Following the disappearance of an activist in the city of Suweida, armed groups clashed with the Syrian Military Intelligence, who they accused of being behind the kidnapping.
On Monday evening, the city of Suweida witnessed tensions and armed clashes between local factions and the Military Intelligence, after armed men kidnapped the opposition activist Mohannad Shihab el-Din, with opposition groups accusing the Military Intelligence of being behind the incident.
Al-Modon’s sources in Suweida said that five unknown armed men driving a van kidnapped Shihab el-Din in front of his children as he left a carpenter’s workshop in Suweida city on Sunday evening, and then transported him to an unknown location. Shihab el-Din is an opposition activist who took part in the anti-regime protests and had strong ties to the One Artery factions. Mohannad had recently appeared in a video clip with members of the factions at the Sultan Basha al-Atrash museum in al-Qraya, breaking a coffee cup and saying that this was the one place that deserved this honor, in response to Suweida religious figures breaking a coffee cup in front of Bashar al-Assad, when he received Suweida residents who had been held captive by the Islamic State.
Some local groups belonging to One Artery gathered at the activist’s house and fired shots into air, coinciding with a statement issued by the group that accused the Military Security branch of arresting Shihab el-Din, and giving them until Monday morning to release him. However the groups did not abide by the deadline, and deployed on the streets of Suweida after midnight on Sunday/Monday night and set up temporary checkpoints and arrested nine people, including regime officers and fighters and members of the Air Force Intelligence, while also confiscating their cars.
Tensions escalated after the groups deployed in the area surrounding the Military Intelligence and near the Tishreen Square, when there was an exchange of fire between the two sides, which wounded two people—one of them a member of the Military Intelligence and the other from regime forces. The Criminal Security branch was also shot at.
The factions gradually withdrew at 03:00 A.M. from the Military Security environs as military and security reinforcements from regime forces and the 15th Division command deployed in the branch’s vicinity, and prevented cars from passing through the surrounding roads and cut off electricity to the area for an hour.
An officer from Military Security denied to mediators, who intervened to contain the tensions, that the branch was responsible for the activist’s kidnapping, claiming that they didn’t have any information about the incident. He said that branch members would not be negligent when it comes to repelling any attack on them, and that they had requested reinforcements from the 15th Division to support them along with a mobilization by all security branches after instructions were issued from the Security Committee to immediately deal with any attack on them. But the factions insisted on blaming the regime for the incident because they were the one party that had an interest in kidnapping Shihab el-Din.
Mohannad’s siblings and some of his relatives gathered with local factions in the city and also accused the regime, but a statement attributed to the Shihab family was published on some social media sites, condemning his kidnapping and disowning the reaction by the factions against the regime. It said that the family was with the “law and state institutions.” Some pro-regime sites tried to distort Mohannad’s image, accusing him of being an agent and showing posts in which he praised the “revolution’s keeper” Abdelbassat al-Sarout, and saying that he “supported terrorists.”
Intelligence agencies in Suweida stopped arresting opposition activists at the end of 2015, but they have carried out kidnappings in the same way that Shihab el-Din was kidnapped—that is, using loyalist militias from Suweida. There have been counter-kidnappings against regime members, which have contributed to stopping the arrests inside the province over the last three years.