Last week, the US Department of State designated Sami Mahmud Mohammed Al Uraydi in Syria a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for his leadership role in Hurras Al Din (HaD). Moreover, the US Department offered a reward of up to $5 million for information on the identification or location of Al Uraydi.
This announcement from the Americans comes at a time when the US is increasingly engaged in facing the terrorist scene in Syria, particularly against Daesh and its networks. For example, last December, the US Special Operations Forces carried out helicopter raids against Daesh in eastern Syria, capturing six operatives including a senior official who the military said was involved in plotting and enabling terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, last February, US Special Operations Forces carried out a raid that led to the death of Daesh leader Abu Ibrahim Al Hashimi Al Qurayshi, also known as Hajji Abdullah. And very recently US Central Command confirmed the capture of one of the major facilitators of Daesh attacks, Hudayfah Al Yemeni.
This US targeting of Daesh members did not limit the US from confirming in its recent statement regarding Al Uraydi that they are committed to disrupting AL Qaida affiliates who exploit under-governed spaces and conflict zones in Syria. In this case, they are targeting Hurras Al Din (HaD) who, according to the US, are responsible for killings, kidnappings and violence targeting of various members of religious minority groups.
From a security point of view, this means that the US has begun to take steps against various terrorist elements present in Syria, not just Daesh, especially those who have links or are trying to reproduce al Qaeda. It is, therefore, logical that the US takes concrete steps in targeting an organisation like HaD and its activities that includes direct attacks against civilians and preparing attacks against Americans.
Although HaD operates in a very limited geographic area, the group has ambitions to conduct trans-border operations, especially since in recent years it has developed skills, strategies and know-how, including attracting members of Daesh who have combat experience in Idlib and Deir Ezzor. Al Uraydi who is a well-known Salafi leader influenced and connected to the new generation of Al Qaeda leadership appeared in the jihadi scene as a very strong leader who seems to be operating independently, giving him credit amongst the jihadi elements, especially after the fall of Daesh. Therefore, he represents a concerning model for the intel and security services.
The terrorist threats in Syria are becoming stronger and protagonists of these threats are not limited to Daesh and its attempts to return to its former strength. HoD is one of those emerging groups, as well as the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), which targets the Syria Army using different techniques including UAVs in the Idlib area. At the same time, the threats in the southern area of Damascus, particularly in the province of Dara’a by Daesh are progressively increasing. This means that the different groups operating in different areas could represent a critical security challenge across Syria.
Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh