Investigations | 25 Nov 2014

The Colonel in the regime army Sohail Hassan refuses to visit his family home in the village of Beit Ana in the Jableh countryside, saying he will only do so, and see his only son Zulfikar "after the liberation of Syria from the insurgents."

After the revolution, and the control of the opposition of many areas, the colonel nicknamed al-Nimr [the Tiger] was transferred to Air Force Intelligence, and was assigned tasks other officers—such as Colonel Fadl Michael, head of the detention center in the village of Deir Shmayyil in the Hama countryside, who lost a lot of battles—had failed to perform.

The "Tiger" returned eight villages in the countryside of Latakia, previosuly stormed by al-Nusra Front, to regime control. He defeated the armed opposition in the Safira, regained control of the Aleppo prison, after breaking out of a two-years siege by the opposition siege. And before he engaged his troops to recapture the Shaer oil field from ISIS, he managed to enter the city of Mork, after months of having stood at its gates.

Hasan is the absolute military ruler in regime controlled areas of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo, as well as in Homs. Under his direct control falls the authority over all formations, as well as intelligence branches, command of the Hama military airport, air force, artillery and rockets, as well as the notorious Shabeeha militias all of whom await his signal.

The "Tiger" prefers having his image taken only after achieving any victory. In his photos he tries to project an image of humility; in one sleeping in a simple chair, and the other passing orders around to his subordinates from over a crate of ammunition. He has, therefore, come to be considerdd one of the most important regime figures. As one of the volunteers with al-Nimr, Dureid, says while glancing a photo of him standing at the side of both Bashar and Maher al-Assad [teh president's brother and head of the elite praetorian Republican Guard], that al-Nimr was the more important of this group.

While Fadi from the city of Salhab says: "After we regained control of Safira from the hands of the militants, Colonel al-Mir allowed us to move them to Salhab," in reference to the stolen booty from Shabeeha operations in the city after its recapture.

A "Tiger" in the Eyes of Regime Supporters

Regime loyalists sees in him a wise and courageous leader. With hyperbole, they wax poetic on his ability to manage and win battlesespecially while other officers hide behind their loyalty to Assad, and flee the fighting.

The hyperbole reached such heights that one of the loyalists even asked him to help protect Baghdad from the ISIS onslaught. Due to his rising fortunes, hundreds of volunteers flocked to join his forces.

Al-Nimr can also call upon the support of additional groups when needed. For example, the head of the support troups in the city of Masyaf is former Colonel Assad Shaheen, expelled from the regime's army for misconduct. He has, however, managed to make a comeback, forming his own Shabeeha brigade that joins al-Nimr's forces when needed.

Samer from the Masyaf countryside boasts that al-Nimr is not sectarian, as his opponents label him. His the proof of this to him is that two of his personal retenue are Sunnis from the village of Qamhana, in addition to Ismailis from Masyaf and Christians of from Al-Suqaylabiyah. he also said that he had many informants who infiltrated the armed opposition .

Yet, in the Eyes of Regime Opponents...

While Hassan is lovingly called the "Tiger" by regime supporters, regime opponents in Hama name him "the yellow plague," as he wreakshavoc wherever he sets foot, as they say.

Ahmed, who just returned from Safira, says that his city had been turned into a ghost town after the Colonel and his men entered it. According to Ahmed, he only enters an area after it has been rzed and completely levelled to the ground.

Mahmoud from Morek in Hama on the other hand, contends that all the rumors about the heroism of Colonel are pure hogwash. He says: "He was only able to defeat the rebels after shelling that continued for months. The inadmissibility of any comparison between the light arms of the rebels when compares to the heavy arms the Colonel's forces possess notwithstanding; his forces were only able to enter Morek, after losing hundreds of his own soldiers and dozens of his tanks."

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