Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki

Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki
حركة نور الدين الزنكي
Participant in the Syrian Civil War

Logo of Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki
Active Late 2011[1] - present
Ideology Sunni Islamism
  • Leader: Sheikh Tawfiq Shahabuddin[1]
  • Top Commander: Ammar Shaaban [2]
  • Top Commander: Abu ‘Abdo Saroukh [3]
Area of operations Aleppo Governorate
Part of Syrian Revolutionary Command Council (formerly)[4]
Levant Front (formerly)[5]
Authenticity and Development Front (formerly)[6]
Army of Mujahideen (formerly)[7]
Fatah Halab[8] (formerly)[9]
Army of Conquest[10]
Allies Al-Nusra Front
Islamic Front
Opponents Syrian Armed Forces
Fastaqim Union[11]
Levant Front (since November 2016 in Azaz)[12]
Battles and wars

Syrian Civil War

Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki (Arabic: حركة نور الدين الزنكي Ḥaraka Nūr ad-Dīn az-Zankī) is an Islamist group involved in the Syrian Civil War. In 2014–15 it was part of the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council and received U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles.[13] As of 2014, it is reportedly one of the most influential factions in Aleppo.[14]


Nour al-Din al-Zenki was formed in late 2011 by Shaykh Tawfiq Shahabuddin in the Shaykh Salman area north-west of Aleppo. It is named after Nur ad-Din Zengi, atabeg of Aleppo, an emir of Damascus and Aleppo in the 12th century. The group's greatest concentration of fighters in the city of Aleppo are in its northwestern suburbs.[15] Nour al-Din al-Zenki took part in the initial battles that started the Battle of Aleppo in July 2012, capturing the Salaheddine neighborhood, although it soon withdrew to its heartland in the countryside.[16]

The group has gone through many affiliations since it was founded. It was initially a branch of the al-Fajr Movement, then went on to join the al-Tawhid Brigades during the attack on Aleppo, before withdrawing and allying with the Saudi-backed Authenticity and Development Front.[17]

In January 2014, Nour al-Din al-Zenki was one of the founding factions in the anti-ISIL umbrella group Army of Mujahideen.[1] In May 2014 it withdrew from the alliance and subsequently received increased financial support from Saudi Arabia, which had been reluctant to support the Army of Mujahideen due to its links with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.[14] The group also received financial aid from the United States, in a CIA run program to support moderate rebel groups,[18] reportedly via the Turkey-based Military Operation Centre (MOC).[19] However, by October 2015, the group claimed that it was no longer supplied by the MOC[20] – "because of regular reports that it had committed abuses."[21]

In December 2014, Nour al-Din al-Zenki joined the Levant Front, a broad coalition of Islamist rebel groups operating in Aleppo.[5] On 6 May 2015, it joined 13 other Aleppo-based groups in the Fatah Halab joint operations room.[22]

On 19 October 2015, the military commander of the group was reported as killed during fighting with government forces near the Aleppo area.[23]

During the November 2015 Vienna peace talks for Syria, Jordan was tasked with formulating a list of terrorist groups; the group was reported to have been placed on this list.[24]

On 24 September 2016, al-Zenki joined the Army of Conquest.[10] On 15 October 2016, four 'battalions' left the Levant Front (they were also former members of Al-Tawhid Brigade) and joined the group.[25][26]

On 2 November 2016, during the Aleppo offensive, Fastaqim Union fighters captured a military commander of the Zenki Movement. In response, al-Zenki fighters attacked the Fastaqim Union's headquarters in the Salaheddine District and al-Ansari district of Aleppo. At least one rebel were killed and more than 25 wounded on both sides in the raid.[27] The next day, the Levant Front and the Abu Amara Brigades began to patrol the streets to arrest any rebels taking part in the clashes.[28] At least 18 rebels were killed in the infighting.[29]

The Zenki Movement and the Abu Amara Brigades eventually captured all positions of the Fastaqim Union in eastern Aleppo. Dozens of rebels from the latter group surrendered and were either captured, joined Ahrar al-Sham, or deserted.[30]

On 15 November 2016, Liwa Ahrar Souriya and Kata'ib Suyuf Al-Shahba announced that it has pledged allegiance and joined the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement.[31] Also during November, Jaysh al-Shamal joined.[32][33]

War crimes

According to the Amnesty International, Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, along with the 16th Division, the Levant Front, Ahrar al-Sham, and the al-Nusra Front, were involved in abduction and torture of journalists and humanitarian workers in rebel-held Aleppo during 2014 and 2015.[34]

On 19 July 2016, during the northern Aleppo offensive, a video emerged that appeared to show al-Zenki fighters recording themselves beheading a Palestinian boy named Abdullah Tayseer Al Issa.[35] In the video, they claim he had been fighting for the Syrian government in Aleppo with the Palestinian-Syrian Liwa al-Quds.[36][37][38] Liwa al-Quds denied this and claimed the child was a 12-year-old Palestinian refugee from a poor family[35] who had been kidnapped.[39] The following day, a social media account purportedly owned by Abdallah Issa's sister, Zoze Issa, claimed that Issa was a Syrian from the Wadi al-Dahab district of Homs, who had volunteered to fight with pro-Government forces.[35] The New Arab reported that someone claiming to be his cousin said that he was a Syrian pro-regime fighter aged 19 from the Wadi al-Dahab district who suffered thalassemia, which caused stunted growth.[40] In a statement, al-Zenki condemned the killing and claimed it was an "individual mistake that does not represent the general policy of the group", and that it had detained those involved.[41] After their claim that they detained the members of the incident, several videos showed that the members, who were part of the beheading, are still fighting alongside the group.[42]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "The Mujahedeen Army of Aleppo". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 8 April 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  2. Al-Mohammad, Alaa (28 July 2016). "Rebel military leader killed in Aleppo clashes". Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  3. Fadel, Leith (29 July 2016). "Syrian Armed Forces carry out special operation to avenge the beheaded boy in northern Aleppo". Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  4. "Translation: the Formation of the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council". Goha's Nail. 3 August 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  5. 1 2 "The Levant Front: Can Aleppo's Rebels Unite?". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 26 December 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  6. "Guide to the Syrian rebels". BBC News. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  7. "Jeish al-Mujahideen Charter – Comment and Translation". Goha's Nail. 4 May 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  8. "Zulfikarr comments on "Aleppo operations room" announcing the preparation for "the great battle" with 14 rebel groups". reddit.
  9. "Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki". Civil War al-Sham. 17 October 2016.
  10. 1 2 https://twitter.com/markito0171/status/779628746357805056
  11. "Rebel Infighting Erupts in Besieged Eastern Aleppo". SouthFront. 3 November 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  12. "Syrian rebels battle each other north of Aleppo". Reuters. 14 November 2016.
  13. "EXCLUSIVE – 18 Syrian revolutionary factions advancing toward a One Army project". The Arab Chronicle. Archived from the original on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  14. 1 2 "Rigged Cars and Barrel Bombs: Aleppo and the State of the Syrian War" (PDF). International Crisis Group. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  15. "New Opposition Coalition Jaish Al-Mujahideen Announced in Aleppo". Jamestown Foundation. 30 January 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  16. "The Story of Al-Tawhid Brigade: Fighting for Sharia in Syria". Al-Monitor (As-Safir). 22 October 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  17. Pierret, Thomas (9 August 2013). "External support and the Syrian insurgency". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  18. "Rebels in northern Syria say U.S. has stopped paying them". McClatchy Newspapers. 9 December 2014. Retrieved 9 February 2015. The aid cutoff will not affect fighters from two groups now fighting to hold onto areas of Aleppo, Syria’s one-time commercial center. Those groups include some 600 fighters from Harakat Hazm, which had been the biggest recipient of U.S. aid, and as many as 1,000 fighters fielded by the Nuruddin az Zinki force
  19. Fidaa Itani, "Aleppo syndrome" NOW 25 July 2014
  20. Jamie Dettmer "Rebel Defiance, Relief as Assad Forces Get Bogged Down" VOA 26 October 2015
  21. Martin Chulov "Syrian opposition group that killed child 'was in US-vetted alliance'" Guardian 20 July 2016
  22. Jennifer Cafarella; Genevieve Casagrande (7 October 2015). Syrian Opposition Guide (PDF). Backgrounder. Institute for the Study of War.
  23. "Syrian troops advance toward air base besieged by IS". Associated Press. 19 October 2015. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  24. Albin Szakola and Ullin Hope CIA-vetted Aleppo rebels lash out at Jordan, NOW
  25. https://twitter.com/sayed_ridha/status/787299879512965124
  26. https://twitter.com/Syria_Rebel_Obs/status/787311170369847296
  27. "Fighting between 2 factions in the eastern section of Aleppo kills and injures about 25 fighters from both parties". Syria HR. 2 November 2016.
  28. "Factions of the opposition clashed in the city of Aleppo, the front maize are trying to resolve conflict". ARA News. 3 November 2016.
  29. InsideSourceInt (2 November 2016). "Approximately 18 dead so far in rebel infighting across East Aleppo" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  30. "Zenki and Abu Amarah control all headquarters of Fastaqim Kama Umirt, the leaders of which go to Ahrar al-Sham". Syria HR. 3 November 2016.
  31. "Brigade Syria are free to join Noureddine Zanki movement in Aleppo and its countryside". 15 November 2016.
  32. https://twitter.com/Syria_Rebel_Obs/status/799046363933798401
  33. https://twitter.com/Terror_Monitor/status/798816686371586048
  34. "Syria: Abductions, torture and summary killings at the hands of armed groups". Amnesty International. 5 July 2016.
  35. 1 2 3 "Syria conflict: Boy beheaded by rebels 'was fighter'". BBC. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  36. "Syria conflict: Rebels 'filmed beheading boy' in Aleppo". BBC. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  37. Zen Adra (19 July 2016). "Warning: +18 Video. Aleppo rebels behead a child". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  38. http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/boy-beheaded-zinki-fighters-abdullah-tayseer-ehsani2/
  39. "Rebels in Syria call boy's beheading a 'mistake'". CNN. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  40. "Boy beheaded by Syrian rebels was '19-year-old regime fighter'". The New Arab. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  41. "Syria rebel beheading of child sparks outrage". The Daily Star. 20 July 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  42. https://twitter.com/Ahmadmuaffaq/status/780442337524781056/video/1
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