Guardians of Religion
Established By: Abu Julaybib, Abu Humam al-Shami;
Also Known As: Hurras Al-Din; Al-Qaida in Syria; Sham Al-Ribat; Tandhim Hurras Al-Deen; Tanzim Hurras Al-Din; Tanzim Hurras ad-Din; AQ-S;
Country Of Origin: Syria;
Leaders: Khalid al-Aruri, Abu Humam al-Shami;
Key Members: Khalid al-Aruri, Abu Humam al-Shami;
Operational Area: Syria, Iraq;
Number Of Members: 2,000-3,000;
Involved In: Armed Attacks, Suicide bomb attacks, Bomb Attacks;
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The Guardians of Religion Organization is an armed insurgent group affiliated with Al-Qaeda and fighting in the Syrian Civil War. The head of the group, Abu Humam al-Shami, was formerly a member of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and previously the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria between 2013 and 2016.
Abu Jilibib Tubas and Abu Khadija al-Urduni, members of the Guardians of Religion’s shura council, left Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in 2016 due to its reported disassociation from al-Qaeda. Tubas, al-Shami, and Sami al-Oraydi were arrested by HTS in November 2017, in an attempt to stave off the formation of another al-Qaeda affiliated group in Syria.
Also, in November 2017, Jaysh al-Badia and Jaysh al-Malahim were formed. The group also rejects infighting against other groups, but has had some tensions with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham on a few occasions.
In February 2018, the group stated that it is opposed to the fighting between the Syrian Liberation Front and Tahrir al-Sham. Jaysh al-Sahel said that it will fight the SLF if “Muhambal, Bisanqul, and Kafr Shalaya” are attacked.
On 26 April 2018, the Guardians of Religion Organization, along with Ansar al-Tawhid, (a Jund al-Aqsa faction) and Jaysh al-Izza, launched an offensive against Syrian Government forces in the northern countryside of the Hama Governorate.
On 12 October 2018, the Russian government’s reconciliation center in Syria accused the group of hoarding materials needed to develop chemical weapons for a false flag attack as well as being an ISIL affiliate.
Along with Russian officials accusing the group of being an ISIL affiliate Iraqi media has claimed the group is also an ISIL affiliate operating along the Syrian-Iraqi border, however the group’s base of operations is in the Idlib governorate of Syria, the group has not claimed any attacks out side of this region nor have any other reports of activity outside of opposition held areas in Northwestern Syria been reported.
On 15 October 2018, the group published a video filmed in Saraqib which showed the group’s religious police, the hisbah, driving around the city with loudspeakers calling on people to adhere to sharia.
On 29 December 2018, one of the groups founders, named Abu Julaybib, was killed by government forces in the Daraa Governorate as he was preparing to help launch an insurgency in southern Syria.
On 30 June 2019, in a rare operation against non-ISIL elements, the U.S. carried out a strike against an al-Qaeda in Syria (AQ-S) leadership meeting at a training facility west of Aleppo, which killed eight jihadists from the Guardians of Religion Organization, including six commanders: two Tunisians, two Algerians, an Egyptian and a Syrian.
It was the first known U.S. strike in western Syria since February 2017 due to the U.S. and Russia arranging an unofficial deconfliction boundary that largely bars any substantial U.S. forces from venturing into the region. The U.S. did not specify what assets were used in the strike.
On 31 August 2019, the U.S. carried out a series of airstrikes on a Rouse the Believers Operations Room meeting between Kafriya and Maarrat Misrin, killing over 40 Guardians of Religion militants, including several leaders.
Shura council members:
– Abu Jilibib Tubas
– Abu Khadija al-Urduni
– Sami al-Oraydi
– Abu al-Qasem
– Abu Abdul al-Rahman al-Maki
– Saif al-Adel
It is thought by the Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center that the formation of the group will weaken HTS. Alexander Sehmer of the Jamestown Foundation has stated that Guardians of the Religion Organization gives Al Qaeda the best opportunity to improve its fortunes in Syria.