The A'isha Umm al-Mu'mineen Battle of Latakia in 2013: Archive of 'Martyrs' and New Details
With the passing of time, documentation of the early years of the Syrian civil war often found on social media sites is increasingly at risk of deletion and thus being lost. This would mean that future analysts and historians would have much less information to access than those who were observing events at the time via the Internet. Fortunately, however, there are still some efforts to preserve detailed documentation and accounts of early events in the Syrian civil war. It is important that these efforts be maintained and archived. Not only do they preserve old details that might otherwise have been lost, but they can also provide new information and perspectives that were not available to observers at the time.
In August, the Telegram channel “Archive of the Battles and Martyrs of the Syrian Sahel” (Sahel referring to the Syrian coastal provinces of Latakia and Tartous) posted a detailed account of the ‘A’isha Umm al-Mu’mineen Battle’ that was launched by insurgents in the Latakia countryside in August 2013. The expedition is distinguished for the fact that it resulted in the killings of hundreds of Alawites . In addition, there was a notable role of jihadist groups in the expedition, including the participation of what was then the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which according to this account had its representative play the role of second deputy military commander for the battle and deployed a number of inghimasis (commandos who plunge into the enemy lines, normally in the expectation they will be killed) in an initial strike phase. Even so, not everything was necessarily harmonious between ISIS and the other insurgent groups, as ISIS’ Sahel governor Abu Aymenn al-Iraqi had already assassinated a prominent commander and was supposedly keen to get the battle started to distract from accountability for his actions.
Contrary to some revisionism however, this battle did not “exclude FSA groups.” Among the participants listed are Farqat Abna’ al-Qadisiya (an ‘FSA’ brand group formed in 2013) and Tajammu’ Mustafa Mirza (which was subsequently integrated into the 1st Coastal Division, which was formed in 2014 and received support from the CIA). Waleed Awsi, one of the commanders killed in this expedition, was among the earliest insurgent figures in the Sahel region, and was dubbed by some to be one of the founders of the “Free Army” in the area. It is of course a more legitimate point of debate as to whether these local FSA-brand formations and commanders had any Western or other external backers at the time: a matter that requires further investigation. In any event, the expedition is an example of how ISIS fought alongside other rebel groups and jihadists in the 2013 period.