Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) had released Abu Omar Manhaj, Commander-in-Chief of al-Qaeda-affiliated Fa Ithbatu Operations Room, several Syrian opposition sources reported on October 26.
Manhaj handed himself over to a Sharia [Islamic] court of HTS more than four months ago as a part of an agreement between the group and his operations room. The agreement, which was reached on June 26, put an end to a serious conflict between the two sides.
The commander was reportedly behind several attacks on HTS checkpoint and positions in western Idlib. The attacks were launched from Arab Said.
— Orwa Ajjoub (عُروة) (@OAjjoub) October 26, 2020
Manhaj, a Syrian citizen, returned to the country in 2012 to join anti-government group. At first, he fought with the Ahrar al-Sham Movement.
Unsatisfied with the group’s ideology and limited resources, Manhaj defected and went back to Lebanon. Later, he returned to Syria to join the al-Nusra Front, the main branch of al-Qaeda in Syria.
Manhaj continued to serve as a commander in the group even after it left al-Qaeda in 2016 and was rebranded to HTS in 2017.
In 2018, however, Manhaj defected to join Horas al-Din, which was established by prominent al-Qaeda commanders who left HTS. In 2020, he was supposedly appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the newly-formed Fa Ithbatu Operations Room.
The release of Abu Omar Manhaj is an example of the organic relation between HTS and al-Qaeda in Syria. Despite engaging in several confrontations with Horas al-Din, HTS is still incapable of taking decisive action against the group or any al-Qaeda-affiliated figure in Greater Idlib.
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