Al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) had released British aid worker Tauqir Sharif on bail, Syrian opposition sources reported on July 15.
Sharif, who is known as “Abu Hussam al-Birtani,” was arrested by HTS’ security forces last June. His wife revealed that he had been beaten up while in custody.
Takieddine Omar, a public relations official of HTS, told Enab Baladi that Sharif had been arrested for mismanaging of relief funds as well as for supporting some projects that incited division in the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib.
While HTS’ didn’t provide any information on the “projects”, which had been fund by Sharif, some opposition activists claimed that the “aid worker” was supporting al-Qaeda’s newly-founded Fa Ithbatu Operations Room.
— الشمالي الحر (@alshmali_alhr0) July 15, 2020
According to Enab Baladi, Sharif was responsible for a vast network of organizations, including the Live Updates From Syria, Abna’ al-Sham Schools and Qah Sports Club.
In 2017, the United Kingdom’s Home Office stripped Sharif from his British citizenship due to his links to terrorist groups in Syria.
The arrest of Sharif led to a backlash against HTS. American journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem, who is known to be a propagandist for al-Qaeda in Syria, led a pressure campaign to release Sharif. HTS reportedly responded by releasing scandalous photos of Abdul Kareem and his wife.
By releasing Sharif, HTS is likely trying to ease the rising media pressure against it. The terrorist group is facing increasingly daring challenges in its quest to turn Greater Idlib into de-facto its own state.