Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki
|Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki|
حركة نور الدين الزنكي |
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Logo of Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki
|Active||Late 2011 - present|
|Area of operations||Aleppo Governorate|
Syrian Revolutionary Command Council (formerly)|
Levant Front (formerly)
Authenticity and Development Front (formerly)
Army of Mujahideen (formerly)
Fatah Halab (formerly)
Army of Conquest
Syrian Armed Forces|
Levant Front (since November 2016 in Azaz)
|Battles and wars|
Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki (Arabic: حركة نور الدين الزنكي Ḥaraka Nūr ad-Dīn az-Zankī) is an Islamist group involved in the Syrian Civil War. In 2014–15 it was part of the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council and received U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles. As of 2014, it is reportedly one of the most influential factions in Aleppo.
Nour al-Din al-Zenki was formed in late 2011 by Shaykh Tawfiq Shahabuddin in the Shaykh Salman area north-west of Aleppo. It is named after Nur ad-Din Zengi, atabeg of Aleppo, an emir of Damascus and Aleppo in the 12th century. The group's greatest concentration of fighters in the city of Aleppo are in its northwestern suburbs. Nour al-Din al-Zenki took part in the initial battles that started the Battle of Aleppo in July 2012, capturing the Salaheddine neighborhood, although it soon withdrew to its heartland in the countryside.
The group has gone through many affiliations since it was founded. It was initially a branch of the al-Fajr Movement, then went on to join the al-Tawhid Brigades during the attack on Aleppo, before withdrawing and allying with the Saudi-backed Authenticity and Development Front.
In January 2014, Nour al-Din al-Zenki was one of the founding factions in the anti-ISIL umbrella group Army of Mujahideen. In May 2014 it withdrew from the alliance and subsequently received increased financial support from Saudi Arabia, which had been reluctant to support the Army of Mujahideen due to its links with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. The group also received financial aid from the United States, in a CIA run program to support moderate rebel groups, reportedly via the Turkey-based Military Operation Centre (MOC). However, by October 2015, the group claimed that it was no longer supplied by the MOC – "because of regular reports that it had committed abuses."
In December 2014, Nour al-Din al-Zenki joined the Levant Front, a broad coalition of Islamist rebel groups operating in Aleppo. On 6 May 2015, it joined 13 other Aleppo-based groups in the Fatah Halab joint operations room.
During the November 2015 Vienna peace talks for Syria, Jordan was tasked with formulating a list of terrorist groups; the group was reported to have been placed on this list.
On 24 September 2016, al-Zenki joined the Army of Conquest. On 15 October 2016, four 'battalions' left the Levant Front (they were also former members of Al-Tawhid Brigade) and joined the group.
On 2 November 2016, during the Aleppo offensive, Fastaqim Union fighters captured a military commander of the Zenki Movement. In response, al-Zenki fighters attacked the Fastaqim Union's headquarters in the Salaheddine District and al-Ansari district of Aleppo. At least one rebel were killed and more than 25 wounded on both sides in the raid. The next day, the Levant Front and the Abu Amara Brigades began to patrol the streets to arrest any rebels taking part in the clashes. At least 18 rebels were killed in the infighting.
The Zenki Movement and the Abu Amara Brigades eventually captured all positions of the Fastaqim Union in eastern Aleppo. Dozens of rebels from the latter group surrendered and were either captured, joined Ahrar al-Sham, or deserted.
On 15 November 2016, Liwa Ahrar Souriya and Kata'ib Suyuf Al-Shahba announced that it has pledged allegiance and joined the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement. Also during November, Jaysh al-Shamal joined.
According to the Amnesty International, Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, along with the 16th Division, the Levant Front, Ahrar al-Sham, and the al-Nusra Front, were involved in abduction and torture of journalists and humanitarian workers in rebel-held Aleppo during 2014 and 2015.
On 19 July 2016, during the northern Aleppo offensive, a video emerged that appeared to show al-Zenki fighters recording themselves beheading a Palestinian boy named Abdullah Tayseer Al Issa. In the video, they claim he had been fighting for the Syrian government in Aleppo with the Palestinian-Syrian Liwa al-Quds. Liwa al-Quds denied this and claimed the child was a 12-year-old Palestinian refugee from a poor family who had been kidnapped. The following day, a social media account purportedly owned by Abdallah Issa's sister, Zoze Issa, claimed that Issa was a Syrian from the Wadi al-Dahab district of Homs, who had volunteered to fight with pro-Government forces. The New Arab reported that someone claiming to be his cousin said that he was a Syrian pro-regime fighter aged 19 from the Wadi al-Dahab district who suffered thalassemia, which caused stunted growth. In a statement, al-Zenki condemned the killing and claimed it was an "individual mistake that does not represent the general policy of the group", and that it had detained those involved. After their claim that they detained the members of the incident, several videos showed that the members, who were part of the beheading, are still fighting alongside the group.
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The aid cutoff will not affect fighters from two groups now fighting to hold onto areas of Aleppo, Syria’s one-time commercial center. Those groups include some 600 fighters from Harakat Hazm, which had been the biggest recipient of U.S. aid, and as many as 1,000 fighters fielded by the Nuruddin az Zinki force
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