A new Kurdish faction within the Free Syrian Army wants to take back territory from the IS group and at the same time stop YPG forces (Kurdish People’s Protection Units) from seizing further ground along the Turkish border.
Written by Mario Andrijasevic exclusively for SouthFront
There are reports that a new Kurdish faction has been formed in Syria, known as the Grandsons of Salahadin. The group was named after the 12th century Muslim Kurdish leader and has claimed already several villages from IS-controlled border region between Jarabulus and Azaz.
This would not be something out of the ordinary if they would also not oppose the fellow Kurdish militants YPG from taking this border region under their own control. Threats to attack the YPG forces, if they would not withdraw from territory seized from opposition rebels during an advance by pro-government forces in northern Syria last month, have stoked concerns of a possible “Kurdish civil war”.
Commander of the group Grandsons of Salahadin, nemed Mahmoud Abu Hamza, said that his group is backed by both the US and Turkey, because the group is considered as a part of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State terrorists.
According to Hamza, Turkey doesn’t support them with arms, the United States does. In the beginning they had about 600 fighters in a group and were mostly from Syria’s Aleppo province, majority of them from the town of Afrin.
In his statement for MEE he continues that Grandsons of Salahadin fought there already back in 2013, but the group was later disbanded and its fighters joined other rebel groups. Hamza said the main reason they reformed the group was to confront the YPG militants. He accused them of siding with the Syrian government and stoking tensions between Kurds and Arabs.
“Kurds in Afrin are our people and we won’t allow anyone to use them to defend the regime. It is not because they are Kurds, but because they are agents of the regime and the Russians,” Hamza said.
He says that YPG are against the Kurds and that they only want to ignite a sectarian war between the Arabs and Kurds. And Grandsons of Salahadin cannot allow that to happen.
“This will be the beginning of the liberation of the rest of the Kurdish areas. Daesh will be expelled from this area very soon and will be expelled from all of Syria,” he added.
It is known that YPG also controls an enclave around Kobane further east along the Turkish border and by capturing the Azaz-Jarabulus border strip from IS they want to create an extended Kurdish federal region. For Kurds in Syria federalism is the main demand, but Turkey strongly oppose the creation of a federal Kurdish region in Syria.
To halt its advance Turkey is shelling the YPG, as well as the backing opposition rebel groups in northern Aleppo, said a local Kurdish official Idris Nassan.
But even though Mahmoud Abu Hamza confirmed that they got their weapons from the US, the US officials deny the support for the Grandsons of Salahadin and that the group has been the recipient of US weapons.
“After checking with our forces that provide the ‘Advise and Assist’ mission to the vetted Syrian opposition on the Marea Line, they are not familiar with the Sons of Salahadin,” US anti-IS coalition spokesman Colonel Christopher Garver told MEE.
He clearly confirmed that there is no group by that name receiving munition from the United States.
That the situation is far from perfect says also the fact that the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq has also trained about 3000 Syrian Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to join the battle against IS in Syria and when they returned they were blocked by the YPG which amid fears of in-fighting between rival Kurdish groups.
According to report The Syrian Kurdish National Council (KNC) which is a part of the Syrian opposition bloc tried to convince the YPG and its Democratic Union Party (PYD) political affiliate to let the fighters enter Syria based on agreements to prevent fighting between rival Kurdish groups.
Bahjat Bashir, who is a KNC member and a participant in the Geneva talks as part of the Syrian opposition, admitted that it had no influence over the Grandsons of Salahadin and that they don’t have any relation to the Salahadin brigade, only to the Rojava Peshmerga.
Hawar News Agency who is backing the YPG has accused the KNC of supporting attacks by Turkish-backed groups against the YPG and Kurdish civilians in Aleppo, but KNC denied those allegations.
Bahjat Bashir said that they never supported the shelling of civilians by any force in general and no one has any proof to claim otherwise.