On March 2, the al-Qaeda-affiliated armed group Ansar al-Islam announced in an official statement that its fighters had attacked two positions of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the Sirmaniyah farms and at the al-Burkan checkpoint around the town of Sirmaniyah in the northwestern Hama countryside. Thirty soldiers of the SAA were killed in the attack, according to the statement.
The al-Qaeda-affiliated group also acknowledged that three of its fighters had been killed and several others had been injured in the attack.
Ansar al-Islam was established in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region in 2001 by former al-Qaeda members including, its former Kurdish leader “Mullah Krekar”. Until 2011, the al-Qaeda affiliated group had fought US troops in Iraq.
In 2014, Ansar al-Islam entered Syria in coordination with the Al-Nusra Front, which is now known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Since then, the armed group has participated in several HTS attacks against the SAA, mainly in northern Lattakia and Hama.
Ansar al-Islam claimed in the statement that its attack around Sirmaniyah had been a response to the ongoing oepration of the SAA and its allies in Eastern Ghouta and warned that similar attacks will follow.
However, Syrian pro-government activists viewed Ansar al-Islam’s attack as a response to reports that Russia and the SAA had threatened all the armed groups in the northwestern Hama countryside with a military operation if they do not withdraw from the region within two days.