Idlib’s savagest jihadists have their ranks culled in Sukayk battle
Of the two-pronged Syrian Army assault towards Khan Sheykhun, the eastern flank advance via Sukayk has seen some of Idlib’s most fanatic terrorist fighters thrown into a ten-day long battle, chewed-up and now spat-out as a broken force.
The main militant force opposing the Syrian Army on the Sukayk front was the so-called ‘Rouse the Believers’ jihadist alliance, involving rarely heard of and openly Al-Qaeda-aligned factions such as Ansar al-Islam and Ansar al-Tawhid.
Ansar al-Islam can, interestingly enough, find its origins in Iraqi Kurdistan being made up of both Salafist Kurds and Arabs who entered Syria at some point early in the conflict and eventually aligned with ISIS. They (the Syrian branch) have since pledged loyalty to Al-Qaeda.
At the same time, Ansar al-Tawhid is a re-vamping of Jund al-Aqsa – again, an Islamic State affiliate that was “disbanded” in early 2017, only to come back in late 2018. The group has since affiliated itself with Al-Qaeda.
On the Sukayk front, the Rouse the Believers alliance comprised hundreds (maybe as high as 600) of hardened, well-equipped, highly-motivated fighters capable and willing to launch offensive operations rather than just defending.
After ten days of fighting (and at least three counter-attacks against the Syrian Army at Sukayk, all of which failed), well over one hundred ranks of the alliance were provably killed in front-line clashes and, in all probability, another 100 killed can be added on top of that from airstrikes behind the front.
All up, it appears a major part of the force, perhaps as much as 30 to 40 percent has been destroyed in just over a week.
It should come as no surprise that these groups were encountered en masse around the At-Tamanna area east of Khan Sheykhun. The town itself has a history of being a recruitment hub for specifically pro-ISIS fighters back when the Islamic State operated more freely and openly in northwest Syria.