A Salafist source revealed to al-Modon that there have been defections within the first-ranking leadership of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Idleb. The most notable of the recently defected figures is the military judiciary official, Judge Abu al-Qasim al-Shami, among other prominent figures close to him in the leadership of HTS.
“There are intense disagreements between the brigade leaders affiliated with the military wing, and in the military and civilian judicial institutions, which threatens an escalation of defections in the coming period. The disagreements also led to the dismissal of the military spokesman of the Fatah Operations Room, Abu Qutaiba al-Shami, who is the commander of the Saad Brigade, and Abu Bakr was appointed instead in the positions he held,” the source said.
The source pointed out that “the decision to dismiss Abu Qutaiba al-Shami from his positions came after he was accused of financial corruption, and other accusations related to his shortcoming in his position led by the Saad Brigade. It is expected that the leader of the commission, Abu Mohammed al-Julani, will provide Abu Qutaiba with minimal tasks for fear of his defection. This will necessarily lead to the split of dozens of close associates, and their announcement of defection from HTS.”
Apart from being in charge of the military judiciary in Tahrir al-Sham, dissident judge Abu al-Qasim al-Shami holds many positions and manages many sensitive security issues. He also holds the position of general officer in charge of internal justice in HTS, he is responsible for the organizations’ issues. He is a judge of the Idleb Security and Military Criminal Court, a judge of the former Civil Criminal Court, and a former official of the Military Court in Idleb.
The direct reason for the escalating disputes within the leadership of Tahrir al-Sham is the renewed campaign of arrests launched by its security apparatus at the beginning of Ramadan targeting former dissident leaders, mostly from the Qalamoun area of Rural Damascus. The campaign also targeted several Salafist immigrants. There are other reasons related to the evictions of the houses and the expulsion of immigrants and their families. One viewpoint within HTS rejects security campaigns against local Salafists and immigrants.
Among those arrested during the new campaign were former defector Abu Ayman al-Masri, dissident Khabab al-Masri, an independent Salafist, dissident Abu Bakr al-Masri, Abu Jawad al-Shami, who was a leader of Tahrir al-Sham in the Qalamoun area of Rural Damascus before his defection, Abu al-Nasr al-Shami, a dissident leader from Qalamoun, dissident Abu Ibrahim al-Halabi, and Abu Khaled al-Haskawi, an independent Salafist.
“Julani alerted his security apparatus at the beginning of Ramadan to crack down on criminality and injustice. They worked to arrest more mujahedeen, reformers, scientists, and intellectuals in Idleb. Instead of easing security campaigns and correcting past wrongs by removing detainees from their illegal prisons, they launched a new campaign,” Salafist dissident Abu Hamza al-Kurdi said on Telegram.
At the beginning of April, HTS released several leaders of al-Qaeda’s Guardians of Religion Organization, including Saudi Salafist Abu Abdul Rahman al-Makki, the group’s most prominent leader. The group also released Salafists Abu Basir Mayadin and Abu Abbas al-Qalamouni. Salafists opposed to Tahrir al-Sham view the release of Makki and his companions, in conjunction with a new arrest campaign targeting local Salafists and immigrants, as a new tactic for the security apparatus. They believe that they are trying to divide the ranks of anti-government groups and create antagonism between them.
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.