Idlib: Turkish forces ramp up surveillance following attacks by new armed group

The Turkey-developed SERHAT II mortar detection radars—22 February 2020 (Enab Baladi)

The Turkey-developed SERHAT II mortar detection radars—22 February 2020 (Enab Baladi)

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On Saturday, 9 January, the Turkish military mobilized forces to Bab al-Hawa-Idlib highway to scan the surrounding areas for explosives. This activity followed attacks against Turkish convoys early this month.

Heading south from Kafarya town, the mobilized forces spread in formations of two armored vehicles, troops, and a mortar detection radar system, each covering 50 meters on both sides of the highway, media activist Ass’ad al-Ass’ad reported.

Forces of the Turkish army have stationed on the Ma’arrat Misrin road, near Kafraya town, north Idlib city, in search of mines, a military commander of the National Front for Liberation (NFL) told Enab Baladi on the condition of anonymity.

On the 4th and 5th of January, Turkish army convoys were targeted by RPGs. The attacks were later adopted by an armed group calling itself Abdullah ibn Unais.

Before the reported attacks, the armed group was unknown, the military commander said.

The group is named after Abdullah ibn Unais, a companion—Sahabi—of Prophet Muhammad. Unais led a squadron to kill Khalid bin Sufyan Al-Hudhali, who was planning to invade Medina, recounted Ibn Kathir in his book The Beginning and the End.

Other attacks; other factions

Kata’ib Khattab al-Shishani (Khattab the Chechen’s Brigade) adopted three attacks on Turkey-Russia joint patrols on the M4 highway—on 14 July, 17 and 25 August 2020.

Ansar Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Squadron adopted two attacks against Turkish forces. On 27 August 2020, the squadron detonated a motorbike bomb near the Turkish observation post in Marj al-Zuhour, in rural Jisr al-Shughour (west of Idlib).

The squadron has adopted a second attack on 6 September 2020. The group shot Turkish troops in Maataram, south of Idlib. Two soldiers were injured, one even died affected by his wounds.

Various factions and brigades operate in northwestern Syria, in addition to the Turkish observation posts. Some of these posts were founded under the Astana agreement in 2017, others followed the Moscow agreement in 2020.

In terms of military control, a number of armed opposition groups hold reins to power in Idlib province, most notably Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), operating under the Operation Room al-Fatah al-Mubin (Great Conquest), alongside the NFL and Jaysh al-Izza (Army of Glory).

Today, Idlib province is subject to a ceasefire deal, Moscow agreement, struck between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 5 March 2020. The deal provided for establishing a security corridor along the Aleppo-Lattakia/M4 highway in northern Syria and launching Turkish-Russian joint patrols.

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