merge with ‘Hurass Al Deen’ but they did not release an official statement on the merger because of security reasons. The faction is led by Abu Hamam Al Shami while ‘Sami Al-Aridi’ and ‘Abu Qassam Al-Ordoni’ are his representatives. In addition, the Shura council consists of Abu Julebib Tubas, a Jordanian and a relative of Abu Musaab Al-Zarqawi, Bilal Al Kharissat Abu Khadijah from Jordan, and Abu Abdul Rahmlan Al Maki from Saudi Arabia and Abu Hamza Al yamani.
Both, Abu Hamam and Al Aaridi, are the founders of Nusra Front and they previously participated in Al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. They are old members of Al-Qaeda. Even Al-Dawahiri reprimanded Al Julani for arresting Sami, who is said to have pledged allegiance to Osama Ben Laden in person.
Hurass Al Deen is made up of Jaysh Al Sahel, Jund Al Malahem, Siriyat Al Sahel, Jund Al-Sharia, Ansar Al-Sharia and Siriyat Kabul. The number of its manpower is about 2500 to 3000 fighters, mostly foreign fighters from the Gulf, Afghanistan, Chechenya, Jordan and Eastern Asia. Most of them defected from HTS after it recently announced that it had broken ties with Al Qaeda.
There are still some differences inside the faction and its structure might change soon, but the previously mentioned jihadists are considered to be the pillars of ‘Hurass Al Deen’.
The new faction has benefited from the presence of depopulated areas in south and east Idid and Latikiyah mountains, such as Al Khawin and Mahmbal area, to establish its bases in them.
It has so far remained neutral concerning the fighting between HTS and Ahrar Al Sham. though they are inclined to HTS, they have not supported it because of previous disputes with its commanders, including Al Julani.
Huras Al Deen disagree with HTS on breaking its ties with Al-Qaeda, allowing the Turks to enter its held areas and preventing them from establishment of an Al-Qaeda branch in the Badiyah and disarming the faction of ‘Jaysh Qitaaa Al Badiya’.
Hurass Al Deen took advantage of the infighting between HTS and Ahrar and started calling upon fighters to join its ranks. Its calls are now widespread among the local civilians.