A variety of jihadist channels and personalities inhabit the realm of Telegram. One of them is the 'Warith al-Qassam,' known for being supportive of al-Qa'ida. Today I conducted an interview with 'Warith al-Qassam' regarding the assessment of the state of the jihad in northwest Syria amid the dominance of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (which evolved from Jabhat al-Nusra and ended its affiliation with al-Qa'ida) and its continued crackdown on the al-Qa'ida-loyalist group Hurras al-Din, as well as the rise of new jihadist groups claiming operations against the Turkish army and Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: What is your assessment of the current situation in the field of al-Sham today especially in northwest Syria (Idlib and its environs)? In your view is Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham working to impede the jihad? Some of the supporters of the Hay'a [Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham] liken the organisation's project to the project of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan? What is your opinion on this comparison?
A: In the name of God and prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of God. As for what follows. In the beginning, before we begin in responding to your questions, I want to call you to review yourselves and consider your steps and in which party you must be. And this call I direct to all the media people claiming affiliation with Islam and proceeding in the party of the Cross and its people: that you should fear God and repent from what you are upon. And I do not call on you to listen to the mashayakh of jihad in so far as you consider them extremists or Khawarij or whatever, but rather you should research the books of the just predecessors: they are the truth of the religion of Islam. Learn about the Islamic religion far removed from the controlled mashayakh of the Tawagheet. Then judge yourselves by yourselves. And decide whether you are proceeding on the true path!!!!!
And now we return to our subject and we respond to the first question. First I am not a person of knowledge [i.e. Islamic knowledge] and my words represent me, and when I assess the field I am speaking about my limited point of view. In the name of God:
Indeed the fields of jihad in every place are connected with each other, and the one who thinks that the jihad in al-Sham has come to an end is ignorant about the reality and not following the events of the prior fields, for he is not following the fall of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in the American invasion, and is not following the fall of the areas of the mujahideen in Mali during the French invasion, and not following the overthrow of the Islamic courts in Somalia and other events. The jihad in every place has stages, and the most important of these stages is the stage of the war of attrition and not clinging to land. And I think that trying to manipulate these stages is a catastrophe in every meaning of the word. And I think that the mujahideen in every place must not be hasty in the stages of the jihad and leap from the stage of the war of attrition and damaging the enemy to the stage of control. And the mujahideen have fallen into this catastrophe in Yemen, then Libya and now al-Sham. So my assessment of the situation in al-Sham in general is that the mujahideen have begun to proceed on the correct path to save the field of al-Sham, and despite the difficulty of the position there are good tidings on the horizon by God's permission. And these words are not emotional ones but rather a reality I have felt, and perhaps many of the followers have not realised it.
And as for the situation in Idlib, according to my assessment Idlib will remain an astray area under the control of the factions supported by Turkey, and I do not think that the mujahideen will strive to have a confrontation with these factions. That is, I think that the factions in Idlib will remain like the collaborationist Azwadi factions in north Mali, as these factions have remained in Kaydal and some of the areas while the mujahideen have overstepped them to all the lands of Mali and to the neighbouring states like Burkina Faso and Niger. And I think that the matter will remain applicable to Idlib when the battle will broaden to all the towns of Syria again, and these conflicting factions will remain in control in Idlib. At least this is in the near future in general, and today most of what the Crusaders and the apostates fear is the moving of the battle to outside Idlib. And this matter will happen by the permission of God, and in the transfer of the battle to outside Idlib, all the efforts that the disbelievers have expended to end the jihad in al-Sham will go to loss, and even the matter will impact the future of the factions of Idlib as they will become without benefit before the one who supports them.
And as for the issue of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and its impeding of the jihad, this is not opinion but reality on the group that no one can deny and I do not want to go much into it.
And as for likening the Taliban to the Hay'a, this is a false comparison in mind, for no one can deny that the Taliban has groups affiliated with it fighting the disbelievers in the various fields, from India and Bangladesh to al-Sham, Yemen, East, West and Central Africa and the Islamic Maghreb, and even in Pakistan that many think is the most prominent political ally of the Taliban, you see on the ground the followers of the Taliban making the Pakistani army taste the torment in colours, and the Pakistani Taliban movement confirmed again in its discussion with Thabat News Agency a few months ago that it is part of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan: that is, that the affiliation until now has not changed. In contrast, you see the Hay'a is a group confining itself and its cause not merely in Syria but also in the Syrian town of Idlib, so where is the aspect of similarity between the two groups!!
Q: Has the Hay'a fallen into disbelief and apostasy and what is your opinion on the study of 'Khayal al-Manhaj' [see here] which asserts that the Hay'a is a refraining apostate sect?
A: First as I have told you I am not a person of knowledge such that I can engage in something like this, but I disagree completely with all who declare takfir on the Hay'a as a sect in general, and even the study that our brother Khayal al-Manhaj al-Shami (may God grant him success) prepared, I put it to many of the people of knowledge [i.e. the scholars of Islamic knowledge] and they disagreed with a big part of it, but on the contrary we cannot condemn the one who declares takfir on some of the amnis [security personnel] in the Hay'a and its security apparatus. How can we condemn such a person when we personally have review of the amnis' action of handing over Muslims to their disbelieving states, and I think that distinguishing between the Hay'a in general and its security apparatus is a necessary matter just as the people of knowledge have previously distinguished between the government of Hamas that they have declared takfir on and the al-Qassam Battalions [Hamas' military wing] they have not declared takfir on.
Q: Recently we have seen operations of new groups like the Ansar Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Squadron that have targeted the Turkish army and the Hay'a [e.g. see here]. Do you support these operations? If you don't support these operations what is your advice to the mujahideen on the ground?
A: According to my knowledge, the Ansar Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Squadron specialises in targeting the Turkish army in its blessed operations, and whether from the Ansar squadron or from the Mujahid Vanguard Organisation or the Sheikh al-Zarqawi Squadron or the Sheikh Marwan Hadid Squadron and other mujahid groups besides them, the likes of these operations heal the hearts and enrage the enemies and proceed with the causes of saving the field of al-Sham by the permission of God. For indeed the most dangerous enemy for the jihad in al-Sham is the army of the Turks, and indeed more dangerous to our jihad than the Russians and the Nusayris. So we ask God to bless those arms that have smashed the soldiers of Erdogan on the land of al-Sham.
As for the one who adopts the operations targeting the security apparatus affiliated with the Hay'a, we reject this matter, and of course we are speaking about the security apparatus and we are not speaking about the youth of the Hay'a on the fronts, for there is no reasonable person who discusses even the targeting of the youth performing ribat [frontline manning] on the fronts. And I am a person opposed to Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, but on the contrary I have strong relations with more than one brother from those working in the ranks of the Hay'a, and even there are friendly visits between us despite the fact that they know what I say about the Hay'a, and they even follow my page, and always I advise them to leave this entity of error, and they offer empty pretexts like power and dominance and that their intention is jihad in the path of God and they disavow the deeds of the amnis. But they remain in the end empty pretexts with no weight.
And as for the reason for rejecting the targeting of the Public Security Apparatus, the matter has many reasons regardless of their ruling. So for example the apostate Syrian National Army in its branches in Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch and Idlib, is a Taghuti army affiliated with a Taghuti government: there is no distinction between it and the government of Bashar and the government of Sisi, but also we do not encourage their targeting because these people are followers with their Turkish master so why do we go to the tails and leave the head by whose fall in al-Sham all its followers will fall? And in the Public Security Apparatus [affiliated with Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham] also, this apparatus in its leaders and personnel is merely a wretched lowly affiliate of the Turkish government, so what is the aim of targeting it while the Turkish bases and targets are extended over the liberated areas? And of course self-defence or wounding the personnel of the security apparatus during the targeting of the Turks differs from intentionally targeting them. This is so and God knows best.
And we repeat and affirm that we are not people of knowledge and what has come here represents us. So we do not represent and are not even affiliated with any group.