Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya (Arabic: حركة أحرار الشام الإسلامية, romanized: ḥarakat aḥrāru š-šām al-islāmiyah, lit. 'Islamic Movement of the Free Men of the Levant'), commonly referred to as Ahrar al-Sham, is a coalition of multiple Islamist and Salafist units that coalesced into a single brigade and later a division in order to fight against the Syrian Government led by Bashar al-Assad during the Syrian Civil War. Ahrar al-Sham was led by Hassan Aboud until his death in 2014. In July 2013, Ahrar al-Sham had 10,000 to 20,000 fighters, which at the time made it the second most powerful unit fighting against al-Assad, after the Free Syrian Army. It was the principal organization operating under the umbrella of the Syrian Islamic Front and was a major component of the Islamic Front. With an estimated 20,000 fighters in 2015, Ahrar al-Sham became the largest rebel group in Syria after the Free Syrian Army became less powerful. Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam are the main rebel groups supported by Turkey. In June 2016, it was accused of slaughtering civilians around Aleppo. On 18 February 2018, Ahrar al-Sham merged with the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement to form the Syrian Liberation Front.
|Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyyah|
حركة أحرار الشام الإسلاميةParticipant in the Syrian Civil War
Variant of the logo of the Islamic Front used by Ahrar al-Sham
|Active||December 2011 – Present|
|Spokesman||Abu Yousef al-Mujajir (by 2016)|
|Headquarters||Babsaqa, Idlib Governorate, Syria|
|Area of operations||Syria|
|Size||10,000–20,000 (July 2013)|
16,000 (December 2016)
18,000–20,000 (March–June 2017)
|Part of|| Syrian Islamic Front (2012–2013)|
Islamic Front (2013–2016)
Syrian Revolutionary Command Council (2014–2015)
Unified Military Command of Eastern Ghouta (2014–2015)
Army of Conquest (2015–2017)
Fatah Halab (2015–2017)
Ansar al-Sharia (2015–early 2016)
Jaysh Halab (2016)
National Front for Liberation (2018–present)
|Originated as||Ahrar al-Sham Battalion|
|Battles and war(s)|
While both are major rebel groups, Ahrar al-Sham is not to be confused with Tahrir al-Sham, its main rival and former ally. Before 2016, Ahrar al-Sham cooperated with the al-Nusra Front, originally an affiliate of al-Qaeda. However, from 2017 onward it increasingly fought against al-Nusra, which rebranded as Tahrir al-Sham with a former Ahrar leader, Abu Jaber, as emir, and recruited some of Ahrar al-Sham's most hardline units.
Ahrar al-Sham has defined itself in this way:
The Islamic Movement of the Free Men of the Levant is an Islamist, reformist, innovative and comprehensive movement. It is integrated with the Islamic Front and is a comprehensive and Islamic military, political and social formation. It aims to completely overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and build an Islamic state whose only sovereign, reference, ruler, direction, and individual, societal and nationwide unifier is Allah Almighty's Sharia (law).
According to the International Crisis Group in 2012, Ahrar al-Sham, along with the al-Nusra Front, has "embraced the language of jihad and called for an Islamic state based on Salafi principles." The group has a Syrian leadership and "emphasizes that its campaign is for Syria, not for a global jihad". However, according to US intelligence officials, a few al-Qaeda members released from prisons by the Syrian government have been able to influence actions of the group, and install operatives within the senior ranks of Ahrar al-Sham. Such ties were not disclosed publicly until January 2014, when a former senior leader of Ahrar al-Sham, the now deceased Abu Khalid al-Suri, acknowledged his long-time membership in al-Qaeda and role as Ayman al-Zawahiri's representative in the Levant.
1.2 Nationalist motivations
Some scholars have argued for Ahrar al-Sham to be noted as a "nationalist jihadist salafi" group. The goal of regime change can be seen in Ahrar al-Sham's involvement in the conflict in Syria. Ahrar al-Sham has joined forces with other groups in the conflict in their opposition to the Assad regime in Syria.
Regional expert Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi has speculated two factions existed within Ahrar al-Sham, a nationalist moderate faction and a Salafi Jihadi faction influenced largely by the al-Qaeda linked Abu Khalid al-Suri whom was appointed by Ayman al-Zawahiri to act as a mediator between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIL, the faction at the time mostly existing in eastern Syria, in particular in Hasakah and having a pro-Caliphate outlook, that allied with ISIL and held ties with Ansar al-Islam with a number of Ahrar al-Sham members later joining ISIL during the group's presence there. As a result Ahrar al-Sham has been described as being diverse group in this regard, in December 2016 another Salafi faction called Jaysh al-Ahrar headed by Abu Jaber Shaykh, a senior commander in Ahrar al-Sham, split from the group and joined Hayat Tahrir al-Sham but later left HTS due to disagreements with the leadership and the resignation of the Saudi cleric Abdullah al-Muhaysini, Jaysh al-Ahrar eventually joined the National Front for Liberation alongside Ahrar al-Sham in 2018.
In its first audio address, Ahrar al-Sham stated its goal was to replace the Assad government with a Sunni Islamic state. It acknowledged the need to take into account the population's current state of mind. It also described the uprising as a jihad against a Safawi plot to spread Shia Islam and establish a Shia state from Iran through Iraq and Syria, extending to Lebanon and Palestine. Ahrar al-Sham has claimed that it only targets government forces and militia and that it has cancelled several operations due to fear of civilian casualties. It provides humanitarian services and relief to local communities, in addition to pamphlets promoting religious commitment in daily life.
Ahrar al-Sham leader Hassan Aboud stated that Ahrar al-Sham worked with the Nusra Front and would have no problems with al-Nusra as long as they continued fighting the regime. Aboud also said Ahrar worked with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in some battles, but that their agenda was disagreeable. He said all parties, whether they were ISIL, al-Nusra, the Islamic Front, or the FSA, shared the same objective of establishing an Islamic state, but they differed as to the "tactics, strategies or methods". Aboud claimed that in Syria "there are no secular groups". Aboud condemned democracy in an interview with Al-Jazeera, saying that "Democracy is people governing people, according to rules they please. We say that we have a divine system whose law is Allah's for his creatures and his slaves who he appointed as viceregents on this Earth."
Mohamed Najeeb Bannan, an Islamic Front Sharia Court judge in Aleppo, stated, "The legal reference is the Islamic Sharia. The cases are different, from robberies to drug use, to moral crimes. It's our duty to look at any crime that comes to us. ... After the regime has fallen, we believe that the Muslim majority in Syria will ask for an Islamic state. Of course, it's very important to point out that some say the Islamic Sharia will cut off people's hands and heads, but it only applies to criminals. And to start off by killing, crucifying etc. That is not correct at all." In response to being asked what the difference between the Islamic Front's and the Islamic State's version of sharia would be, he said "One of their mistakes is before the regime has fallen, and before they've established what in Sharia is called Tamkeen [having a stable state], they started applying Sharia, thinking God gave them permission to control the land and establish a Caliphate. This goes against the beliefs of religious scholars around the world. This is what [ISIL] did wrong. This is going to cause a lot of trouble. Anyone who opposes [ISIL] will be considered against Sharia and will be severely punished."[better source needed]
In August 2015, Ahrar al-Sham commander Eyad Shaar said "We are part of Syrian society and the international community. ... We want to be part of the solution."
Ahrar al-Sham's political representative stated in December 2015 that Ahrar al-Sham are "not related with al Qaeda, we only fight with them against Assad and ISIS".
In an Amnesty International report in July 2016, Ahrar al-Sham, along with al-Nusra Front, was described as having "applied a strict interpretation of Shari'a and imposed punishments amounting to torture or other ill-treatment for perceived infractions." A political activist was abducted and detained by Ahrar al-Sham for having not worn a veil and accused of affiliation with the Syrian government. At least three children have been recorded to be abducted by Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham between 2012 and 2015. Lawyers and political activists have faced reprisal attacks by Ahrar al-Sham and other Islamist rebel groups due to their political activities and perceived religious beliefs.
In May 2016, Ahrar al-Sham released an address by then deputy general director Ali al-Omar in which he distinguished Ahrar al-Sham's militancy from the Salafi jihadism of al-Qaeda and ISIL, and defended its political engagement.
Formation and early activitiesEdit
Salafi groups emerged as important political and social actors in Egypt and Tunisia after the Arab Spring. Salafist groups can look very different from each other but author Markus Holdo identifies three accepted categories of Salafist groups. There are scripturalist Salafis who refuse to participate in politics because they find it useless in achieving their goals, the political Salafist who do engage in politics while seeking to put in place a fundamentalist agenda, and lastly there are the Jihadist Salafis who identify as part of a global jihad and generally find more popularity among younger people. While there may be differences in how Jihadist Salafist groups define the act of jihad, they generally reject the institutional politics of liberal democracy and westernization because "of its inability to deliver the material and ethical goods they demand." Jihadist Salafist do not just rally behind a shared religious view, but around fighting the ideals they think exist in institutional politics such as hierarchy, exclusion, and corruption. Ahrar al-Sham can be described as Jihadist Salafis whose definition of Jihad is one of active war fighting. Often times, this view of Jihad is used as a recruitment tool by calling fighters to join a cause and complete their duty to Islam.
Ahrar al-Sham started forming units just after the Egyptian revolution of January 2011, and before the Syrian uprising started in March 2011. Most of the group's founders were Salafist political prisoners who had been detained for years at the Sednaya prison until they were released as part of an amnesty by the Syrian Government in March–May 2011. At the time of its establishment in December 2011, Ahrar al-Sham consisted of about 25 rebel units spread across Syria. On 23 January 2012, the Ahrar al-Sham Battalions was officially announced in the Idlib Governorate. In the same announcement, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on the security headquarters in the city of Idlib. "To all the free people of Syria, we announce the formation of the Free Ones of the Levant Battalions," the statement said, according to a translation obtained by the Long War Journal. "We promise God, and then we promise you, that we will be a firm shield and a striking hand to repel the attacks of this criminal Al Assad army with all the might we can muster. We promise to protect the lives of civilians and their possessions from security and the Shabiha [pro-government] militia. We are a people who will either gain victory or die."
By July 2012, the group's website listed 50 units, and by mid-January 2013, the number had increased to 83 units. Most of these units are headquartered in villages in Idlib Governorate, but many others are located in Hama and Aleppo Governorates. Some Ahrar al-Sham units that have been involved in heavy fighting include the Qawafel al-Shuhada and Ansar al-Haqq Brigades (both in Khan Shaykhun), the al-Tawhid wal-Iman Brigade (Maarat al-Nu'man, Idlib), the Shahba Brigade (Aleppo City), the Hassane bin Thabet Brigade (Darat Izza, Aleppo), and the Salahaddin and Abul-Fida Brigades (both in Hama City).
Members of the group are Sunni Islamists. Ahrar al-Sham cooperates with the Free Syrian Army; however, it does not maintain ties with the Syrian National Council. Although they coordinate with other groups, they maintain their own strict and secretive leadership, receiving the majority of their funding and support from donors in Kuwait.
Ahrar al-Sham was credited for rescuing NBC News team including reporter Richard Engel, producer Ghazi Balkiz, cameraman John Kooistra and others after they were kidnapped in December 2012. While Engel initially blamed pro-Assad Shabiha militants for the abduction, it later turned out that they were "almost certainly" abducted by an FSA affiliated rebel group. There were around 500 people in Ahrar al-Sham in August 2012.
2013–2014: The Islamic FrontEdit
In December 2012, a new umbrella organization was announced, called the Syrian Islamic Front, consisting of 11 Islamist rebel organizations. Ahrar al-Sham was the most prominent of these, and a member of Ahrar al-Sham's, Abu 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Suri, served as the Front's spokesman.
In January 2013, several of the member organizations of the Syrian Islamic Front announced that they were joining forces with Ahrar al-Sham into a broader group called Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Movement of Ahrar al-Sham).
In May 2013, Ahrar al-Sham alongside Al-Nusra, ISIL and the Tawhid Brigade fought the Ghuraba al-Sham Front because of looting and corruption on behalf of Ghuraba al-Sham as well as disputes Ghuraba al-Sham had with the Aleppo Sharia Court.
In September 2013, members of ISIL killed the Ahrar al-Sham commander Abu Obeida Al-Binnishi, after he had intervened to protect a Malaysian Islamic charity; ISIL had mistaken its Malaysian flag for that of the United States.
In August 2013, members of the brigade uploaded a video of their downing of a Syrian Air Force MiG-21 over the Latakia province with a Chinese-made FN-6 MANPADS, apparently becoming the first recorded kill with such a weapon.
In mid-November 2013, after the Battle for Brigade 80 near the Aleppo International Airport, fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant beheaded a commander of Ahrar al-Sham forces, mistaking him for an Iraqi Shiite pro-government militiaman.
In December 2013, there were reports of fighting between ISIL & another Islamic rebel group in the town of Maskana, Aleppo; activists reported that the Islamic rebel group was identified as Ahrar al-Sham.
2014–2016: shifting alliances with rebels and IslamistsEdit
On 23 February 2014, one of the top commanders and al-Qaeda representative, Abu Khalid al-Suri, was killed in a suicide bombing in Aleppo, organized by ISIL. In March 2015, the Suqour al-Sham Brigade merged with Ahrar al-Sham, but left in September 2016. Later in September, Suqour al-Sham joined the Army of Conquest, a group which also has Ahrar al-Sham as a member.
September 2014: leadership killed in bomb attackEdit
On 9 September 2014, a bomb went off during a high level meeting in Idlib province, killing Hassan Abboud, the leader of the group, and 27 other senior commanders, including military field commanders, members of the group's Shura council, and leaders of allied brigades. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack. The day after the bombing Abu Jaber was announced as replacement leader. Ahrar ash-Sham received condolences from the al-Qaeda organization Nusra. Ahrar received condolences from other al-Qaeda members.
|Hassane Abboud||Head of the Political Bureau of the Islamic Front||Abu Abdullah al-Hamawi|
|Abu Yazen al-Shami||Had founded the Aleppo-based Fajr al-Islam |
|Abu Talha al-Ghab||a top military commander|
|Abu Abdulmalek al-Sharei||Head of the Islamic Sharia Council of the Islamic Front|
|Abu Ayman Al-Hamwi|
|Abu Ayman Ram Hamdan|
|Abu Sariya al-Shami||Ideologue|
|Abu Yusuf Binnish|
|Abul-Zubeir al-Hamawi||Ahrar leader in Hama|
|Abu Hamza al-Raqqa||Had founded the Aleppo-based Fajr al-Islam|
|several other leaders|
In early November 2014, representatives from Ahrar al-Sham reportedly attended a meeting with al-Nusra Front, the Khorasan Group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and Jund al-Aqsa, which sought to unite the groups against the Syrian government. However, by 14 November 2014, it was reported that the negotiations had failed.
During the night of 6 November 2014, a US airstrike targeted the group for the first time, hitting its headquarters in Idlib governorate and killing Abu al-Nasr, who was in charge of receiving weapons for the group. On 24 November 2014, a US airstrike on the ISIL headquarters building in Ma'dan, Raqqa, killed another Ahrar al-Sham fighter, who was being held prisoner by ISIL.
The New York Times reported that the pro Al-Qaeda Saudi cleric Abdullah Al-Muhaisini ordered that Christians in Idlib were not to be killed, and that Christians were being defended by Ahrar al-Sham. However, there were subsequent unconfirmed reports of Ahrar al-Sham executing two Christians in the city.
On 26 April 2015, Ahrar al-Sham, along with other major Aleppo based groups, established the Fatah Halab joint operations room.
On 14 July 2015, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at an Ahrar al-Sham Movement headquarters killing Abu Abdul Rahman Salqeen (an Ahrar al-Sham leader) and 5-6 others in Idlib province.
On 21 October 2015, the Jund al Malahim operations room was created as an alliance of Ajnad al Sham, Ahrar al-Sham and Al-Nusra in Rif Dimashq.
On 25 February 2016, a car bomb was detonated at the Russian military base in Idlib, Syria. Ahrar al-Sham claimed responsibility on their website alleging "dozens" of casualties among Russian officials. On the following day, Jaysh al-Sunna's branch in Hama merged with Ahrar al-Sham, though its northern Aleppo branch was not a part of this merger.
On 13 May 2016, Amnesty International named Ahrar al-Sham as one of the groups responsible for "repeated indiscriminate attacks that may amount to war crimes" and reported allegations of their use of chemical weapons. On 12 May 2016, Al-Nusra Front fighters attacked and captured the Alawite village of Zara'a, Southern Hama Governorate. Pro-government media reported that Ahrar al-Sham fighters were involved. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that civilians had been kidnapped and the Red Crescent reportedly confirmed that 42 civilians and seven National Defence Force (pro-government militia) fighters were killed during the militant attack. Additionally, some pro-Syrian government news sources reported that around 70 civilians, including women and children were kidnapped and taken to Al-Rastan Plains. Some of the captured were pro-government troops. A number of houses were destroyed and local property was looted following the rebel capture of the village.[better source needed]
In September 2016, Ashida'a Mujahideen Brigade left Ahrar al-Sham, apparently due to Ahrar's support of Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield and lack of willingness to be closer to al-Nusra Front.[better source needed]
On 10 December 2016, 16 Ahrar al-Sham units under Hashim Sheikh, known by the alias Abu Jaber, formed a quasi-independent group within Ahrar called Jaysh al-Ahrar, or the Free Army, for similar reasons as Ashida'a Mujahideen Brigade leaving 3 months prior.
Syrian Civil War battles and offensives
In September 2015: In collaboration with Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham overtook an Assad regime stronghold, the Abu al-Zuhur military air base in Idlib governorate.
Autumn 2015: In alliance with Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham was involved in offensives in Northern Aleppo against ISIS and in Southern Aleppo against Assad regime forces.
May and June 2016: Allied with Jabhat al-Nusra, they conducted attacks in Northern Aleppo against ISIS that initially made rapid advances but were eventually pushed back.
Spring 2016: Ahrar al-Sham was involved in heavy fighting with other Anti-ISIS rebel forces in Eastern and Western Ghouta and in the Dar'a region in southern Syria.
June 2016: In alliance with Jabhat al-Nusra and others, major offensive against Assad regime forces in Jabal al-Akrad.
2017 onwards: conflict with al-Nusra/HTSEdit
On 21 January 2017, five factions from Ahrar reportedly left to join al-Nusra Front: Jaysh al-Ahrar, al-Bara, Dhu Nurayn, al-Sawa'iq and Usud al-Har Battalion. On the same day, it was announced that Ahrar al-Sham, Suqour al-Sham Brigade, Jabhat Ahl al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam and Fastaqim Union would established a joint operations room to combat al-Nusra and its subgroup Jund al-Aqsa.[better source needed]
On 23 January 2017, the al-Nusra Front attacked Jabhat Ahl al-Sham bases in Atarib and other towns in western Aleppo. All the bases were captured and by 24 January, the group was defeated and joined Ahrar al-Sham.
On 25 January 2017, several factions from Jaysh al-Islam based in Aleppo left to join Ahrar, establishing the Ansar Regiment. On the same day, the remaining Fastaqim Union members of its Aleppo branch joined Ahrar al-Sham.
On 25 January 2017, Suqour al-Sham Brigade along with the Idlib branch of Jaysh al-Islam and the Aleppo branch of the Levant Front joined Ahrar al-Sham. On the following day, al-Miiqdad Brigade also joined Ahrar.[better source needed]
On 4 February 2017, American aircraft killed an Egyptian al-Qaeda member, Abu Hani al-Masri. He was killed in Idlib's Sarmada region by a drone strike. Egyptian Islamic Jihad was co-created by him. Thomas Joscelyn pointed out that the publication al-Masra of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula talked about Abu Hani al-Masri. He was also a military commander in Ahrar ash-Sham. In Egypt he was jailed for several years and he was in Chechnya, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Somalia. In 2012 he was released from prison in Egypt. In Chechnya, several Russian prisoners once appeared in a video with Abu Hani al-Masri.[better source needed]
On 31 July 2017, Hassan Soufan, also known by his nom de guerre "Abu al-Bara", was appointed as the leader of Ahrar al-Sham's shura council. Soufan was born in Latakia, and in 2004, Saudi Arabia extradited him to the Syrian government, which sentenced him to life imprisonment in Sednaya Prison. In December 2016, he was released as part of an agreement during which the rebels withdrew from Aleppo. Soufan was among those who temporarily split from Ahrar al-Sham as part of Jaysh al-Ahrar in the same month.
On 6 August 2017, 120 Ahrar al-Sham fighters in Arbin, Eastern Ghouta defected to the al-Rahman Legion after internal disputes. Ahrar al-Sham accused the Rahman Legion of seizing their weapons, while the Rahman Legion accused Ahrar al-Sham of their attempt to implement their "failed" experience from northern Syria in eastern Ghouta. A ceasefire agreement between the Rahman Legion and Ahrar al-Sham was implemented on 9 August.
Around 2,000 fighters in Ahrar al-Sham came from Hama. After its defeat in Idlib by Tahrir al-Sham in July 2017, territorial control by Ahrar al-Sham are confined to the al-Ghab Plain, Mount Zawiya, Ariha, and a number of villages in the northeastern Latakia Governorate and the western Aleppo Governorate.
In August 2018, Hassan Soufan resigned as leader and deputy leader Jaber Ali Basha was promoted to replace him.
Capabilities and TacticsEdit
Ahrar al-Sham is one of the best-armed and most powerful rebel factions active in the Syrian Civil War. It progressed from the use of improvised explosive devices and small-arms ambushes in early 2012 to assuming a lead role in large-scale sustained assaults on multiple fronts by 2013. The capture of materiel from the Syrian Armed Forces enabled Ahrar to regularly deploy tanks and mobile artillery and anti-tank guided missiles. It occasionally employed 1990s-era Croatian rocket and grenade launchers. Ahrar al Sham was involved in every major rebel victory over Syrian Government forces between September 2012 and mid-2013. Ahrar grew significantly by absorbing into its ranks other rebel factions from the Islamic Front and the Syrian Islamic Front which preceded it.
As of 2016[update], Ahrar al-Sham had between 10,000 and 20,000 members. When Ahrar al-Sham cooperated with Jabhat al-Nusra, it had a force strong enough for military offensives that gained control of territory and pushed back Assad forces and the Islamic State. Aside from large scale offensives, Ahrar al-Sham was known for its use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and a tactic in which they would target military bases and capture weapons. Ahrar al-Sham even has a technical division devoted to cyber attacks. There are no reports of Ahrar al-Sham engaging in suicide attacks, although it associates with groups who do.
Discussions about foreign support in the media often center on the weapons that foreign powers provide to their proxies. Money is just as important as weapons though. As soon as a soldier / rebel has to fight away from his home, the rebel group has to pay at least his sustenance, and in practice some more. For Ahrar the amount of financial aid it got from abroad might be the very reason it became so powerful. After the December 2013 suspension of all U.S. and the U.K. non-lethal support, which included medicine, vehicles, and communications equipment, to the Free Syrian Army after the Islamic Front, a coalition of Islamist fighters that broke with the American-backed Free Syrian Army, had seized warehouses of equipment. In 2014 the U.S. was considering indirectly resuming non-lethal aid to the moderate opposition by having it "funneled exclusively through the Supreme Military Council, the military wing of moderate, secular Syrian opposition" even if some of it ends up going to Islamist groups. Several European states have attempted small-level engagements with individual Ahrar al-Sham political officials in Turkey.
Ahrar al-Sham generally welcomes foreign fighters without demanding too much of them. Ahrar al-Sham encourages foreign fighters to arrive unmarried, committed to stay with the organization for six months, and prepared to pay in advance for their stay and their own weapon. While Ahrar al-Sham does not consider jihad to be a duty for all Muslims, they do consider they objective of toppling the Assad regime in Syria to be a conflict that at its core is about Muslim concerns. While foreign fighters may come from other countries, Ahrar al-Sham extends welcoming arms because they believe in a common linkage among Muslims fighting for an Islamic regime in Syria.
Donations from supporters abroad were important for Ahrar's growth. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have been reported to have actively supported Ahrar al-Sham. A statement issued by Ahrar al-Sham thanked Turkey and Qatar for their help.[better source needed] By 2013, the Kuwaiti private fund Popular Commission to Support the Syrian People, managed by Sheikh Ajmi and Sheik Irshid al-Hajri had supported Ahrar with US$400,000, for which Ahrar recorded a public thank you.
Designation as a terrorist organization and relations with other designated groupsEdit
Ahrar al-Sham is not designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, the United Nations, or the European Union. Since December 2015, the UN Security Council has been trying to assemble a list of terrorist groups in Syria. Russia, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates support classifying Ahrar al-Sham as a terrorist group, but they have not been able to achieve a unanimous consensus.
Ahrar al-Sham's relationships with U.N. designated terrorist organizations has been, and continues to be, a key point of contention in U.S. and Russian foreign relations and in their Syrian ceasefire negotiations. The U.S. Department of State has said that "Ahrar al-Sham is not a designated foreign terrorist organization". However, some U.S. officials have reportedly considered designating it as a terrorist organization because of its links to al-Qaeda subgroups such as the al-Nusra Front.
But the most important thing, frankly, is seeing if we can reach an understanding with the Russians about how to, number one, deal with Daesh and al-Nusrah. Al-Nusrah is the other group there – Jabhat al-Nusrah. They are a designated terrorist group by the United Nations. And there are a couple of subgroups underneath the two designated – Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusrah – Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham particularly – who brush off and fight with that – alongside these other two sometimes to fight the Assad regime.
before which he had said of Ahrar al-Sham that
From Orlando to San Bernardino to the Philippines and Bali, we’ve seen pictures and we’ve heard testimony of shocking crimes committed by al-Qaida, by Boko Haram, by Jaysh al-Islam, by Ahrar al-Sham, by al-Shabaab, Daesh, other groups against innocent civilians, against journalists, and against teachers particularly.
It was reported that administration officials disapproved this mention and thought that it would potentially harm the U.S. government efforts to convince the Russians and the Syrian government not to attack Ahrar al-Sham with one senior administration official reportedly saying that despite the fact that "for months, we’ve been arguing to make sure the Russians and the Syrian regime don’t equate these groups with the terrorists, Kerry's line yields that point." Explaining these comments, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said that "secretary Kerry was simply trying to describe the complexity of the situation in Syria, noting that we aren't blind to the notion that some fighters shift their loyalties." It was also reported that some Syrian groups see Kerry's comments as an example of how the Obama administration has slowly moved toward the Russian view of Syria, which includes painting all opposition groups as terrorists in order to justify attacking them.
Although Ahrar al-Sham is not officially designated as a terrorist organization in Germany, on 6 October 2016 a German court has convicted four German-Lebanese men who supplied the group in Syria of "supporting a terrorist organization", and, on 30 March 2017, two Syrian refugees who were members of Ahrar al-Sham were placed on trial in Munich, Germany for being members of a terrorist organization. According to the prosecutor, the goal of the group is to "overthrow the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and establish an Islamic regime".
On the 29th of March 2019, the criminal court in Rotterdam, the Netherlands designated Ahrar al-Sham as a terrorist organization. The judge based his decision on the period between 2013 and 2018. 
Relations with other designated groupsEdit
Abu Khalid al-Suri, a "top al-Qaeda leader", co-founded Ahrar al-Sham and was until the time of his February 2014 death, by an ISIS suicide car bomb attack, helping to lead Ahrar al-Sham which allowed Ayman Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, to influence the rebel group's actions despite the group officially having no affiliation with al-Qaeda. In 2015, Ahrar al-Sham, "whose late leader fought alongside Osama bin Laden," again denied having any links to al-Qaeda and in May 2016, the U.S., Britain, France, and Ukraine blocked a Russian proposal to the United Nations to blacklist Ahrar al-Sham as a terrorist group. The group was openly allied with its longterm partner al-Nusra Front and carried out joint operations with the group, and was in talks with it about a possible merger in mid-2016. Pro-government media reported that Ahrar al-Sham rejected the 2016 September 12 U.S.- and Russian-brokered Syrian ceasefire, citing the ceasefire's exclusion of certain Syrian rebel groups and declared solidarity with the al-Nusra Front, which is one of the groups excluded from this ceasefire.[better source needed]
However, since late 2016, Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham have been increasingly rivalrous, with military clashes between them taking place in the Idlib Governorate in January–March 2017 and July 2017.
In February 2018 Ahrar al-Sham and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement merged and formed the Syrian Liberation Front then launched an offensive against Tahrir al-Sham seizing several villages and the city of Maarrat al-Nu'man.
- Al-Iman Army
- People of the Levant Front
- Army of Mujahideen
- 19th Division
- Supporters of the Caliphate Brigade
- Ansar Al Sharia Brigade
- Abdullah Ibn El-Zubeir Brigade
- The Men of Allah Brigade
- The Martyr Mustafa Abdul-Razzaq's Brigade
- Swords of The Most Compassionate Brigade
- Khan al-Asal Free Brigades
- Ash-Shuyukh Brigade
- Muhajireen Brigade
- Supporters of the Caliphate Brigade
- Battalion of the Martyr Muhammad Sha'ban[better source needed]
- Farouq Battalion
- 5th Battalion
- Revolutionaries of Atarib Gathering
- Atarib Martyrs Brigade
- Battalion of the Martyr Alaa al-Ahmad
- Central Force for the City of Atarib
- Ansar al-Haqq Battalion
- Loyalty to God Battalion
- Shells of Justice Brigade
- 19th Division
- Army of Mujahideen
- Jaysh al-Islam (Idlib branch)
- Fastaqim Union (most members, since January 2017)
- Kurdish Islamic Front
- Liwa al-Haqq
- Katibat al-Furati
- Kataeb Atbaa al-Rasoul
- Katibat al-Ansar
- Jaysh al-Sunna (Hama branch)[better source needed]
- Levant Front (South-western Aleppo branch)
- Farouq Brigades (Binnish remnants)[better source needed]
- Omar al-Farouq Brigade
- Jaysh al-Sham
- Brigade of Conquest (Idlib branch)
- Ibn Taymiyyah battalions
- al-Miqdad ibn Amr
- Supporters of the East Regiment[better source needed]
- Martyr Usama Suno Battalion[better source needed]
- Katibat Khaled Ibn al-Walid[better source needed]
- Tahrir al-Sham elements in Northern Aleppo City outskirts
- Fajr al-Umma Brigade
- Katibat Saraya al-Fath 
- Katibat Ansar al-Huda 
- Lions of Islam Battalion[better source needed]
- Manbij Brigade (part of the TFSA, and not the SLF)
- Homs Legion (part of the TFSA, and not the SLF)
- Liwa al-Haramayn al-Sharifiyeen
- The Kurdish Pavilion
- Abu Amara Battalions
- Binaa Ummah Movement
- Dabous al-Ghab
- Lancer Corps
- Martyr Colonel Ahmed al-Omar Brigade
- Tawhid al-Asimah Brigades and Battalions
- Wa'atasimu Brigade
- Al-Adiyat Brigade
- Al-Abbas Brigade
- Al-Muhajireen wal Ansar Brigade
- Ahrar al-Homs Brigade
- Soldiers of Sunnah Brigade
- Ahrar al-Jabal Brigade
- Thuwar al-Sham
- Khattab Brigade
- Badr Brigade
- Jund al-Sham Battalions
- Al-Bishr Brigades
- Commandos of the Levant Brigade
- Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah Battalion
- Martyr Abu Dawood Battalion
- Martyr Abu al-Baraa Battalion
- Al-Ikhlas Battalion
- Al-Jabriya Martyrs Battalion
- Sinjar Martyrs Battalion
- Martyr Adnan al-Timr Battalion
- Zeitan Battalions
- Liwa Rayat al-Nasr
Groups in italics left to join Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)
- Ahrar al-Sharqiya
- Jaysh al-Ahrar (Left HTS in mid-2017 due to disagreements with the leadership becoming an independent faction, later joined the National Front for Liberation with Ahrar al-Sham in August 2018)
- Tamkeen Brigade
- Liwa Ahrar al-Jabal al-Wastani
- Conquest Brigade
- Suqour al-Sham Brigades
- Ansar al-Sham (Though joining HTS the group did come under attack from HTS in August 2018, resulting in its separation from the group.)
- Ajnad al-Sham (Temporarily joined HTS then rejoined Ahrar al-Sham in mid-2017, however the group eventually rejoined HTS thereafter.)
- Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman Battalions
- Qassem Battalion
- Lions of Tawhid Battalion
- Katibat al-Siddiq
- Martyr Ibrahim Qabbani Battalion
- Tawhid Battalion
- Martyrs of Islam Front
- Knights of the Caliphate Battalion
- Mountain Lions Battalion
- Abdullah Azzam Brigade
- Iman Brigade
- Lions of War Brigade
- Ahl al-Bayt Brigade
- Al-Majd Brigade
- Liwa Umana al-Raqqa (Joined the Syrian Democratic Forces)
- "Syria's Ahrar al-Sham Leadership Wiped Out in Bombing". Carnegie Endowment of International Peace. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- "TIME Exclusive: Meet the Islamist Militants Fighting Alongside Syria's Rebels". Time. 26 July 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "Ahrar al-Sham". Mapping Militant Organizations. Stanford University. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- Ghanmi, Elyès; Punzet, Agnieszka (11 June 2013). "The involvement of Salafism/Wahhabism in the support and supply of arms to rebel groups around the world" (PDF). European Parliament.
At the beginning of 2012 two prominent Salafi armed groups emerged: Jabhat al-Nusra (the Support Front) and Kata’ib Ahrar al-Sham (the Freemen of Syria Battalions) both of which embraced the language of jihad and called for an Islamic state based on Salafi principles (International Crisis Group, 2012).
- "أحرار الشام تحلل تبني علم الثورة كرمز وتوقعات بتبديل رايتها إليهo". Al Etihad Press. 21 June 2017.[permanent dead link]
- Lund, Aron (5 October 2012). "Holy Warriors". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- "The crowning of the Syrian Islamic Front". Foreign Policy. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- "Suicide bombing kills head of Syrian rebel group". The Daily Star. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
- "Competition among Islamists". The Economist. 20 July 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
- "Syria rebels name slain leader's replacement". Al Jazeera English. 10 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- Lund, Aron (12 September 2015). "Abu Yahia al-Hamawi, Ahrar al-Sham's New Leader". Syria Comment. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
- "Commander-in-Chief of Ahrar Al-Sham appoints his deputies and a new leader for the northern sector". Zaman al-Wasl. 4 February 2017.
- Hashem Osseiran (3 August 2017). "Why One of Syria's Biggest Rebel Groups Reordered Its Leadership". Syria Deeply.
- "Jaber Ali Basha succeeds Hassan Soufan in Ahrar Al-Sham leadership". Enab Baladi. 17 August 2018. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
- Charles Lister [@Charles_Lister] (3 February 2017). "Ahrar al-Sham has elected a new deputy leader, @JaberAliBasha - the former leader of Ahrar's Islamic Commission in…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Charles Lister [@Charles_Lister] (3 February 2017). "#pt: Ahrar al-Sham also elected a 2nd Deputy, @Anasabomalek2, who has previously held several positions in Ahrar's…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Rebels, regime made prisoner swap in Aleppo: source". Zaman al-Wasl. 21 June 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
- "Report: Airstrikes target another Islamist group in Syria". CNN. 6 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
- "List of armed formations, which joined the ceasefire in the Syrian Arab Republic on 30 December 2016". Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
- Sami Moubayed (29 January 2017). "Is Syria's Idlib being groomed as Islamist killing ground?". Asia Times. "Last January, Idlib sank into a "rebel civil war" as fighting broke out between Jabhat al-Nusra and the Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sham, a militia in the Syrian north that boasts of a powerbase of at least 20,000 fighters."
- Charles Lister (15 March 2017). "Al Qaeda Is Starting to Swallow the Syrian Opposition". Foreign Policy. "HTS and Ahrar al-Sham are the most militarily powerful, with the former likely commanding 12,000 to 14,000 fighters and the latter closer to 18,000 to 20,000."
- Aaron Y Zelin (June 2017). "How Al Qaeda survived drones, uprisings and the Islamic State" (PDF). Washington Institute for Near East Policy."Overnight [after its January 2017 expansion], Ahrar al-Sham had gained approximately 8,000 additional fighters to supplement its already large membership of 12,000."
- "The Syrian Islamic Front: A New Extremist Force". Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "Syria Comment » Archives The Dawn of Freedom Brigades: Analysis and Interview - Syria Comment". Syria Comment. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
- Aron Lund (23 March 2015). "Islamist Mergers in Syria: Ahrar al-Sham Swallows Suqour al-Sham". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
- "Leading Syrian rebel groups form new Islamic Front". BBC. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Unified Military Command for Ghotta" (PNG). Malcolmxtreme.files.wordpress.com. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
- "The wars of the Eastern Ghouta grind on". The Daily Star Newspaper.
- "Rebels launch full-on assault of Idlib city". Syria Direct. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- "Hardline Syria rebels announce merger". Agence France-Presse. 19 February 2018.
- "The Army of Islam Is Winning in Syria". Foreign Policy.
- Aron Lund (24 September 2013). "New Islamist Bloc Declares Opposition to National Coalition and US Strategy". Syria Comment. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- "Freedom, Human Rights, Rule of Law: The Goals and Guiding Principles of the Islamic Front and Its Allies". Democratic Revolution, Syrian Style. 17 May 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- "NGO: Syria jihadists kill rebels in bombing". Al Arabiya. 11 January 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- "Al Qaeda's chief representative in Syria killed in suicide attack". Long War Journal. 23 February 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
- syriaanalyst, Author (12 May 2017). "Update: Rebel Infighting in East Ghouta".
- "Syrian rebels call for regional alliance against Russia and Iran". Reuters.
- "Former Guantanamo detainee killed while leading jihadist group in Syria". Long War Journal. 4 April 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
- Jocelyn, Thomas (23 April 2015). "Al Nusrah Front, allies launch new offensives against Syrian regime". Long War Journal.
- O'Bagy, Elizabeth (2012). Middle East Security Report: Jihad in Syria (PDF). 6. Washington, DC. p. 27. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
- Lund, Aron (17 June 2013). "Freedom fighters? Cannibals? The truth about Syria's rebels". The Independent. London. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- "REPORT The Road to a Syria Peace Deal Runs Through Russia". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- "'Turkey the only one supporting us': Syrian rebel siding with Islamists on Ankara's role". rt.
- "THE SYRIAN OPPOSITION'S POLITICAL DEMANDS". Institute for Study of War.
- Chabkoun, Malak (17 September 2014). "Syrian Revolution's Path after Attacks on Ahrar al-Sham". Al Jazeera Center for Studies. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
- "Syrian rebel leader was bin Laden's courier, now Zawahiri's representative". The Long War Journal. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Spencer, Richard (20 January 2014). "Syria's duplicity over al-Qaeda means West will not trust Assad". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- Sherlock, Ruth (20 January 2014). "Syria's Assad accused of boosting Al-Qaeda with secret oil deals". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- "Statement from Zawahiri's representative shows Syrian rebel group tied to al Qaeda". 18 January 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- Zuhur, Sherifa (August 2015). "The Syrian Opposition: Salafi and Nationalist Jihadism and Populist Idealism". Contemporary Review of the Middle East. 2 (1–2): 143–163. doi:10.1177/0169796X15584034.
- "Tentative jihad: Syria's fundamentalist opposition". Middle East Report No 131. International Crisis Group. 12 October 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
- "Syrian rebels seek refuge in religion". Financial Times. 9 August 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
- Talk to Al Jazeera - Hassan Abboud: 'We will fight for our rights'. YouTube. 21 December 2013.
- الجزيرة - لقاء رئيس الهيئة السياسية في الجبهة الإسلامية - Talk To Al Jazeera - YouTube. YouTube. 22 December 2013.
- Talk to Al Jazeera. "Hassan Abboud: 'We will fight for our rights'". aljazeera.com.
- "LiveLeak.com - Talk to Al Jazeera - Hassan Abboud: 'We will fight for our rights' (comments )". liveleak.com.
- Zelin, Aaron Y.; Lister, Charles (24 June 2013). "The Crowning of the Syrian Islamic Front". The Washington Institute.
- John Rossomando (11 December 2013). "IPT Exclusive: Jihad-Supporting Imam Raised Millions on U.S. Fundraising Tour". The Investigative Project on Terrorism.
- Ghosts of Aleppo (Full Length). YouTube. 30 September 2014.
- "Jihadists in Syria honor Mullah Omar, praise Taliban's radical state". The Long War Journal.
- Westall, Sylvia (1 August 2015). Lidstone, Digby (ed.). "Syrian Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham mourns Taliban leader". Reuters. Beirut.
- "Syrian Islamist rebel group looks to the west". Financial Times. 14 August 2015.
- "Syria Talks: Rebel Negotiations In Saudi Arabia Exclude Key Players In Syrian Opposition". International Business Times, 13 December 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- "Syria: Abductions, torture and summary killings at the hands of armed groups". Amnesty International. 5 July 2016.
- Heller, Sam (6 June 2016). "How Ahrar al-Sham Has Come to Define the Kaleidoscope of the Syrian Civil War". War on the Rocks. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
- ""Ahrar al-Sham" adopt "unified Arab law" in the courts". Enab Baladi. 18 June 2017.
- Holdo, Markus (March 2016). "Post-Islamism and fields of contention after the Arab Spring: feminism, Salafism and the revolutionary youth". Third World Quarterly. 38 (8): 1800–1815. doi:10.1080/01436597.2016.1233492.
- Blanford, Nicholas (10 October 2013). "Jihadis may want to kill Assad. But is he lucky to have them?". csmonitor.com. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
- Bar, Herve (13 February 2013). "Ahrar al-Sham jihadists emerge from shadows in north Syria". The Daily Star. Beirut. AFP. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
- Bill Roggio (26 February 2012). "Al Nusrah Front claims suicide attack in Syria". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
- Lund, Aron (March 2013). "Syria's salafi insurgents: The rise of the Syrian Islamic Front" (PDF). Swedish Institute of International Affairs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 March 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- Spencer, Richard (16 August 2012). "British convert to Islam vows to fight to the death on Syrian rebel front line". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
- Abouzeid, Rania (18 September 2012). "Syrian Anti-Assad Rebel Groups Funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar". Time. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Going Rogue: Bandits and Criminal Gangs Threaten Syria's Rebellion". Time. 30 July 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
- Ravi Somaiya; C. J. Chivers; Karam Shoumali (15 April 2015). "NBC News Alters Account of Correspondent's Kidnapping in Syria". Retrieved 8 December 2015.
- Spencer, Richard. "British convert to Islam vows to fight to the death on Syrian rebel front line". Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
- "Islamic Forces In Syria Announce Establishment Of Joint Front Aimed At Toppling Assad, Founding Islamic State; Syrian Website Urges Them To Incorporate All Islamic Forces In Country". MEMRI. 26 December 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
- Luca, Ana Maria (11 November 2013). "Message from Ayman al-Zawahiri". NOW News. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
- Jeremy Binnie (18 August 2013). "Hardline Islamists down Syrian jet with Chinese MANPADS - IHS Jane's 360". Janes.com. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Spencer, Richard (14 November 2013). "Al-Qaeda-linked rebels apologise after cutting off head of wrong person". Telegraph. London. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- "ISIS accidentally beheads allied rebel fighter". Al Bawaba. 14 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "تغريدات للشيخ(أبو عبد الملك)شرعي أحرار الشام عن (الجبهة الإسلامية)". Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Barbara Surk (10 December 2013). "Syrian army pounds rebels near Lebanon border". Associated Press. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
- "Avashin ISIS kills number of Ahrar Al Sham… | YALLA SOURIYA". Yallasouriya.wordpress.com. 10 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
- "#BREAKING: Intense clashes between #ISIS and Ahrar al-Sham in Maskana town #Aleppo north of #Syria to seize control on Jarah Airport : zaidbenjamin". Inagist.com. 9 December 2013. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
- "Top al-Qaeda operative killed in Syria attack". Al Arabiya. 23 February 2014. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
- "اندماج حركتي أحرار الشام وصقور الشام".
- "Islamist Mergers in Syria: Ahrar al-Sham Swallows Suqour al-Sham". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
- "Sham Hawks Brigade split from the Islamic Movement of the Free Levant". Eldorar. 3 September 2016.
- "(The Hawks) return to (the army of conquest)". All4Syria. 28 September 2016.
- "Syria rebels name slain leader's replacement". Al Jazeera English. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
- Syrian Civil War: 'At Least 45' Killed as Blast Hits Meeting of Islamist Insurgents International Business Times. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 2014-09-09.
- Joscelyn, Thomas (10 September 2014). "Al Nusrah Front releases eulogy commemorating Ahrar al Sham leaders". Long War Journal. Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- Joscelyn, Thomas (9 September 2014). "Al Qaeda members mourn Ahrar al Sham, Islamic Front leaders on Twitter". Long War Journal. Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- "Abu Yahia al-Hamawi, Ahrar al-Sham's New Leader". 12 September 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
The Aleppo-based Fajr al-Islam faction created by Abu Hamza and Abu Yazen
- Joscelyn, Thomas (9 September 2014). "Head of Islamic Front, other senior leaders killed in explosion". Long War Journal. Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- "AP sources: IS, al-Qaida reach accord in Syria". 13 November 2014. Archived from the original on 16 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
- Master. "Negotiations failed between the IS, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic battalions". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Archived from the original on 19 December 2014.
- "US-led air strikes hit al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria". Reuters. 6 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
- "US-led air strikes on Syria ISIL targets 'kill 1,600'". Al-Jazeera. 23 February 2014. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
- "An Anxious Wait in Syrian City Held by Insurgents". The New York Times. 31 March 2015.
- Master. "The leading figure in Jabhat al- Nusra Abdullah al- Muhaysini calls for the clarion call and promises of heroics in the confrontations between the Russians and Muslims". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights.
- "Syrian Rebel Group Ahrar al-Sham Executes Christians in "Liberated" Idlib - PJ Media". PJ Media.
- "Assyrian Observatory: Ahrar al-Sham Movement executes Christian man and son in Syria's Idlib - (MCN)". mcndirect.com. Archived from the original on 25 November 2015.
- "7 fighters, including Abu Abdul Rahman Salqeen a leader in Ahrar al-Sham, killed in a Salqeen city". 14 July 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- "Twin suicide attack kills senior rebel leader in northern Syria". 15 July 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- Lund, Aron (12 September 2015). "Abu Yahia al-Hamawi, Ahrar al-Sham's New Leader". Syria Comment. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
- El Deeb, Sarah (30 November 2016). "The Latest: Turkey says 2 soldiers missing in Syria". AP. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
- "Officially , "Abu Amara" battalion joins Ahrar al-Sham and calls on Aleppo factions to Unify". Eldorar. 20 October 2015.
- Joscelyn, Thomas (25 October 2015). "Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham, Ajnad al Sham form anti-Russian alliance in Damascus countryside". Long War Journal.
- Rabinovich, Abraham. "Jihadi Factions in Syria Claim to Have Killed Several Russian Officers in Car Bomb Explosion". Free Beacon. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
- archicivilians [@archicivilians] (26 February 2016). "#Syria: Jaysh al-S unna (+500 fighters) joined Ahrar al-Sham Movement (largest Syrian Opposition Islamist force)" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "The Army of the Sunnah and the movement of Ahrar Al Sham are the "Army of Faith" in the center and north of Syria". ARA News. 27 February 2016.
- "Syria: armed opposition group committing war crimes in Aleppo - new evidence". Amnesty International UK. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- "Rebels seize Alawite village in Syria, abduct civilians: Observatory". Reuters. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- Ahrar al-Sham"Syrian opposition forces massacre, kidnap 120 civilians in southern Hama". Al-Masdar News. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "Islamists agree to hand over corpses of civilians massacred in northern Homs". Al-Masdar News. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "French MP Condemns 'Moderates' Massacre in Alawite Village in Syria". Sputnik News. 16 May 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- "International Military Review – Syria, 13 May 2016". South Front blog. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
- izat [@ischark] (21 September 2016). "Ashida'a Mujahideen Brigade abandons Ahrar Al-Sham because it no longer trusts its Sharia council due to their supp…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Aron Lund [@aronlund] (10 February 2017). "In Oct. 2016, he lauded Ahrar as a counterweight to a full jihadi takeover—you'll never believe what happened next!…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Split lid integration within the "Islamic Ahrar al-Sham" movement". Enab Baladi. 10 December 2016.
- Lund, Aron (14 December 2016). "Divided, they may fall". Diwan. Carnegie Middle East Center. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
- Anzalone, Christopher (Spring 2016). "The Multiple Faces of Jabhat al-Nusra/Jabhat Fath al-Sham in Syria's Civil War". Insight Turkey. 18: 41–50 – via ProQuest.
- Aymenn J Al-Tamimi [@ajaltamimi] (21 January 2017). "#Syria: Four Ahrar al-Sham battalions reportedly defect to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Ahrar Al Sham, Jaish Al Mujahideen, Suqour Sham, Fastaqum, Jaish Islam establish joint operation room to fight Jund Aqsa/JFS • /r/syriancivilwar".
- "Suqor al-Sham leader @aleesa71 blames JFS for protecting "ISIS" (Jund al-Aqsa) & makes clear the near to "eradicate" the threat in Idlib • /r/syriancivilwar".
- "جيش المجاهدين يعلن انضمامه لحركة أحرار الشام - وكالة قاسيون للأنباء".
- Putintin [@putintintin1] (25 January 2017). "groups are (Zoubair Ibn Awam,Captain Jalal,Martyr Hassan Bakour,Allahu Akbar,Dera al-Ummah) battalions #Syria" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Tamer Osman (8 February 2017). "Syrian rebel groups see necessity in consolidating ranks". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
- Syrian Rebellion Obs [@Syria_Rebel_Obs] (26 January 2017). "#SRO - As #JFS leading its war in #Idlib gov', many factions seeking refuge inside Ahrar ash-Sham : these five sunn…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Michael Horowitz [@michaelh992] (26 January 2017). "Another Brigade initially from Darayya also joins Ahrar al-Sham #Syria" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "US says it killed 11 al-Qaeda operatives in Syria air strikes". BBC News.
- BBC (9 February 2017). "US 'kills Osama Bin Laden ally in Syria'". The Star, Kenya.
- Gaydos, Ryan (9 February 2017). "US airstrike in Syria kills Al Qaeda leader with ties to bin Laden, Pentagon says". Fox News.
- Yusha Yuseef 🇸🇾 [@MIG29_] (4 February 2017). "Abo Hani Al-Masri , Egyptian , military commander in Ahrar ALsham killed by US Drone strike in Sarmada in Edlib CS" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Comments". Facebook. الاعلام الحربي المركزي. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
- Joscelyn, Thomas (8 February 2017). "Pentagon: 11 al Qaeda terrorists killed in airstrikes near Idlib, Syria". Long War Journal. Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- "New issue of Anṣār al-Sharī'ah in the Arabian Peninsula's newspaper: "al-Masrā #39"". Jihadology. 8 February 2017.
- Thomas Joscelyn [@thomasjoscelyn] (8 February 2017). "2. *Key Point*: Jihadis identified Abu Hani al Masri as one of Ahrar al Sham's military leaders. See, for example:" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- John Arterbury [@JohnArterbury] (8 February 2017). "Egyptian media reports via activists al-Masri was Afghan, Bosnia, Chechnya vet who spent time in Egyptian prison" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Putintin [@putintintin1] (4 February 2017). "#Syria Abu Hani al-Masri a commander in Ahrar al-Sham was killed in coalition airstrike today near Batbo,he has bee…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Putintin [@putintintin1] (4 February 2017). "#سوريا القيادي في احرار الشام ابو هاني المصري الذي قتل في غارة لطيران التحالف اليوم قرب باتبو شمال ادلب" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Putintin [@putintintin1] (4 February 2017). "he was Egyptian Jihadi in Afghanistan,Somalian and Chechen who was imprisoned in Egypt and released in 2012 then joined Ahrar al-Sham" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Twitter. 4 February 2017 https://web.archive.org/web/20170210012303/https://twitter.com/warathat_almjd/status/828012792225624070. Archived from the original on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2017. Missing or empty
- "Jihadists take control of major Syrian city". Mail Online. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
- "Security tension in Al-Ghouta after the joining of a battalion of "Ahrar Al Sham" to "Corps of the Lord"". Asharq al-Awsat. 7 August 2017.
- "The split of dozens of elements from the free Cham and their joining the "Corps of Rahman"". El-Dorar al-Shamia. 6 August 2017.
- "The agreement terms implemented with Failaq al-Rahman , Senior commander of Ahrar al-Sham tells AlDorar". Al-Dorar al-Shamia. 10 August 2017.
- Tariq Abu Ziad (12 November 2017). ""Ahrar Al Sham" retreats to the role of observer". Enab Baladi.
- "Officially , "Abu Amara" battalion joins Ahrar al-Sham and calls on Aleppo factions to Unify - Eldorar Alshamia".
- "ألوية صقور الشام تنفصل عن حركة أحرار الشام الإسلامية". 3 September 2016.
- "Ahrar al-Sham". Stanford University. 5 August 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
- "US and UK suspend non-lethal aid for Syria rebels". BBC News. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
- Mark Landler (9 January 2015). "U.S. Considers Resuming Nonlethal Aid to Syrian Opposition". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
- "Syrian Islamists reach out to the U.S., but serious issues remain". Brookings Institution.
- Greenwood, Maja (Winter 2017). "Islamic State and al-Qaeda's Foreign Fighters". Connections: The Quarterly Journal. 16: 87–97 – via ProQuest.
- "Gulf allies and 'Army of Conquest". Al-Ahram Weekly. 28 May 2015.
- Hassan Ridha [@sayed_ridha] (24 August 2015). "AhrarSham releases statement regarding its stance on the political situation in #Syria" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Private money pours into Syrian conflict as rich donors pick sides". The Washington Post. 15 June 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
Ahar al-Sham, considered one of the most radical of the Syrian Islamist militias, recorded a similar public thank-you for $400,000 the group says it received from the same fund. In its Web posting, the group specifically thanked Ajmi and Hajri
- Syrian villagers describe massacre by militant group spared from UN terror blacklist (EXCLUSIVE), RT
- "List of terror groups published by UAE". Gulf News. 16 November 2014.
- Miles, Tom and Irish, John. "Syrian terrorist list produces 163 names and no agreement." Reuters, 17 Feb. 2016
- "Russia Urges Syrian Rebels to Separate From 'Terrorists'". The New York Times. Associated Press. 14 September 2016. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- "Daily Press Briefing". U.S. Department of State. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
- "Remarks at the Aspen Ideas Festival and Conversation with Walter Isaacson". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- "Kerry touts the Russian line on Syrian rebel groups". Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- "Daily Press Briefing - 12 July 2016". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 October 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Germany convicts 4 of supporting terrorist group in Syria, By Associated Press 6 October Washington Post
- Wladimir van Wilgenburg (31 March 2017). "Syrian Ahrar al-Sham members on trial in Germany for terrorism". ARA News.
- "Al-Qaeda's Abu Khaled al-Suri killed by suicide bomb in Syria". Daily Mail. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
- Aryn Baker (24 February 2014). "Al Qaeda's Top Envoy Killed in Syria by Rival Rebel Group". Time. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
The Syrian-born al-Suri had another role in helping lead one of the most effective fighting groups in Syria today, the Ahrar al-Sham brigade. Officially, Ahrar al-Sham has no affiliation with al-Qaeda, but Zawahiri was able to influence the rebel group's actions through al-Suri. It was a savvy management move that gave al-Qaeda flexibility on the Syrian front.
- "Russia blocked in bid to blacklist Syria rebels". Al Arabiya Network. Reuters. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
Ahrar al-Sham, whose late leader fought alongside Osama bin Laden, last year denied sharing al Qaeda's ideology or having organizational ties to the group.
- "Russian attempt to blacklist Syria's Islamist rebels blocked". The New Arab. 11 May 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
- Josh Wood. "Syria truce threatened by Nusra's growing acceptance among rebels". The National. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
The powerful Islamist group Ahrar Al Sham, a longtime ally of Fatah Al Sham that has recently been in talks about a merger, has also rejected the ceasefire.
- "As Syria truce holds, Al-Qaeda affiliate denounces it". Al Arabiya Network. Associated Press. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
A Jabhat Fatah al-Sham commander in the northern province of Aleppo told The Associated Press the group could announce its merger with the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham group "in the near future." He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak publicly about the talks. A senior Ahrar al-Sham official also confirmed the talks, adding that such a merger would cover a large number of factions, not just his group. "The merger will not be bilateral. ... It is a project to unify the factions on the battlefield. If it holds, all factions will melt into one," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing.
- Leith Fadel (9 September 2016). "Ahrar Al-Sham officially rejects Syrian ceasefire". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
- Islamist factions in Syria join forces with al Qaeda affiliate, Deutsche Welle, 28.01.2017
- Haid Haid Why Ahrar al-Sham couldn't stand up to HTS's attack in Idlib, Chatham House, August 2017
- "Ten brigades and battalions of the FSA join Jaysh al Mujahideen • /r/syriancivilwar".
- Chris Tomson AlMasdar (23 May 2016). "Free Syrian Army factions in northern Aleppo merge to Jaish al-Mujahideen" – via YouTube.
- @Syria_Rebel_Obs (25 January 2017). "As JFS leading its war in Idlib gov', many factions seeking refuge inside Ahrar ash-Sham : these five sunni factions merged in it" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Al Maqalaat Pubs on Twitter".[permanent dead link]
- الجناح الكوردي [@aljanahalkurdy] (29 January 2017). "#الجناح_الكوردي #أحرار_الشام ❌ لاصحة لما تتداوله بعض وسائل الإعلام عن إنضمام الجناح الكوردي لهيئة تحرير الشام❌ #الجناح_الكوردي_لأحرار_الشام" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "New statement from Ḥarakat Aḥrār al-Shām al-Islāmīyyah: "About the Joining of a Constellation of Major Factions To Our Group"". Jihadology. 26 January 2017.
- "Farouk Brigades Joins Ahrar Al-Sham Movement - Qasion News Agency".
- "FSA-affiliated group joins Al-Qaeda coalition; making it the largest militant group in Syria". 21 March 2017.
- archicivilians [@archicivilians] (29 January 2017). "Note: The main #AhrarAlSham force is Al-Eman Army, which is considered as Ahrar's main body, included in this…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Omar Farouq Brigade calls on Muslims to wage jihad in Syria - FDD's Long War Journal".
- "Are Syria's Salafi movements witnessing a split?". 13 November 2015.
- "Sham Army". YouTube.
- "Jaysh al-Sham to join the Islamic Movement of Ahrar al-Sham". en.eldorar.com.
- "Jaish al-Sham: An Ahrar al-Sham Offshoot or Something More?".
- "New mergers in northern #Syria". en.eldorar.com.
- "Several military formations join of Ahrar al-Sham". en.eldorar.com.
- "Trouble in paradise: Jihadist faction defects from Al-Qaeda to Ahrar Al-Sham". 26 June 2017.
- oreusser [@AllyOfTruth] (30 July 2017). "Martyr Usama Suno battalion announces renewal of its allegiance to Ahrar al-Sham, operating in #Idlib" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- كودي روش [@badly_xeroxed] (14 October 2017). "#FSA Liberation of #Syria Front: 6 groups that defected from #HTS form new group" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Integration of "the dawn of the nation" with "free Sham" East Balgoth Rural Damascus". Qasioun News Agency. 12 May 2017. Archived from the original on 19 October 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
- ""لواء الفتح" يعلن انضمامه لـ"الجبهة الشامية" في حلب" [The "Fatah Brigade" announces that it joins the Levant Front in Aleppo]. SMART News Agency. 8 March 2017. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
Terrorist incidents attributed to Ahrar al-Sham in the Global Terrorism Database- https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/search/Results.aspx?chart=attack&casualties_type=&casualties_max=&perpetrator=40140