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The Most Important Turkish-backed Groups Operating in Northern Syria

Information about 12 important Turkish-backed groups which are operating in northern Syria

Hamza Division:

Syrian nationalism.

It numbered about 2,200 in September 2017 according to its own reports, and consists mostly of Arabs, Syrian Turkmen, and Kurds.

It has its HQ in Mare, Aleppo province, where it operates and its commander in September 2017 was Abdullah Halawa.

The Hamza Division is a Syrian militants group affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, and trained and equipped by Turkey and the U.S. as part of the Syrian Train and Equip Program in northwestern Syria

Hamza Division consists of several militant groups: Hamza Brigade, the Northern Thunder Brigade, the Mare’ Resistance Brigade, the Special Operations Brigade, the Dhi Qar Brigade and the Kurdish Falcons Brigade.

During the Turkish military intervention in Syria in late August, the Hamza Division became one of the first FSA groups to enter Jarabulus from Karkamiş and captured the city.

Since January 2018, the group is participating in the Turkish military operation in Afrin against the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the Afrin Region.

 

Liwa Sultan Murad:

Pan-Turkishm.

In 2016, it claimed to have 1,300 troops in 2016, mostly Syrian Turkmen and Arabs.

It has its HQ in Al-Bab, Aleppo province. The commander as of November 2017 was Mahmoud al-Hajj Hassan.

The Sultan Murad Brigade is a militant group in northern Syria, created around Syrian Turkmen identity and heavily supported by Turkey, who provides funding and military training along with artillery and aerial support.

Together with other Turkmen organizations, such as Liwa Sultan Suleiman Shah, Liwa Sultan Mehmed Fatih and Liwa Sultan Osman, it forms the Sultan Murad bloc.

According to Turkish sources, Liwa Sultan Mehmed Fatih units undergo training in Turkey itself, though the location of the camp is unknown.

 

Faylaq al Sham:

Salafism.

It has about 4,000 members, mostly Arabs.

It’s based in Aleppo province, but its zone of responsibility also includes Idlib, Latakia, Hama, and Homs provinces. The commander as of early 2018 was Yasser Abdul Rahim, who was a key field commander during Operation Olive Branch. In February 2018 he was replaced by Khaldun Mador, and currently the commander is Colonel Fadlallahal-Haji.

The Sham Legion is an alliance of Sunni Islamist militant groups formed in March 2014, during the Syrian War. The alliance was formed from 19 different groups, some of which were previously affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria and the Shields of the Revolution Council.

This formation served as the base for the National Liberation Front(NLF) and the commander of Faylaq al Sham became the commander of this new formation.

In June 2018 it was joined by Liwa Shuhada al-Islam, who numbers 799. It collaborates with the Army of Mujahideen, the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria, and there are reports of close collaboration with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

Between 2014 and 2016, the Sham Legion was at one point a rebel group vetted by the United States and received BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles.

The group participated in Operation Euphrates Shield, which began on 24 August 2016 in Jarabulus and aimed to expel the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Islamic State from the northern Aleppo Governorate.

The Sham Legion also took part in the Turkish military intervention in Afrin in 2018.

 

Jaysh al Nasr:

Salafism.

It had 5,000 members, mainly Arabs, as of 2015.

Its HQ is in Qalaatal-Madiq, Hama province and its zone of responsibility includes Idlib, Latakia, Hama, and Aleppo provinces. It was commanded by Muhammad Mansour as of early 2018.

With the formation of National Liberation Front, Mansour became its deputy commander and chief of staff. The group collaborates closely with Tahrir al-Sham, Jaysh al-Izza and Ahrar ash-Sham.

The Army of Victory is a Free Syrian Army-affiliated, armed militant faction participating in the Syrian War. Founded in August 2015 as a joint operations room of 16 militant groups, three of the groups later fully merged into Jaysh al Nasr.

The group was supplied with US-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles.

 

Jaysh al-Nukhba:

Syrian nationalism and Salafism.

Its strength was 3,000, mostly Arabs, as of early 2017, according to its own statements.

Its Aleppo province HQ is located in Jarablus, its Idlib province HQ in Kafr Nabl, and its zone of responsibility covers Idlib, Latakia, Hama, and Aleppo provinces.

It was commanded by Mohammed Ahmedal-Sayed in early 2017 and collaborates with Jaysh al-Nasr, Ahrar ash-Sham and the Free Idlib Army.

The Elite Army, formerly called the Liberation Army (Jaysh al-Tahrir), is a Free Syrian Army group operating in the Hama and Aleppo Governorates. The group was formed from 5 units.

This formation is part of the Hawar Kilis Operations Room, the biggest pro-Turkey FSA group.

 

Jabhat al-Aisalat wal-Tanmia:

Salafism.

It had 5,000 members, mostly Arabs, in late 2015. Its zone of responsibility is Aleppo province and it is part of the Hawar Kilis Operations Room.

The Authenticity and Development Front (Jabhat al-Aisalat wal-Tanmia) backed by Saudis too and is a coalition of militant groups active in Syrian War. The coalition includes Islamists, military defectors, and former civilian rebels.

Although the alliance uses Syrian independence flags and symbols, it does not identify itself as part of the Free Syrian Army. One of the groups involved was the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, which was also part of the Army of Mujahideen,though the Army of Mujahideen announced on 4 May 2014 that the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement had withdrawn from the coalition.

The group collaborates with Tahrir al Sham, Jaysh al Islam and Ahrar al Sham.

 

23rd Division:

Islamic democracy.

It numbered 1,400, mostly Arabs, in late 2014.

Its HQ is in Qah, Idlib province and its zone of responsibility covers the northern Idlib and Aleppo provinces. Commanded by Abu Mustafa in early 2018.

The 16th Infantry Division was a Syrian militant group affiliated with the Free Syrian Army. Formed in September 2013, the group was active mainly in the city Aleppo and its surroundings. After militant lines in Aleppo collapsed due to advances by the Syrian Army during the Battle of Aleppo in mid-2016, the 16th Division suffered heavy casualties and was dissolved. Remnants of the group then formed the 23rd Division.

It collaborates with Ahrar al Sham, the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement and Festaqem Kema Umrit.

 

1st Coastal Division:

Pan-Turkism.

It numbered about 2800 in In 2015, and consists mostly of Syrian Turkmen and Arabs.

Its zone of responsibility covers Idlib and Latakia and as of 2014 its commander was Muhammad Haj Ali.

The 1st Coastal Division, formerly known as the Brigade of the Chargers, is a militant group that is affiliated with the Free Syrian Army. It received TOW missiles and operates in the Idlib and northern Latakia governorates. The group beside Turkey also received training and funding from Qatar.

It collaborates closely with Tahrir al-Sham, Ahrar al Sham and the Turkistan Islamic Party.

 

2nd Coastal Division:

Pan-Turkism.

It numbered around 500, mostly Syrian Turkmen, in 2015.

Its zone of responsibility includes Aleppo and Latakia and its commander is Tarik Solak. It collaborates closely with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (in the province of Latakia) and Ahrar al Sham.

 

Free Idlib Army:

Syrian nationalism.

According to its own account it numbered around 6000, mostly Arabs, in 2016.

It has headquarters in the towns of Ma’arat al Nu’man and Kafr Nabal in the province of Idlib. Its zone of responsibility covers the provinces of Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo and currently they are commanded by Suhaib Leoush.

The Free Idlib Army (Jaysh Idlib al Hurr) is a militant coalition consisting of 3 armed groups from northwestern Syria affiliated with the Free Syrian Army.

It includes the 13th Division, the Northern Division and the Mountain Hawks Brigade.

The Free Idlib Army is known for possessing several new BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers which they used to bombard Syrian Army positions in southern Aleppo.

They collaborate closely with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Ahrar ash-Sham and Faylaq ash-Sham.

In May 2018, along with 10 other rebel groups in northwestern Syria, the Free Idlib Army formed the National Front for Liberation, which was officially announced on 28 May. Lt. Col. Suhaib Leoush was appointed as the formation’s deputy commander

 

2nd Army:

Syrian nationalism and Islamic democracy.

In June 2017 it counted around 1500 members, mostly Arabs.

Its zone of responsibility covers Idlib, Latakia and Hama.

The Second Army includes Division 46, Division 312, and Division 314 and its commander in June 2017 was Mohammed Khaled Khleif. There are reports that they have fought with ISIS in the North of Syria.

 

Liwa Shuhada al-Islam:

Moderate Islam.

It had around 700 members, mostly Arabs, in June 2017.

Its HQ is in Idlib, Hama and Rif Dimashq. Its commander is Saeed Naqrash.

The Martyrs of Islam Brigade is a militant group formed in the Damascus suburb of Darayya. In September 2016, after 4 years of siege in Daraya and an agreement with the Syrian Armed Forces, all the remaining 700 fighters from the Martyrs of Islam Brigade evacuated from Daraya to the Idlib Governorate. Immediately after the group’s arrival in Idlib, some of its “best fighters” were captured by al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front.

On 24 April 2018, Saeed Narqash was captured by unknown individuals. The group blames Tahrir al Sham for the kidnapping, which they deny.

There are reports of close collaboration with the Islamic Union of the Soldiers of the Levant (Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union).

 


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