On November 25, Syrian opposition activists shared photos showing Ahmad al-Audah, a former rebel commander from the southern Syrian governorate of Daraa, in Russia.
The activists claimed that a-Audah was on a secret visit to Moscow, along with another former rebel commander from Daraa, Col. Naseem Abu Arra.
— عقبة سلوم (@ghiath_Aleppo) November 25, 2021
Al-Audah was the commander of Shabab al-Sunnah, one of the largest Free Syrian Army factions in southern Syria. Col. Abu Arra, who defected from the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the early years of the war, was also a commander of the faction.
The two joined the 2018 reconciliation agreement and became the commanders of the Russian-backed 8th Brigade, a unit of the SAA’s 5th Corps that’s dedicated for former rebels in Daraa.
Under the command of al-Audah and Col. Arra, the 8th Brigade fought alongside the SAA against the ISIS-affiliated Khalid ibn al-Walid Army in the western Daraa countryside. Later, 8th Brigade fighters fought ISIS cells in the northern al-Suwayda countryside and the eastern countryside of Homs.
The 8th Brigade is trained, equipped and financed by Russia. The unit enjoys a good reputation in Daraa. However, its influence is still limited eastern countryside of the governorate.
Last year, al-Audah talked about expanding the 8th Brigade influence to include all of Daraa under the banner of a new formation called the “Army of Hauran”. Some opposition activists believe that the commander is in Moscow to discuss his project with Russian military officials.
Expanding the influence of the 8th Brigade could contribute to the security and stability of Daraa, especially that the unit enjoys popular support and follows the command of the SAA.
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