Source: The Telegraph – by Damien McElroy (Syria: Foreign jihadists behind the rebel capture of Aleppo airport)
Photographs have emerged of a jihadist group of foreign fighters which spearheaded the capture of the largest airbase on Syria’s northern border with Turkey.
Security analysts have expressed concern over the capture of al-Menagh airbase by the group Jaish al-Muhajireen wa Ansar – which is made up almost exclusively of foreigners, including Britons, other Europeans and North Americans. The faction is led by Abu Omar al-Shishani, a veteran jihadist from Georgia who cut his teeth in the Caucuses fighting Russian troops.
The sprawling airbase which boasts a runway capable of accomodating fighter jets and trainer bombers has been a target for Syrian rebels for almost a year. Troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad finally capitulated on Monday after Jaish al-Muhajireen breached the perimetre with suicide bomb attacks and anti-tank missiles.
Charles Lister, an analyst with IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, has seen videos, including the one below in which Westerners talk about their battle against the regime and call for support in English, French, German and Spanish as well as Arabic.
Mr Lister has been tracking the rise of the Jaish al-Muhajireen since last year as it has become one of the most effective fighting forces in the uprising against President Assad.
“The value of this base is hugely symbolic,” he said. “It’s the first big base seizure by the opposition for several months. But because it is under the control of the Jihadist groups it shows the importance of their role in the fighting.”
Jaish al-Muhajireen operates in close alignment with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams, the leading al-Qaeda backed group in Syria. It is allied to Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian extremist proscribed as terrorists by the US government.
The mainstream Syrian rebel group, the Free Syria Army celebrated the capture of Minnagh airbase.
Its chief in Aleppo, Abdul-Jabbar al-Aqidi told a meeting that the Western backed body was providing weapons to the Islamists. He was captured on video confirming the transfers three days ago.
The development came as Michael Morell, the outgoing acting director of CIA, warned that Syria’s weapons were up for grabs as foreign fighters poured into the conflict.
He said the fallout from the Syria conflict posed the greatest threat to America’s security. “It’s probably the most important issue in the world today,” he told the Wall Street Journal.