The Confessions of Nidhal al-Baridi: Context and Analysis

Nidhal al-Baridi (photo provided by a relative)

Readers will notice that in the previous post I published a group of exclusive video clips from the interrogations carried out by Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed (JKBW) with an individual called Nidhal al-Baridi, who was executed by the group in 2017. For context, JKBW was the Islamic State affiliate that was formed in May 2016 and located in the Yarmouk Basin region in southwest Deraa province on the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. JKBW was eventually declared to be the Islamic State’s Wilayat Hawran.

Nidhal al-Baridi was originally from the village of Jamla in the Yarmouk Basin. He was a brother of Muhammad Sa’ad al-Din al-Baridi (aka ‘al-Khal’), who founded and led the group Liwa Shuhada’ al-Yarmouk (LSY: The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade). Nidhal outlived his brother Muhammad who was assassinated by Jabhat al-Nusra (at the time Syria’s al-Qa’ida affiliate) in November 2015, by which point LSY’s affinities and links with the Islamic State had become very apparent. Following al-Khal’s assassination, his associate Abu Obeida Qahtan (aka Qahtan Ya’arab al-Hajj Dawoud: of Palestinian origin and a veteran of the Afghan jihad in the 1980s) took over the group but was then supposedly replaced in March 2016 by a certain ‘Abu Abdullah al-Madani’, who was initially rumoured to be of Saudi origin but actually turned out to be from the locality of Heet in southwest Deraa province. In any event, when JKBW was formed in May 2016, both Abu Obeida Qahtan and Nidhal al-Baridi were in the organization.

JKBW’s first amir was Abu Hashim al-Idlibi (not al-Khal as Step News erroneously claims). He was assassinated in October 2016, apparently in an IED attack. Following the assassination, the group carried out internal arrests that targeted a group of individuals, including Nidhal al-Baridi and Abu Obeida Qahtan. The case of the assassination of Abu Hashim al-Idlibi and the evidence gathered were then referred to the wali of Wilayat Dimashq (i.e. the governor of the Islamic State’s Damascus ‘province’), who then approved the execution of six individuals- including Nidhal al-Baridi and Abu Obeida Qahtan- on the grounds that they were guilty of apostasy. However, the case was reopened in 2018 by the JKBW judiciary in the Yarmouk Basin, which declared the innocence of seven men who had been executed by the group in relation to the case on apostasy grounds (one more apparently than the number of individuals who were approved to be executed by approval of the wali of Dimashq). Among those exonerated was Nidhal al-Baridi. This was because of contradictions in the confessions, improper procedures of obtaining the information regarding what was mutually agreed upon from the confessions, refutation of the case against the defendants by witness testimonies, and the fact that pressure and compulsion were applied against the defendants.

As for Nidhal al-Baridi himself, I have gathered the following information about his background: he was among those who founded LSY. He did not participate in battles but was involved in securing weapons. It is alleged that he had also been involved in drugs smuggling and antiques smuggling. Unlike his brother al-Khal, he did not appear to have a background in Islamist or jihadist trends prior to the war (as for al-Khal, the stories vary from claims that he was of Muslim Brotherhood orientation to a hardline Saydnaya-style jihadist). On a personal level, Nidhal al-Baridi violated the prohibitions against smoking, and one source claims that there were tensions between Nidhal al-Baridi and Abu Hashim al-Idlibi, as the former reputedly feared the latter. As for Abu Obeida Qahtan, Nidhal al-Baridi was on good terms with him.

The confession clips I have uploaded are by no means the full extent of the interrogations with Nidhal al-Baridi. There were apparently nine video clips in total. One should be clear about the limitations of the video clips. We do not know the exact dates and chronological orderings of the clips and the clips are relatively short. It is also clear from them that Nidhal al-Baridi was subjected to torture and was speaking under duress, so the amount of value we can put into the veracity of the confessions is highly questionable.

In summary though, Nidhal confesses to:

– Involvement in the assassination of Abu Hashim al-Idlibi.
– Relations with the Jordanians to establish a border protection brigade under his command.
– Knowledge of an operation that led to the escape of a certain individual called Ali Jad’a, (who was apparently an asset of the Israelis) from JKBW custody.
– Working with Hezbollah to establish secret cells for the group in the Yarmouk Basin area.

NB: The translations of the video clips are in rough form as the volume makes it a little difficult to hear the words precisely. For suggestions/corrections, please write in.

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