#Jund_al_Aqsa, also, #Jond_al_Aqsa, جند الأقصى، #جندـالأقصى is a Jihadi group that operates in Syria, whose fame and influence had been growing recently. Here are some points for discussion about this group:
1- al-Aqsa is a mosque in Jerusalem. Jund al-Aqsa or Jond al-Aqsa claims to be fighting in Syria to be able to fight and liberate al-Aqsa Mosque. One of the early names of the group is Saraya al-Quds.
2- The group is known to have come from the split between The Islamic State of al-Iraq wa-al-Sham (#ISIS) and Jabhat al-#Nusra.
3- Leadership: Amongst the known leaders of Jund al-Aqsa are its founder Abu ‘Abd al-Aziz al-Qatari. His name suggest that he is from Qatar, but, actually he is not. He is a Palestinian, born in Baghdad in 1956 as Mohammad Yusuf Uthman. He fought in many Jihadi fronts and ended up in Iraq in the 1990’s where he carried on a number of bombings against liquor stores. He was caught and then imprisoned by Saddam Husayn, but was released in 2003 during the American invasion of Iraq. He ended up fighting alongside Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. Some credit him with establishing with al-#Zarqawi Kata’eb al-Tawhid wa-al-Jihad, a group that predates that Islamic State of Iraq. He was send with al-Julani to Syria where they established #Jabhat_al_Nusra. But, when the Central Command in the Islamic State of al-Iraq wa-al-Sham wanted to control al-Nusra, al-Qatari took the high road and decided not to be a part of that fight. He went to establish at that moment a group of those who did not want to be neutral. al-Qatari was killed in Deir Sunbul January 2014, by a Syrian rebel group, #Jabhat_Thuwwar_Suria, led by Jamal Ma’ruf. Abu Mus’ab al-Ansari is another known leader of the group. He was also killed in action in Saraqb/Syria. Musa al-Ghanami, a Saudi who studies Islamic Groups in the Middle East, claimed in 2015 that Abu Dhurr al-Najdi al-Harithi, a Saudi militant who had spent time in Saudi Jails, is now the religious leader (Shari’ ‘Amm) for Jund al-Aqsa. Another leader was Abu Ibrahim al-Jazairi, a French Algerian veteran of Jihad who fought in Afghanistan, then Iraq. He was arrested in Syria in 2004 then given to France. In 2012 he was able to escape his house arrest and join the fight in Syria. He was said to be the leader of Jund al-Aqsa in the Syrian Coast. He was killed there when the car he was in hit with a rocket coming from the sky.
4- They are active north of Hama, Idleb, South of Alleppo and a little in the Coastal Mountains.
5- Jund al-Aqsa is composed of mostly international Jihadis. The percentage of Syrians amongst them is still unknown, but not more than %20-30, according to many.
6- They are one of the founding groups of #Jaysh_al-Fath, from which they withdrew late 2015 because they are not committed to fighting the “enemies of Islam.”
7- They have missionary work in the areas they are in. They also run social services and act exactly like the Islamic State, for example, they have a Hisbah amongst them watching the daily lives of the people in the areas they are in.
8- Some say that many people joined the group because Jund al-Aqsa is viewed as one that has no connection to dirty states. Other Jihadi groups like Ahrar al-Sham for example lost some of its fighters to Jund al-Aqsa when its actions on the ground were influenced by countries like Qatar, which is considered a bad player to be associated with.
9- In 2016 they are said to have closed a radio station operating since 2013 against Bashar al-Assad because this station airs music and employs women.
10- In February 2016 a number of the religious cadre of the group defected and joined Jabhat al-Nusra.
11- They join in attacks with the Islamic State, like the one they did in Feb 2016. They also coordinate attacks with the Jihadis of Imarat al-Qawkaz. Recently, they participated in an attack with al-Hizb al-Islami al-Turkistani against Khurbat al-Naqus south of Alleppo. In March they waged an attack along al-Nusra against al-Assad’s positions.
12- In March 2016 Jund al-Aqsa soldiers went to the streets of Idlib looking for women with make up, nice hair and tight jeans…
13- Jund al-Aqsa is known to have carried stoning to death of two women accused of adultery.
14- Mork, north of Hama is under their control. They did not let civilians come back till they confirm with the religious ruling they want to be the norm.