In an exclusive telephone call with All4Syria, official military spokesman of the Southern Front, Essam Ar-Rayes, denied any relationship linking Al-Anfal Brigade with the Syrian Rebels Front, saying "for seven months, this brigade is within regions which reached a truce with the regime in the south of Damascus".
Ar-Rayes explained: "Al-Anfal Brigade refused to join the Syrian Rebels Front earlier (when Ahfad ar-Rasoul Brigade was dissolved). They continued to work on their own, independent from the Front, where they eventually surrendered their light and medium weapons to regime forces".
Ar-Rayes denied al-Anfal Brigade’s affiliation with the Southern Front, claiming “the Brigade commander tried to exploit the conflict between the Nusra Front and Ahfad ar-Rasoul. He tried secretly to flee from southern Damascus, to the Sufian ath-Thawri barracks, located on the outskirts of the city”.
Al-Anfal Brigade recently escaped from the town of al-Thiyabiyah, south of the capital, towards the National Defense militias fighting alongside regime forces in Damascus. The fighters of the brigade surrendered their medium and light weapons, then joining the National Defense militias to fight the Free Army Brigades in the same area.
Al-Anfal Brigade is led by Abdullah Al-Refai (Abu Mazen). Regime media channels and social networking sites confirmed months of coordination between Syrian intelligence and the National Defense militias on the one hand, and the commander of the brigade on the other.
Both pro-regime and opposition sources claimed 60 fighters surrendered themselves and their weapons, in addition to the leaders of the brigade, in order to settle their status, and then joined the National Defense militias.
Pro-regime sources said the operation took place in secrecy last Saturday night on ath-Thalathin Street in Yarmouk refugee camp, taking advantage of the state of chaos and fighting in the areas of Beit Sahm and Babila.
Rebel social networking pages criticized the operation, saying: "Abu Mazen, we are happy you left the southern region. You are just a shabeeha who wanted to take advantage of the revolution, and distort its purity. You were the first to take up arms to face the people of ath-Thiyabiyah, the first to steal their houses, and when the battle broke out in the city, you let the jihadists down and escaped with all your weapons".
Social media in southern Damascus criticized the move, saying: "al-Anfal Brigade did not surrender to the regime, it returned to its original ranks among regime forces, because whoever knows this brigade – and knows its actions and behavior – knows that this is not the behavior of a rebel, but an agent. In short, they are a group of thieves and their name indicates their main objectives".
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer