Screen grab showing jihadists belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra.
Al-Manara al-Bayda, the media arm of the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra, has published a video showing several of their attacks on Syrian regime forces - a striking example of the militia’s firepower and the meticulous preparation. Jabhat al-Nusra is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States, which says it has links to Al-Qaeda.
The video first shows a road that leads from the Damascus airport to the Tal-Hmar barracks. Then it shows an operation which took place on this road at the beginning of February: an attack launched with dozens of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against a line of vehicles belonging to the Syrian army.
Propaganda video for Jabhat al-Nusra broadcast by al-Manara al-Bayda on February 18, 2013.
For these rebels, the use of IEDs is much less costly and dangerous than regular attacks. These images show just how destructive the technique is. Unlike jihadist groups operating in Afghanistan and Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra is currently focusing on military targets.

“At the heart of the same group, each team has a separate task that the other fighters don’t know about”

Tarek Abdel-Hak is a Syrian activist from the Jisr al-Shughour region.
Several groups and organisations today use this mode of operation against government troops. But Jabhat al-Nusra are still the most experienced and professional organisation. They have a flawless organisation with engineers, pyrotechnicians and professionals specialised in very precise crafts - and some of these men have also acquired good fighting experience in Iraq.
For the majority of their operations Jabhat al-Nusra use the explosive C4 (mainly used by armies and demolition experts, and thus highly controlled). Most of their stock comes from contacts in Iraq, because the border between the two countries is very porous and open for trafficking. Otherwise, the C4 comes from Syrian army stocks seized by barrels, or occasionally sold by Syrian army officers.
Other jihadist groups, like Ahrar al-Sham, have also adopted this mode of operation, but haven’t been as successful because they are less experienced. They don’t do suicide bombings, like Jabhat al-Nusra did at the beginning - they favour boobytrapped cars they can detonate from a distance. But this way of working [already seen in Iraq] has a high rate of failure.
"They often try to send their men undercover to get information or even organise an attack from the inside"
The tools groups like Ahrar al-Sham use are less efficient - they make their explosive devices with live munitions, like shrapnel or anti-personnel mine, to which they add nails or scrap iron. It’s a very rudimentary technique. Fertilizer is also used in the making of these bombs.
I’ve seen for myself an anti-personnel mine being made. It was to destroy a BMP1 troop carrier [Editor’s Note: this is an armoured troop carrier] in Yaakoubi, my village. This type of operation is done in two stages - the explosive device immobilises the vehicle, then the rebels attack with machine guns and launch RPG 7 rockets.
Jabhat al-Nusra is much more sophisticated. They organise their operations sometimes months in advance, and with minute precision. The way they organise and attack depends on the nature of the target, but they often try to send their men undercover to get information or even organise an attack from the inside.
Each team of fighters has a task that the other teams don’t know about. Regime troops have no hope against this type of strategy. Even electronic interference [which is done with a special vehicle placed at the head of a convoy to neutralise IEDs] is useless against devices detonated by a wire [like the operation we see in the video, above].
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Wassim Nasr (@SimNasr).