When peaceful protests demanding regime change in Syria erupted 16 months ago, there were no signs of the presence of jihadist groups on the ground other than the claims of the regime.
In reaction to the violent measures the regime has implemented against peaceful protesters, some Syrians have resorted to arms.
In this context, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was formed from defecting army soldiers in order “to protect protesters and to fight against the Bashar al-Assad regime”, according to their statements.
Simultaneously, however, jihadists – those committed to establishing an Islamic state by violent means – have started to be seen on the battlefield in Syria, which became a highly streamed topic on the jihadist online forums.
The FSA is scrutinising jihadists in Syria very closely, considering them “a real threat after the Assad regime falls,” according to a senior FSA officer.
Colonel Ahmad Fahd al-Nimah, the head of the Military Revolutionary Council in Deraa, told the BBC: “Jihadists would pose a real threat in the next stage for our society and our Arab and Western friends.”
Col Nimah, like many opposition figures, insists that the jihadists’ role and presence in Syria are limited. But reports indicate an increase in jihadist activities on the ground.