Ansar al-Islam, one of the terrorist factions in northern Syria, has recently stepped up its terrorist operations in Idlib, according to reports from the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The terrorist organization has called for attacking and killing soldiers of the Syrian National Army and all those who support it, SANA reported.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Ansar al-Islam was established in 2001 and made its stronghold in the far northeastern regions of Iraq (the regions of Iraqi Kurdistan) in Byara and the Hawrama Mountains.
These areas provide suitable land to be used for terrorist activity, as they protect terrorist elements from being targeted due to their rugged terrain, especially as the area is surrounded by high mountain ranges.
The lack of control of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s regime over that region provided an area suitable for terrorists.
Following 2003, the area included Arab and foreign fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory.
Ansar al-Islam adopts the terrorist ideology influenced by Brotherhood theorist Sayyid Qutb and the approach of the Egyptian Jihad and other extremist movements. Its first action was to issue a fatwa declaring it permissible to attack “the infidel and secular society of Iraqi Kurdistan” politically, socially and culturally in accordance with the group’s ideology, reported the Omran Center for Strategic Studies.
Between 2001 and 2003, the group imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic laws in the area of Byara. They prevented women and girls from obtaining education, forced people to attend and perform prayers in mosques, and forbade music. Despite the group’s concentration in the Kurdish regions and its main formation being Kurdish fighters, it also includes Arab elements from Baghdad, in addition to other foreigners from Afghanistan, Jordan and Syria.
According to the Omran Center, the group carried out numerous terrorist operations against Kurdish targets, journalists, foreigners, and Christians in the Kurdish regions.
It attacked and blew up jewelry stores, wine shops and restaurants in the Kurdish region, and it assassinated a Kurdish political leader in 2001. A wave of violence erupted in the spring of 2002, and Ansar al-Islam tried to kill the then-head of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Barham Salih.
It has also threatened to kill foreign journalists, aid workers, and moderate Muslim leaders.