Suweida gang leader confesses to working for Syrian military
The leader of the Raj Falahout gang - which operates in the town of Attil and is believed to be behind a string of kidnappings - released a statement on his personal Facebook account in which he claimed his group is affiliated with Assad's Military Intelligence Division.
"I don't want to say too much but from now on my group and I answer to the military intelligence. This is a notice to the entire province," wrote the gang's leader.
"Anyone from now on who supports us can rely on us to defend him and anyone who messes with us we will burn him. I will remain a shield for the oppressed and will not betray my province or abandon my country, I will not collaborate with anyone from outside my country."
The Raj Falahout gang is accused of kidnapping individuals, robbery, drug smuggling, and spreading terror and fear among the general population in Suweida.
Many of those kidnapped are held for ransom, with a number of captives saying torture was also used.
Sources who spoke to The New Arab’s sister publication, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, on condition of anonymity, saying that the gang was protected by the regime.
"Falhout and a number of local gangs were recruited by the Military Security, in exchange for giving them security cards and orders to carry out in their stolen and smuggled cars from outside Syria, and protect them from being prosecuted for the violations and crimes they commit since 2019," the source said.
The source cited Major General Kifah Al-Mulhim, the former deputy head of the Military Security Division, as being the man pulling the strings in the Raj Falahout gang.
An activist in Suweida claimed that when Al-Mulhim came to the region, he sought to "ensure that there is no danger to the regime’s institutions".
He added that in addition to the spread of violent crime in the area, there were also fears for the region's children.
"Today, the fear is that Falahout, one of the most prominent names accused of committing many crimes, is working to attract young people belonging to local armed groups," he said.
In particular, there is a concern that people could be drawn away from the local Druze-led Men of Dignity movement by the prospect of being granted security cards, protection from prosecutions, and financial benefits.
The Men of Dignity movement has been a prominent feature in Suweida, and has overseen much of the region's security over the course of the war.