HTS detains scores of more extreme jihadists in Syria
Forces from the hardline Islamist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) have arrested three leaders from Hurras al-Din, a more extreme jihadi formation operating in north-western Syria over the past 48 hours, amid a continuing campaign that has seen dozens of extreme jihadists detained.
Sources close to HTS told The New Arab’s Arabic language service that HTS fighters detained Abu Issam Darkoush, a senior administrator in Hurras al-Din, in the city of Jisr Al-Shughour in western Idlib province on Monday or Tuesday.
HTS forces also arrested Abu Hamza and Abu Al-Ezz Saliba, two brothers with command positions in Hurras al-Din, after stopping them at a checkpoint near the town of Arab Saeed in western Idlib province.
HTS also stormed the houses of the three Hurras al-Din leaders and seized all the weapons they found there.
HTS dominate most of rebel-held north-western Syria. The group was formerly affiliated with Al-Qaeda but severed all links to it in 2017.
It is still considered a terrorist organisation by the US, the UK, and Turkey. The US government recently reaffirmed that it was offering a reward for information leading to the capture of HTS’s leader, Abu Mohammed Al-Jolani.
Hurras al-Din, whose name translates as “The Guardians of Religion” split off from HTS shortly after it renounced allegiance to Al-Qaeda. It now proclaims itself to be Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
HTS have been engaged in a campaign of arrests against Hurras al-Din over the past month, detaining dozens of its members. Last Friday, HTS arrested four other leaders of the more extreme group in Harem in northern Idlib province, near the Turkish border.
Sources close to HTS have told The New Arab’s Arabic service that the arrests could be part of an HTS effort to present a more moderate face to the world and further dissociate itself from Al-Qaeda.