The commander of the Junud al-Sham faction, Muslim al-Shishani, threatened to fight if Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) attacks Junud al-Sham’s military headquarters in Jabal al-Turkman, in rural Lattakia.
“Tahrir al-Sham is claiming that there are ISIS fighters in our ranks,” Shishani said in audio recordings, which he posted on his Telegram channel on Saturday. “This is a lie and a slander.”
“We do not want to fight HTS at all; in fact, we withdrew to Jabal al-Turkman to avoid conflict with HTS,” he added, before asking: “Why is HTS trying so hard to create a conflict that does not exist?”
“We know that HTS deals with prisoners through torture and injustice,” said Shishani, who has been in Syria for more than seven years. Shishani declared that Junud al-Sham will not hand over weapons. “We will die with pride and not in [HTS] prisons,” he said.
According to Abu Yahya al-Shami, a former shari’a lawmaker in the HTS: “HTS is getting some of its brigades ready — as well as security personnel — to fight Muslim al-Shishani’s group in Jabal al-Turkman on the coast, under the pretext of the presence of Kharijites.”
Shami said HTS’s talk about the presence of Kharijites in Jabal al-Turkman “has an impact on those who have no independence of thought, no conscience, and no scruples.”
The Junud al-Sham group was founded in 2013 by Chechen fighters in northwestern Syria.
In recent months, HTS has stepped up its offensives against the Muslim al-Shishani’s group. In July, HTS raided the Chechen fighters’ positions in rural Lattakia and told Shishani that Junud al-Sham would need to leave northern Syria.
Those close to HTS then circulated information about Shishani’s intention to launch an attack on HTS’ military headquarters. Shishani denied this allegation and asked HTS to prove its veracity.
In recent years, HTS has moved to dismantle several factions and military organizations in the Idleb governorate and surrounding areas. Most notably, these groups include the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement and the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement. HTS has also undermined any jihadist group that HTS perceives as a threat to its influence and control over these areas.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.