Printed Edition ‖ No.: 227
Enab Baladi – Idlib
Bombings and explosive devices return to the city of Idlib and its countryside through this June, to mainly target leaders of Free Army and “Jaish al-Fatah” (Army of Conquest), the thing that caused a buzz and fear among the residents of the province, which is mostly out of the Syrian regime’s control.
Through field findings, it seems that recently the most targeted people are the military involved in the militant factions of all different backgrounds (Ahrar As-Sham, Nusra Front, Free Army), something that has been confirmed by media activist in the province of Idlib, Abu Khaled Al Hamwi.
Al Hamwi explains to Enab Baladi that the recent June bombings targeted markets and civilian-crowded places “in order to create a state of terror and chaos that would make the residents leave Idlib”, attributing the plenty bombings to the fact that Idlib is one of the largest cities under the control of opposition in Syria, “which makes it subject to any attack by all means.”
The troubled security condition was not confined to the city of Idlib, Enab Baladi has recently monitored many assassination attempts in the countrysides of the province that targeted leaders, including; the leader of “Ahrar As-Sham”, Abu Mohammad Yahya, “Executive Force” official in Idlib, Abu Al Harth Shantoot, commander of “Jaish Al Ezza” (Army of Pride) in the countryside of Hama, Major Jameel As-Saleh and several leaders of Nusra Front.
Who is behind the bombings?
Speculations regarding the party that funds and plans to hit the security of Idlib are many. Some doubts go to the east side of the country, i.e. “Islamic State” organization, others thinks that “Jihadist’s” factions and cells that are close to the organization take part in those bombings, while another group confirms these operations’ responsibility to be by the Syrian regime, especially after the announcement of a group, who refers to themselves as intelligence, claimed their responsibility for many bombings.
According to Wael Al Hos, military official in “Jaish al-Fatah”, the regime is the most prominent planner for the bombing of explosive devices in Idlib, explaining to Enab Baladi that there are many parties that seek implanting bombs in the province, however, the quantities used and the specificity of the targets in the recent period, confirm the existence of an organizing party that works with a high technique, since they target specific people after studying their situation and monitoring them for a certain period of time.
Al Hos says “there are a number of pro-Assad living in Idlib, and it is expected to have had recruited and funded them to carry out these bombings, in addition to providing them with the necessary information regarding the targeted entities, as well as ways of liquidating them through agents working with him in the region.”
The official refers to the fact that the continuity of the bombings and the diverse locations indicate the existence of more than one group that work independently, each group knows nothing about the other groups, proving it with the inability of any party to stop this phenomenon, despite the arrest of a number of groups, noting that the previous bombings that have been going inaccurately and targeting fighters’ cars without distinction were carried out by “Daesh”, whereas the operations conducted now indicate the presence of a new party, as he put it.
Last December, a group following the Syrian regime in Idlib announced establishing what is named “Youth gathering for purifying Idlib”, who claimed the responsibility of a number of booby-trapping and bombing operations, last of which is the attempt to assassinate the leader of “Ajnad As-Sham” Union following “Jaish al-Fatah” in the countryside of Idlib, on Thursday, June 23rd.
Enab Baladi surveyed the views of a number of activists and residents of Idlib regarding this group that claims responsibility only through their page on “Facebook”, with no voice or visual recordings that support their claim. Most of the opinions tend to think the group to be a “fake page” aiming at terrorizing and spreading fear among citizens, in a way that serves the regime’s interests in causing a displacement movement off the city.
The security measures in Idlib
“Abu Harth Shantot”, the “Executive Force” official of “Jaish al-Fatah” in Idlib answers Enab Baladi’s question about the recent security developments inside the city, saying that his force succeeded in arresting a number of cells lately, one of which is the group that bombed explosive devices at Masjid Shoaib, as people were leaving Masjid post Friday prayer on the 27th of last May, which caused the death of 4 civilians and a number of injuries.
Abu Harth also confirmed the arrest and prosecution of cells that detonated roadside bombs implanted under military cars, pointing out that investigations continue to get information that might help in capturing people or groups linked to bombings in Idlib.
Abu Harth spoke about the latest security measures adopted in Idlib; most notably is the security patrols working around the clock, assigned to checking the security conditions in the city, as well as increasing the numbers of patrols during the night and in the early morning, in addition, the “Executive Force” placed checkpoints at the entrances of Idlib in order to inspect suspected cars to restrict the groups intending to hit the city, as he put it.
The security measures are not limited to those, as civilians have been assigned missions all over the neighborhoods of Idlib, who are monitoring the situation and reporting to patrols in case they sensed unusual movement or had some security doubts that need to be reported, in addition to people riding motorcycles and driving among alleys and neighborhoods also to monitor the situation.
The “Executive Force” communicated with the notables and Mukhtars of Idlib and agreed to assign people to protect the neighborhoods, these people would be selected by the city’s notables since they better know the true nature of each person in the neighborhood, in order to raise the security level in the city, according to Shantot, pointing to another communication they recently conducted with the military factions to inform them of the necessity of exercising cautiousness and assigning checkpoints in their areas.
Abu Harth refused to inform Enab Baladi of the investigation’s results with those involved or the information they got, justifying that with “security reasons, as well as the presence of people planted within some groups”, however, he stresses “the considerable experience possessed by the “Executive Force” in the security and investigations field, which is working at a high level of caution and thorough planning in every step, in order to finish this matter as soon as possible.”
Financial reward for information
The “Executive Force” in Idlib posted through their page on “Facebook” a statement announcing a financial reward for information or help to capture bombings’ perpetrators, as well as those involved in planting explosive devices in cars and roads, stressing that they will keep the identity of the person who provides information a secret, for his safety.
Abu Harth briefs Enab Baladi that the reward will exceed 500 USD, and there will be a security study of the person presenting the information for fear of false information or of targeting someone for personal purposes.
The citizens of the city criticized the “Executive Force” accusing them of negligence in performing their work, someone (refused to give his name) said “the security force is negligent in doing their job till today”, adding “there are many cars that enter the city, passing through checkpoints without being inspected”, stressing that this remissness is an unintended behavior and often is an individual one.”
Abu Harth responded to accusations of negligence by saying “the situation we are living in considering the ongoing war is an unusual situation; the daily shelling, absence of basic needs of life, as well as the huge problems that every person in Idlib is experiencing, all of which are bound to cause chaos in the city,” believing that “any large state with powerful security system will witness a lot of robberies, murder and security chaos, once the electricity goes off for half an hour…therefore, the security force is making a lot of achievements, given the available facts and resources.”
The security official attributed the insecure spread in Idlib to the influx of displaced people from different areas to the city, Syrians and foreigners, not to mention the residents of the city and the displaced coming from the countryside of the province, following its “liberation”, saying “what makes things harder is the difficulty of checking each displaced person’s background, even if we tried to cooperate with Mukhtars and notables of neighborhoods.”
Activists interviewed by Enab Baladi confirm that best solution to control the security situation in Idlib is creating a police force and an independent judiciary working across the province, which is something “out of reach” at this stage, since each faction or gathering has a specific geographical sector that they control in terms of military and security, predicting the security violations to likely continue, as long as the province remained without an independent civil management.