Salafist jihadist leader Abu Sayyaf speaks to his supporters and the media during a demonstration REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
By Tamer al-Samadi Translated from Al-Hayat (Pan Arab)/ Al Monitor
The leader of the Salafist-jihadist movement in southern Jordan, Mohammed Shalabi, also known as Abu Sayyaf, anticipates that the confrontation between Islamist and secular fighters in Syria will escalate and be amplified after the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad. This comes at a time when Pakistani extremists announced that the Pakistani Taliban has established camps and sent hundreds of fighters to Syria to fight against the regime in a strategy designed to firmly establish ties with the central leadership of al-Qaeda.
Abu Sayyaf, who openly supports the flow of Islamist fighters into Syria, told Al-Hayat in a phone conversation yesterday [July 14] that “the recent armed clashes [that took place] between us and secular fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are a necessary evil, due to differing methods and programs.”
Abu Sayyaf accused some of the FSA battalions of creating the clashes, saying, “They are the ones who started the fighting. Our fighters were targeted more than once by agents affiliated with this army, and they have ties with the regime in Damascus.” He added, “There is a big difference between secular and Islamist fighters in terms of vision and purpose. For instance, the FSA wants a democratic secular regime to be imposed, and it does not have any problem with linking its positions to Western dictates once the regime falls. Yet, Jabhat al-Nusra, Salafist groups and other fighters want to implement the law of God, which will lead to an inevitable clash.” He added, “We arrived to Syria to rule by God Almighty’s [Sharia] law. If we do not resort to the Holy Quran after the fall of the tyrannical regime, the situation will remain as it is now. This would mean that our bloodshed over the past two years will have been in vain.”
Abu Sayyaf added, “Many of those affiliated with the FSA were with the regime, and many have refused so far to cleanse themselves of the filth of Baathist rule; they declare that [the Baath party] is secular. There are battalions in the FSA that ardently refuse to apply the Islamist system of government.”
Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria killed an FSA battalion commander on Thursday [July 11] in Latakia in western Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Such incidents were recently repeated, which indicates that tensions have escalated between the fighting groups of the FSA, and radical Islamist groups that mostly consist of foreign fighters.
Abu Sayyaf — who served 10 years in prison after being convicted of Salafist-jihadists activities, including plotting to carry out attacks against US forces in Jordan — said that if Assad is overthrown, the FSA or some of its battalions will demand Islamists groups drop their weapons. At that time, the clash will grow and significant losses will be suffered.
On the other hand, Abu Sayyaf said that the Jordanian authorities “have attempted to prevent Islamists from crossing the border to join the fighting in Syria, which drove them [to travel] through Turkey.”
Jordanian officials have confirmed that the army and security forces “are making tremendous efforts to control the Syrian-Jordanian border,” which extends over 370 km [230 miles].
According to Abu Sayyaf, close to 200 Jordanian fighters from the Salafist group entered Syria last month through Turkey, which increased the number of Jordanian fighters in the Syrian opposition ranks to more than 700 people.
In Peshawar, a [Pakistani] Taliban leader said that the movement had decided to fight alongside its “Mujahedeen friends" in the Syrian conflict. He added, “When our brothers needed our help, we sent hundreds of fighters.” He said that the group would soon issue videos of what he described as “their victories” in Syria.
Another leader of the radical Pakistani Taliban said that the decision to send fighters to Syria came at the request of "Arab friends." He continued, “Since our Arab brothers have come here for our support, we are obliged to help them in their respective countries. This is what we did in Syria." He noted, “We have established our own camps in Syria. Some of our people go and then return after spending some time fighting there."