The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

“Shujaa Al-Ali” | Ringleader of kidnappers dominating an area stretching from Homs to Syria-Lebanon border and close to Hezbollah and heads of regime security branch

Security situation in Homs city and the centre of Syria is deteriorating in light of the escalating murder crimes, thefts and security chaos. However, the escalating kidnaps remains the most aspect of security vacuum prevailing panic among the region’s residents, as well as residents from all Syrian provinces who head to Homs province which has become the major outlet for people who want to sneak into Lebanon. In the meantime, regime authorities have taken no action to put an end to the escalating kidnaps in the province, at a time when several civilian and security sources have confirmed that the heads of regime security branches collude with gang leaders who kidnap civilians heading to Lebanon or traveling to and from Homs.


In the past three years, a new ringleader of kidnappers known as “Shujaa Al-Ali” has become famous in Homs province, where his gangs have concentrated on kidnapping rich people and releasing them later for ransoms. Accordingly, the man could make great wealth, collecting tens of thousands of USD every month, especially since he exploits the greediness of corrupt heads of security branches, who support “Shujaa Al-Ali” and provide a security cover to his gangs which are active and numerous in west Homs countryside.


“Shujaa Al-Ali” was born in 1979 in Hush Al-Zibalah village adjacent to Jabourin village in the northern countryside of Homs. With the onset of the Syrian Revolution, “Al-Ali” moved to Balqasah village in the western countryside of Homs, his mother’s hometown, where he joined a regime-backed militia (the local committees). He later headed a combat group which participated in several operations alongside regime forces to repress Syrian protestors and revolutionaries in Qal’at Al-Hesn village in west Homs countryside. Accordingly, “Al-Ali” could gain the trust of regime officers who supported him securely and militarily.


“Shujaa Al-Ali” exploited the tragic situation in Syria and focused on Syrians who desire to escape from Syria to Lebanon for different purposes, such as immigration, avoiding mandatory conscription and searching for job opportunities. “Al-Ali” has imposed his influence in the region and dominated all routes leading to the border strip between Syria and Lebanon, after coordinating with officers responsible for checkpoint of regime forces and their affiliated militias, including the 4th Division, the military security service and border guard forces, before he started to lure tens of the individuals from Hadidah, Um Jame’, Um Hartayn, Um Al-Dawali and Al-Haydariyah village to recruit them, offering them satisfying salaries, in coordination with the head of the military security branch, Mohamed Suleiman Qana, who has exploited “Al-Ali” for financial purposes.


SOHR activists in Homs have confirmed that tens of civilians from different provinces are kidnapped every month by gangs headed by “Shujaa Al-Ali,” while heading from Homs to Lebanon and that “Al-Ali” uses a set of hangars in farmlands in Um Jame’ and Hadidah areas to held the kidnapped people who are released only when their families pay the required ransoms which range between 3,000 and 5,000 USD every person.


SOHR sources have also confirmed that all appeals by the families of kidnapped people to the heads of security branches remain unheeded, where the heads of security branches refuse to take any action that could probably put an end to kidnaps or send security and military patrols to arrest Al-Ali-subordinated gangs whose members are deployed publicly along Homs-Tartus highway and junctions leading to the Syria-Lebanon border.


Local sources from the western countryside of Homs have confirmed that “Shujaa Al-Ali,” nicknamed as “Al-Khal” (the Uncle), has gained broad  populist support among the residents of the villages of the western countryside of Homs, as he has promised the region’s residents that their children would not be prosecuted and that their houses would not be stormed by security forces, exploiting his strong ties with the heads of security branches, the regime intelligence department and commanders of the Lebanese Hezbollah. Moreover, “Al-Ali” pays monthly salaries to the families of members joining his gangs that dominate all affairs in west Homs countryside in light of the inactive role of the regime’s institutions and security stations.


The local sources, speaking anonymously due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that the accomplishment of military operations in the surrounding areas of Homs and the suspension looting and thefts by ally forces have contributed to the emergence of group leaders, the most prominent of which is “Shujaa Al-Ali,” who started searching for another sources of income. Accordingly, they turned to human trafficking in coordination with checkpoints of regime forces and border guards and senior commanders in the Lebanese Hezbollah, before routes used only by gangs of “Al-Ali” for smuggling goods from Lebanon to Syria were opened. Those routes were used for smuggling petrol, cooking oil and many other goods from Lebanon to markets in Homs city, after coordination with customs patrols and regime checkpoints in order not to stop such cargos.


Last month, the brother of “Shujaa Al-Ali” was injured with a gunshot, while he was kidnapping a contractor called “Mahmoud Al-Rajab” in Homs city, as “Al-Rajab” dared enter a tender for moving rubble caused by demolishing residential buildings in Al-Khalidiyah neighbourhood. Later, sources found out that another contractor called “Ali Abdalkareem,” who has strong ties with “Shujaa Al-Ali,” was competing “Al-Rajab” to win the tender, where “Al-Ali” asked the family of “Al-Rajab” to pay a ransom of 20,000 USD in return for his release.


“Al-Ali” has widened his dirty business through seizing most of the petrol stations in western Homs, after having forced their owners to contract with him, where he receive fuel allocations, petrol and diesel, and sell most of them at duty free stores. In addition, he inaugurated a series of restaurants and summer resorts, all of which are under security  protection by subordinated members whose number approximates 600 gunmen, including regime army defectors with combat experience.


Moreover, “Shujaa Al-Ali” started coordination with “Jaafar Jaafar” from Al-Hazimiyah village in north-eastern Homs, who is the most prominent exporter of captagon and hashish in the region, where he has already started to distribute illicit drug shipments to different Syrian provinces, exploiting the location of Homs city in the centre of Syria.


According to SOHR sources, “Jaafar Jaafar” has strong ties with the ex-head of the air-force intelligence branch major-general “Shafiq Sarem” who was promoted earlier this year to be the chief of the general intelligence department in Damascus. SOHR sources have confirmed that “Shafiq Sarem” continues supporting “Jaafar Jaafar” providing the required protection for him and the member of his gang in return for receiving a share of the revenue of drug business run by the gang of “Jaafar Jaafar.”


Civil sources in north Homs countryside have reported that the release of civilians kidnapped by “Shujaa Al-Ali” gang are released in coordination with the head of the military security branch major-general “Mohamed Suleiman Qana,” who hails from Daraa, and the head of the criminal security branch in Homs brigadier-general “Samir.” According to the civil sources, the heads of security branches communicate with dignitaries from the western countryside of Homs, who have strong ties with “Shujaa Al-Ali” to avoid direct communications with “Al-Ali” in full view of the region’s residents. Accordingly, members affiliated with “Al-Ali” are sent to meet the families of kidnapped people and take the ransoms, before moving the kidnapped people to the military security branch or the criminal security branch where the kidnapped are delivered to their families under the supervision of the heads of those branches.