Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk Appoints a New Leader
27 May 2016
By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
After the assassination of its first leader al-Khal in mid-November 2015, the
pro-Islamic State (IS) Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk (Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade)
based in southwest Deraa province along the border with the Golan Heights
appointed Abu Obeida Qahtan as new leader. Qahtan, of Palestinian Syrian
origin, is a jihadi veteran and apparently among the founders of Liwa Shuhada'
al-Yarmouk. His presence in the group is also rather exceptional in that he is
originally from the Yarmouk camp in Damascus, not a native of the Yarmouk
Valley/Basin (Wadi/Hawdh al-Yarmouk) where Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk is based
and draws most of its manpower.
In this context, two important local clans are the landowning Baridis, from
which al-Khal came, and the Ja'ounis, from which his deputy Abu Abdullah al-Ja'ouni
(also killed in mid-November 2015 alongside al-Khal) came. According to a
Ja'ouni from the Hawdh al-Yarmouk locality of Shajra that is controlled by
Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk, the Ja'ounis are Palestinian in origin but have long
been present in Shajra. As for foreign members (muhajireen), the only known
case until now has been an Israeli Arab who paraglided into Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk
territory from the Golan Heights in October 2015, clearly with a prior
exceptional agreement from al-Khal, who otherwise rejected muhajireen.
Therefore, it is all the more surprising to learn that a new amir of Saudi
origin has been appointed to succeed Abu Obeida Qahtan. Hints of a change in
the leadership of Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk came to light around 5 March or so.
The pro-opposition site All4Syria then reported on 8 March:
"In a step that was surprising to many observers, Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk has
announced the appointment of a new amir for the brigade who is the Saudi 'Abu
Abdullah al-Madani' succeeding the prior amir for the brigade: Abu Obeida al-Qahtani
[sic: Abu Obeida Qahtan].
Activists of the area controlled by the brigade affirmed the issuing of an
internal decision that was not announced through the brigade's media in this
The previous amir had received his position months ago following the killing
of a number of the first set of leaders in Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk in an
explosion on 15 November last year, at the head of whom was al-Khal, the amir
at that time."
On the same day (8 March), a Twitter account in Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk's
name put out a statement announcing the appointment of Abu Abdullah al-Madani
as leader. A Telegram account and a Facebook account in the group's name have
also put out this statement today (see here and here for screenshots).
The statement is dated 7 March and follows the same wording as the statement
that was put out by Liwa Shuhada' al-Yarmouk announcing the appointment of Abu
Obeida Qahtan after al-Khal's death. The authenticity of the statement is not