Faruq al-Suri a.k.a. Samir Hijazi

Faruq al-Suri, better known as Samir Hijazi, is the U.S.-designated leader of Hurras al-Din (HaD).“Wanted Information that brings to justice…Faruq al-Suri,” Rewards for Justice, https://rewardsforjustice.net/english/faruq_al_suri.html. HaD has carried out over 200 attacks in Syria’s Idlib, Latakia, Hama, and Aleppo provinces, often in conjunction with other Syrian rebel factions.Aaron Y. Zelin, “Huras al-Din: The Overlooked al-Qaeda Group in Syria,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 24, 2019, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/huras-al-din-the-overlooked-al-qaeda-group-in-syria. The group is avowedly loyal to al-Qaeda and its leadership is dominated by non-Syrian al-Qaeda veterans.“Twenty-Fourth Report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team Submitted Pursuant to Resolution 2368 (2017) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and Associated Individuals and Entities,” UN Security Council, June 27, 2019, 7-9, https://undocs.org/S/2019/570; Charles Lister, “The Syria Effect: Al-Qaeda Fractures,” Hudson Institute, December 11, 2019, https://www.hudson.org/research/15533-the-syria-effect-al-qaeda-fractures. On September 12, 2019, the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice Program announced a $5 million reward for information leading to Hijazi’s capture.“Wanted Information that brings to justice…Faruq al-Suri,” Rewards for Justice, https://rewardsforjustice.net/english/faruq_al_suri.html.

A Syrian national, Hijazi allegedly traveled to Afghanistan in 1998 where he worked under Abu Musab al-Suri, one of the most prominent intellectual leaders in the global jihadist movement.“Militant Leadership Monitor,” Jamestown Foundation, October 2019, https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/October-2019_MLM.pdf?x13007. Supposedly during this period in the late 1990s, Hijazi was a senior paramilitary trainer with al-Qaeda senior leader Saif al-Adel in Afghanistan.“Wanted Information that brings to justice…Faruq al-Suri,” Rewards for Justice, https://rewardsforjustice.net/english/faruq_al_suri.html. Hijazi allegedly progressed quickly through al-Qaeda’s ranks and at some point in the year 2000 was entrusted by Osama bin Laden to take command of the Syrian members of al-Qaeda.“Militant Leadership Monitor,” Jamestown Foundation, October 2019, https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/October-2019_MLM.pdf?x13007. Hijazi then reportedly trained fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq from 2003 until 2005.“Wanted Information that brings to justice…Faruq al-Suri,” Rewards for Justice, https://rewardsforjustice.net/english/faruq_al_suri.html. Regional scholars suspect Hijazi operated between Iraq and Syria until 2008 when he attempted to move to Lebanon. However, upon relocating, he was arrested and sentenced to five years in a Lebanese prison.“Militant Leadership Monitor,” Jamestown Foundation, October 2019, https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/October-2019_MLM.pdf?x13007.

Hijazi was detained in Lebanon from 2009 until 2013. After his release, he became the military commander for the internationally sanctioned al-Nusra Front, a role he held until 2016.“Wanted Information that brings to justice…Faruq al-Suri,” Rewards for Justice, https://rewardsforjustice.net/english/faruq_al_suri.html.

On February 27, 2018, Hijazi was named the commander of Hurras al-Din (HaD), a merger of seven hardline Syrian rebel factions including Jaysh al-Malahim, Jaysh al-Badiya, Jaysh al-Sahel, Saraya al-Sahel, Saraya Kabul, Jund al-Sharqiya, and remnants of Jund al-Aqsa.Tore Refslund Hamming and Pieter Van Ostaeyen, “The True Story of al-Qaeda’s Demise and Resurgence in Syria,” Lawfare, April 8, 2018, https://lawfareblog.com/true-story-al-qaedas-demise-and-resurgence-syria; Josko Baric, “Syrian War Daily – 28th of February 2018,” Syrian War Daily, https://syrianwardaily.com/2018/02/28/syrian-war-daily-28th-of-february-2018/. Ten more minor rebel factions joined the group in the months following its formation, all with a history of ideological and leadership ties to al-Qaeda.Aaron Y. Zelin, “Huras al-Din: The Overlooked al-Qaeda Group in Syria,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 24, 2019, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/huras-al-din-the-overlooked-al-qaeda-group-in-syria; Charles Lister, “The Syria Effect: Al-Qaeda Fractures,” Hudson Institute, December 11, 2019, https://www.hudson.org/research/15533-the-syria-effect-al-qaeda-fractures. At least half of the group’s 700-2,500 members are foreigners.“Twenty-Fourth Report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team Submitted Pursuant to Resolution 2368 (2017) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and Associated Individuals and Entities,” UN Security Council, June 27, 2019, 7-9, https://undocs.org/S/2019/570; The Best of Bad Options for Syria’s Idlib, International Crisis Group, March 14, 2019, 18, https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/197-the-best-of-bad-options%20.pdf; Charles Lister, “The Syria Effect: Al-Qaeda Fractures,” Hudson Institute, December 11, 2019, https://www.hudson.org/research/15533-the-syria-effect-al-qaeda-fractures. HaD’s leadership is split along two ideological currents: one following the teachings of al-Qaeda scholar Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and the other following the Libyan cleric Jamal Ibrahim Ashityawee al-Musratti.“Hardliner Wing of ‘Hurras al-Din’ Loses Its Most Influential Figures,” Enab Baladi, July 4, 2018, https://english.enabbaladi.net/archives/2019/07/hardliner-wing-of-guardians-of-religion-loses-its-most-influential-figures/#ixzz65J3MS9o5; Twenty-Fourth Report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team Submitted Pursuant to Resolution 2368 (2017) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and Associated Individuals and Entities,” U.N. Security Council, June 27, 2019, 7, https://undocs.org/S/2019/570. Both currents, however, view al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri as their “defining authority.”“Hardliner Wing of ‘Hurras al-Din’ Loses Its Most Influential Figures,” Enab Baladi, July 4, 2018, https://english.enabbaladi.net/archives/2019/07/hardliner-wing-of-guardians-of-religion-loses-its-most-influential-figures/#ixzz65J3MS9o5; “Twenty-Fourth Report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team Submitted Pursuant to Resolution 2368 (2017) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and Associated Individuals and Entities,” U.N. Security Council, June 27, 2019, 7, https://undocs.org/S/2019/570.

The group holds no territory and largely uses small arms and light weapons such as AK-47s, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades in its raids of Syrian regime positions.The Best of Bad Options for Syria’s Idlib, International Crisis Group, 18, March 14, 2019, https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/197-the-best-of-bad-options%20.pdf; Aaron Y. Zelin, “Huras al-Din: The Overlooked al-Qaeda Group in Syria,” Washington Institute, September 24, 2019, https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/huras-al-din-overlooked-al-qaeda-group-syria. While HaD’s core leadership and fighters are mostly defectors from the former Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, now known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the two groups have worked together to carry out combat operations against the Syrian regime.The Best of Bad Options for Syria’s Idlib, International Crisis Group, 17, March 14, 2019, https://d2071andvip0wj.cloudfront.net/197-the-best-of-bad-options%20.pdf.

On September 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of State designated Hijazi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for his role in HaD. On September 12, the Rewards for Justice Program announced a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Hijazi.“Wanted Information that brings to justice…Faruq al-Suri,” Rewards for Justice, https://rewardsforjustice.net/english/faruq_al_suri.html; “US Offers Bounty for Information on al-Qaida-Affiliated Militants in Syria,” Voice of America, September 12, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/extremism-watch/us-offers-bounty-information-al-qaida-affiliated-militants-syria.

According to the New Jersey office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, in March 2020, Hijazi encouraged supporter to remain committed to fighting on the battlefield. Additionally, he encouraged fighters to undertake guerilla warfare against Syrian forces and their Iranian and Russian allies. Despite advocating for continued attacks, he did not provide new tactics to attack the United States or specific targets.“Hurras al-Din,” New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, March 18, 2020, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/54d79f88e4b0db3478a04405/t/5ea72993f0032f3cbfb095c0/1588013460911/Hurras+al-Din.pdf.

United States

The U.S. Department of State designated Faruq al-Suri (a.k.a. Samir Hijazi) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on September 10, 2019.“Designation of Faruq al-Suri as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” Federal Register, September 19, 2019, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/09/19/2019-20277/designation-of-faruq-al-suri-as-a-specially-designated-global-terrorist.

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On September 17, 2019, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated outside a Presidential rally in Charikar, Afghanistan, killing at least 26 people and injuring another 30. Later, a suicide bomber detonated outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing 22 and wounding 38 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. 

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