Homs Opposition: Al Farouq Battalion is Killing Us | Sharmine Narwani
Little is known about the Farouq Battalion, but one of the few journalists - who must remain unnamed - to have dealt with them directly tells me that they are the largest armed opposition group operating inside Homs today with around 4,000 to 5,000 militia men. The group’s roots are militantly Islamist - the moniker Al Farouq is a reference to the Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab, the second successor to the Prophet Muhammad. Some reports claim that the group plans to declare an Islamic Caliphate in Syria, but holds off on any rhetoric that will strengthen the Syrian government’s hand.
Al-Farouq’s stronghold today is in the Khalidiyeh neighborhood of Homs, but its center is in al-Qusayr from which its leader Abu Ali Hardi, a former Syrian intelligence officer in Homs, hails. The militia’s public frontman is Abdul Razak Tlass, a symbolic figure because his uncle is a general in the Syrian Army. From their base in Homs near the Lebanese border, al-Farouq is well positioned to receive heavy weapons from al Qaa and Irsal via Salafist centers in the north of Lebanon. The group is currently trying to organize their fast-growing ranks into a central command structure - to date, fighters under the al-Farouq banner have mostly been running themselves independently in Homs’ various neighborhoods.
While the March 25 email sheds much-needed light on one small part of the Syrian armed opposition, it also illustrates just how egregiously misleading existing narratives are on the situation inside the country.