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The al-Tawhid Brigade (Arabic: لواء التوحيد‎, romanizedLiwa al-Tawhid, lit. 'Brigade of Oneness'), named after Tawhid, the "oneness of God," but often mistranslated as Unity Brigade, was an armed Islamist insurgent group involved in the Syrian Civil War.

al-Tawhid Brigade
لواء التوحيد
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Official logo of the Tawhid Brigade
Official logo of the Tawhid Brigade
Active18 July 2012—2014 (central group, some remnants still use the name)
IdeologySunni Islamism
  • Free North Brigade
  • Mountain Knights Brigade
  • Darat Izza Brigade
  • Aleppo Shahba Battalions
  • Northern Storm Brigade
  • 1st Regiment
  • Abdul Qader Saleh [1][2]
    (Top Commander July 2012–November 2013)
  • Adnan Bakkour [3]
    (Top Commander November 2013–January 2014)
  • Abdelaziz Salameh[4]
    (Top Commander January 2014-?)
  • Maj. Mohammed Hamadeen[5]
    (Free North Brigade)
  • Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi
  • Col. Yusef al-Jader [6]
    (Senior commander in Aleppo)
  • Yussef al-Abbas [1]
    (Intelligence chief)
HeadquartersAleppo, Mare', and Tell Rifaat
Area of operations of Syria[7]
Size10,000 (own claim) (Nov 2012)[8]
11,000 (Oct 2013)[9]
Part of
Merger of
  • Free North Brigade
  • Mountain Knights Brigade
  • Darat Izza Brigade
  • Aleppo Shahba Battalions
Allies Qatar
al-Nusra Front(unitil 2013) [9][13]
Ahrar ash-Sham[14]
Jaysh al-Islam[14]
Sham Legion[15]
Kurdish Front (2014)[16]
People's Protection Units (sometimes, 2014)[11]
 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (2013)[17]
Opponent(s) Syria
Ghuraba al-Sham Front [13]
 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (2014)[15]
People's Protection Units (2012–2014)[18]
Battles and war(s)Syrian Civil War

The al-Tawhid Brigade was formed in 2012.[19][20] Reportedly backed by Qatar,[21] al-Tawhid was considered one of the biggest groups in northern Syria, dominating much of the insurgency around Aleppo.[20]

Affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood,[6][9] in late 2013 it co-signed a joint statement calling for Sharia law and rejecting the authority of the Syrian National Coalition.[22]

Originally, al-Tawhid was composed of four subunits, the Mountain Knights Brigade, the Darat Izza Brigade, the Free North Brigade, and the Aleppo Shahba Battalions.[5]

Its leader Abdul Qader Saleh was killed in November 2013 in a devastating Syrian Air Force airstrike.[23] Its northern branch, the Free North Brigade, was in 2014 reportedly "superseded" by the Northern Sun Battalion (Shams al-Shamal).[24]


The Tawhid Brigade consisted was organized into three branches:

  • The Free North Brigade, as the largest subunit of the Tawhid Brigade, was present in the Kilis Corridor and took over the leadership of several subunits in al-Bab to the east of Aleppo. On 16 June 2017, remnants of the group using its name joined the Sham Legion.[25]
  • The Mountain Knights Brigade operated in the southwest of Aleppo Governorate near the border with the Idlib Governorate and the city of Atarib.
  • The Darat Izza Brigade, named after the town of Darat Izza, operated in the western part of the city of Aleppo.[5]

Around June 2013 the Tawhid Brigade was reorganised into nearly 30 sub-factions.[26]

In November 2013, the Elite Islamic Battalion left the Tawhid Brigade.[27]

On 2 March 2014, the Northern Storm Brigade announced that they would join the Islamic Front under the leadership of the al-Tawhid Brigade.[28] Also in 2014, the Euphrates Jarabulus Battalions left to join the Dawn of Freedom Brigades.

At some point the 1st Regiment was a member group of the Tawhid Brigade.



The al-Tawhid Brigade was formed in 2012 in order to coordinate the Battle of Aleppo,[19] with the stated mission to found a "civil state in Syria with Islam being the main source of legislation."[20]


Fighters of the al-Tawhid Brigade deface an image of President Bashar al-Assad on the road between Hama and Raqqa on 27 March 2013.

In November 2012, the Tawhid Brigade announced their support for the Syrian National Coalition but called for greater representation in the coalition. The brigade's leadership called for "a civil state where the basis of legislation is the Islamic faith, with consideration for all the [minority] groups of Syria". They thereby implicitly rejected an earlier statement they had made, with other local factions, which had called for an Islamic state in Syria and denouncing the Syrian National Coalition.[8][29]

In January 2013, the Tawhid Brigade announced on its website that it had become a member of the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front.[30]

In May 2013, the hell cannon, a mortar-like improvised firearm designed and built by the insurgent group Free North Brigade, was first noted in the press.[31]

In June 2013, Tawhid Brigade sent over 300 fighters under the command of Saleh and the Aleppo Military Council's Obaidi to the Battle of al-Qusayr.[32]

In August 2013, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, the Suqour al-Sham Brigade, and the al-Tawhid Brigade announced that they would besiege the YPG-held city of Kobanî. However, infighting between the groups erupted in January 2014 and some of them began to align with the YPG under the name of the Euphrates Islamic Liberation Front. In March 2014, ISIL captured Sarrin and several other towns and villages from the YPG and the EILF. Clashes continued through May 2014.[33]

On 22 September 2013, the Tawhid Brigade joined the Islamic Front coalition. The group was formed largely from the Syrian Islamic Front and the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, both of which were officially dissolved in the process.[34]

On 24 September 2013, the Tawhid Brigade co-signed a statement with 11 other rebel groups which called for Sharia law and, allying with al-Qaeda, rejected the authority of the Syrian National Coalition.[22]


A T-62 main battle tank operated by the Tawhid Brigade in Tell Rifaat, September 2013.

On 14 November 2013, a Syrian Air Force airstrike bombarded an army base held by the al-Tawhid brigade in Aleppo killing a commander by the name of Youssef al-Abbas also injuring two others including al-Tawhid's head commander Abdul Qader Saleh.[35] Saleh subsequently died of his wounds in a Turkish hospital.[36]

Following the death of Saleh, the Tawhid Brigade reportedly suffered serious internal divisions and lost considerable members in defections to other rebel factions. They also experienced a sharp reduction in military assistance from Gulf states, due to US pressure to support more moderate rebel groups.[37][38]

On 10 September 2014, the Tawhid Brigade's eastern branch became a founding member group of the Euphrates Volcano operations room based in Kobanî.[11] By October 2014, al-Tawhid had seen many of its eastern Aleppo province affiliates becoming defunct but re-emerging as break-off groups, and its northern branch Free North Brigade being "superseded" by the Northern Sun Battalion (Shams al-Shamal).[24] Some remnants of the Tawhid Brigade near Azaz allied itself with the People's Protection Units and received equipment and training from the CIA in late 2014.[39]

Their fighters became a core part of the Levant Front as of 2015.[40] However, in October 2016, 4 "battalions" of rebels in Aleppo using the flag of the Tawhid Brigade left the Levant Front and joined the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement.[41]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Syria air strike hits Islamist brigade leadership Al Ahram (AFP), 15 November 2013
  2. ^ Top Syrian rebel commander dies from wounds (Reuters), 18 November 2013
  3. ^ Al-Qaeda fighters kill Syrian rebel leaders Al-Jazeera, 2 February 2014
  4. ^ "The Levant Front: Can Aleppo's Rebels Unite?". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 26 December 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Jeffrey Bolling (29 August 2012). "Rebel Groups in northern Aleppo Province" (PDF). Institute for the Study of War.
  6. ^ a b "Free Syrian Army top commander killed in Syria's Aleppo". Al-Ahram. 15 December 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  7. ^ "A Dunon on Twitter".
  8. ^ a b Atassi, Basma (20 November 2012). "Aleppo rebels retract rejection of coalition". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
  9. ^ a b c "The Story of Al-Tawhid Brigade: Fighting for Sharia in Syria". Al-Monitor (As-Safir). 22 October 2013. Archived from the original on 25 September 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  10. ^ "Syria - The Free Syrian Army". Vice. 22 December 2012. Archived from the original on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  11. ^ a b c Jonathan Steele (12 September 2014). "Syrian Kurdish leader hails 'Euphrates Volcano' fight against IS". Middle East Eye.
  12. ^ "The Revolutionary Command Council: Rebel Unity in Syria?". Carnegie Endowment of International Peace. 1 December 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Warring Syrian rebel groups abduct each other's members". Times of Israel. 18 May 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  14. ^ a b Aron Lund (24 September 2013). "New Islamist Bloc Declares Opposition to National Coalition and US Strategy". Syria Comment. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  15. ^ a b "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.
  16. ^ van Wilgenburg, Wladimir (27 March 2014). "Syrian Kurds, rebels find common enemy in ISIS". Al Monitor. Archived from the original on 28 March 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  17. ^ Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (10 October 2013). "Analyzing Events in Azaz: A Detailed Look At ISIS' Takeover".
  18. ^ "Syrian Rebels Clash With Kurdish Militias". Al Monitor. 9 June 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  19. ^ a b Panell, Ian (30 July 2012). "Syria: Fear and hunger amid battle for Aleppo". BBC. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  20. ^ a b c "Liwaa al-Tawhid Brigade". Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  21. ^ Syrian air raid kills rebel commander in Aleppo: activists Reuters, 14 November 2013
  22. ^ a b Bill Roggio (26 September 2013). "Free Syrian Army units ally with al Qaeda, reject Syrian National Coalition, and call for sharia". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  23. ^ Sly, Liz; Morris, Loveday (18 November 2013). "Syrian rebel leader Abdul Qader Saleh dies of injuries sustained in airstrike". The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  24. ^ a b Joshua Landis (2 October 2014). "The Dawn of Freedom Brigades: Analysis and Interview". Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  25. ^ "Brigade North are free to announce joining the Sham Corps". Qasioun News Agency. 16 June 2017. Archived from the original on 19 June 2017. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  26. ^ Lund, Aron (27 August 2013). "The Non-State Militant Landscape in Syria". CTC Sentinel. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  27. ^ "Tawhid Brigade dismisses 6 battalions over shariah breaches SYRIA NEWS - ZAMAN ALWSL".
  28. ^ "Northern Storm joins Tawhid Brigade". The Daily Star. 5 March 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  29. ^ Lund, Aron (4 December 2012). "Aleppo and the Battle for the Syrian Revolution's Soul". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  30. ^ "انضمام لواء التوحيد لجبهة تحرير سوريا الاسلامية". Official Website (in Arabic)
  31. ^ Brown Moses (23 May 2013). "DIY Weapons In Syria - The Hell Cannon". Brown Moses Blog. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  32. ^ "Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo sends support units to al-Qusayr Anadolu Agency". Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  33. ^ Joseph Sax (19 September 2014). "YPG and Rebel Forces Challenge ISIS in Northern Syria". Institute for the Study of War. Archived from the original on 19 February 2017.
  34. ^ "Islamists forge Syria's rebel alliance". SBS World News.
  35. ^ "Syrian air raid kills rebel commander in Aleppo: activists". 15 November 2016 – via Reuters.
  36. ^ Top Syrian rebel commander dies from wounds
  37. ^ "As ISIS closes in, is it game over for Syria's opposition in Aleppo?". CNN. 15 August 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  38. ^ "Too Big to Fall". Foreign Policy. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2014.(subscription required)
  39. ^ Amberin Zaman (16 September 2014). "Fight against IS helps PKK gain global legitimacy". Al-Monitor. Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  40. ^ "Syrian Civil War factions".
  41. ^ @Syria_Rebel_Obs (15 October 2016). "Liwa al-Tawhid (ONLY 4 battalions who defected from Jabhat ash-Shamiyah, retaking old brigade name) joining Nur ad-Din Zenki in #Aleppo" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

External linksEdit