(Zaman Al Wasl)- Jihadist fighters blamed Ahmad Wahid al-Abd, the Islamic State jurist and the head of a group of Islamic State fighters who recently surrendered himself to the Hezbollah militia, for losing rebel strongholds at the Syrian-Lebanese border.
In an exclusive interview with Zaman al-Wasl, Samer Mohammed al-Masri, the commander of the Sniper Battalion in one of the Syrian resistance factions, spoke about Abu al-Baraa. Al-Masri explained that he met Abu al-Baraa for the first time in early 2015 when the Hezbollah militia and the al-Assad regime launched a fierce attack on Jurd al-Jiyet in the hinterland of al-Qalamoun which is located along the Syrian-Lebanese border. Al-Masri said that his battalion headed to Jurd al-Jiyet to defend the town and they were ambushed by an Islamic State battalion. The Islamic State forces surrounded the cars al-Masri’s battalion were using pointing their guns at them. Abu al-Baraa came forward and asked the group to pledge their allegiance to the Islamic State which the Free Syrian Army battalion members refused to do according to al-Masri.
He added, “We said to him how can we pledge allegiance to you and Hezbollah is only 500 meters away from us and we came to fight not to pledge allegiance.” He continued that his group members exchanged words with the Islamic State members before they allowed them to enter the region on the basis they would not withdraw.
At that time, al-Masri and his comrades communicated with the battalion operation room who informed them that the Islamic State forces are coordinating with the Hezbollah militia and providing them with logistical support. They warned them to beware of the Islamic State forces confirming that the Islamic State had arrested several rebels and group commanders from the connecting points before the Hezbollah militias. According to al-Masri, the resistance factions conducted a counter operation with several other factions to ambush and arrest 50 members of the Islamic State including Abu al-Baraa although some of the Islamic State members escaped.
According to al-Masri, due to the Abu al-Baraa and his group’s activities, members of the Hezbollah militia came forward and took control of Jurd Jiyet and Maraat Yabroud without facing any notable resistance except in specific locations that were not in the battles. Regarding his actions in the fight, al-Masri said that he and his comrades were forced to return to the Jurd Flayta area to re-establish the rear points and stop the party's progress towards it.
Speaking to Zaman al-Wasl, he pointed out that his faction had imprisoned members of the Islamic State forces including Abu al-Baraa but other parties intervened to release them because those arrested were locals. Among the group held, there were no foreigners or strangers to the area. To prevent sedition, the group were released after they were pledged to return to their homes and not follow the Islamic State again. They soon returned to fighting the Free Syrian Army factions until Jurd al-Qalamoun fell and the Free Syrian Army fighters were forcefully displaced to Idlib.
Ahmed Wahid al-Abd is from the village of Jarjir, located west of the city of Deir Atiya, which was one of the first towns to revolt. The town provided the resistance with many brave fighters including Ahmad Durat, the pioneer and commander of the Military Council of the Free Syrian Army a few years ago. According to al-Masri, al-Abd, “had a bad reputation and a dubious career since the time he joined the revolution and his subsequent transfer to the al-Nusra Front before he joined the Islamic State. While with the Islamic State, he was assigned as a jurist for al-Qalamoun and he issued Fatwas for the arrest and killing of dozens of members of the Free Syrian Army including some of his relatives.
In the interview, al-Masri revealed that the faction al-Abd was commanding in al-Qalamoun received around 500,000 US Dollars per month from the oil billionaire George Hassouani for more than two years. Hassouani, a regime agent, used to buy oil from the Islamic State and fund them at a time when the Free Syrian Army fighters were struggling to survive and find food to eat.
The Islamic State claimed it was fighting the Hezbollah militia forces, but it was secretly coordinating with the militia to kill the fighters in the area. The Islamic State forces in al-Qalamoun only fought the resistance factions. According to al-Masri, the Lebanese Army shelling never targeted Islamic State areas, but the resistance held areas in Qalamoun only.
In recent days, Lebanese media outlets reported that one Ahmad Wahid al-Abd, one of the jurist princes of the Islamic State, surrendered himself and the members of his group at the al-Zamrani crossing. The surrendering group handed over their weapons at the crossing point which is under the control of Hezbollah since the start of the al-Jurd Dawn operation. A video filmed by one of the surrendering group members was circulated on social media, and in the video, one of the members responds when asked why they handed themselves over by saying, “we finished”. The response summarizes all the evidence and intensifies the meanings.