Free Syria Police suspend operations in Syria's Idlib province, following HTS take-over

Free Syria Police suspend operations in Syria's Idlib province, following HTS take-over
A civilian police force in Syria have suspended operations following the takeover of Idlib by jihadists.
2 min read
14 January, 2019
FSP have pulled its officers from Idlib [Getty]

A civilian police force in opposition areas in Syria has ceased operations following a takeover of Idlib province by a jihadi militia coalition.

The Free Syrian Police (FSP) operate in opposition areas of Idlib and Hama provinces, where men and women officers have worked to establish security in an area once dogged by kidnappings, theft and other acts of crime.

The group were forced to stand-down Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) - which includes a group that was formerly Syria's al-Qaeda-affiliate - were handed control of Idlib province, after a military campaign against opposition group.

Mahmoud al-Abri, a translator with the Free Idlib Police, told The New Arab that a decision was taken last week by the police force to refuse to cooperate with the jihadi group, after they took control of Idlib last week.

"We decided to stop working the moment HTS took control of Idlib. The decision is because we refuse to operate under HTS (command)," Abri said.

"We believe that the HTS are not to be trusted. They are robbed two police centres... HTS interferes in all sectors of Idlib: civilians, education, medical."

Since the decision of the FSP to stand-down, officers have returned to their homes with police centres handed back to their original owners.

The Free Idlib Police also confirmed in a statement on Thursday that it was suspending work "until further notice" and that centres would be evacuated.

The FSP has already been hit by funding cuts, after the UK pulled finances to the group in September due to "the increasingly difficult" situation in Idlib, meaning officers were forced to work without salaries.

It came amid a planned regime and Russian offensive on Idlib - the only province in Syria fully under opposition control - which did not materialise.

FSP officers warned The New Arab at the time that the decision by the UK government to cut funding to the FSP would like embolden jihadi groups.

The HTS-affiliated hardline Government of National Salvation will now govern Idlib province. 

The FSP have a policy of not operating in territories controlled by HTS.