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Turkey Faces Mysterious Jihadi Enemies In Idlib

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Al Monitor

by Fehim Tastekin

Turkey Faces Mysterious Jihadi Enemies In Idlib

Turkish forces continue to expand their presence around the key M4 highway in Idlib as attacks by new groups fuel uncertainties in the rebel-held region.

Obscure jihadist groups have stepped up attacks on Turkish forces in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, adding to Turkey’s dilemmas amid the fragile status quo in the region.

Al-Qaeda-inspired groups such as Hurras al-Din stood out as potential troublemakers when Turkish forces began to reinforce their presence around the key M4 highway last year, coordinating with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the dominant rebel group in Idlib. Caucasian fighters, concentrated in Jisr al-Shughur and the Latakia countryside, were not seen as an immediate threat, though they share the jihadi ideology.

The attacks on the Turkish forces, however, have come from unexpected assailants.

A group calling itself the Khattab al-Shishani Brigade claimed the first three attacks, which targeted Turkish-Russian patrols along the M4 on July 14, July 17 and Aug. 25. “Shishani” means “Chechen” in Arabic and has become the hallmark of Chechen-led groups in Syria. After the July 14 car bomb attack, Russia said three of its soldiers were injured, while Turkey spoke only of damage to vehicles. A statement from the assailants, meanwhile, slammed the major jihadi groups in the region for inaction against the Turkish-Russian patrols. It contained quotes from al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and referred to Russian soldiers as “crusaders” and Turkish forces and HTS as “apostates.” 

Full story https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2021/01/turkey-syria-russia-idlib-attacks-by-newly-sprung-groups.html