On 16th June 1979, in collaboration with a number of the Combatant Vanguard (Attali’a el-Moukatillah) headed by Adnan Uqla, Captain Ibrahim el-Yousuf, the officer on duty (in charge of moral and political steering and head of Ba’ath Party Unit) at the Military Artillery school, located at el-Ramouseh district in Aleppo province, committed a massacre, killing 32 cadets and wounding 54 others. The culprits targeted cadets from the Alawite sect, however the then minister of information Mr. Ahmad Iskander Ahmad stated that they included Christians and Sunni Muslims.
The then Syrian minister of the interior, Mr. Adnan Dabbagh accused, in an official statement on 22nd June 1979 the Muslim Brotherhood Organisation for being behind the killings. He said: “ The latest of their (Muslim Brotherhood) assassinations was that in the artillery school in Aleppo, where they were able to bribe a member of the armed forces, Captain Ibrahim el-Yousuf, who was born in Tadif, a village in the Governorate of Aleppo. They utilised his presence and his powers on the day when he was duty the officer at the school. On the evening of Saturday 16 June, el-Yousuf was able to bring a number of criminals of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation into the school. He then called the cadets to attend an urgent meeting in the mess hall. When they rushed from their beds in response to his orders and came to the hall, he ordered his criminals accomplices to open fire. Automatic weapons were fired and hand grenades were thrown. In a few moments, 32 unarmed young cadets were killed and 54 wounded.”
On their part, the Muslim Brotherhood Organisation denied any knowledge of the carnage prior to its occurrence, they also denied any involvement in a statement distributed two days later, on 24th June 1979. The statement was entitled: A Statement from Muslim Brotherhood about facts finding and history testimony regarding the artillery school incident in Alepp “The Muslim Brotherhood organisation was surprised, exactly as the others were surprised at the campaign launched against them by Adnan Dabbagh, the Syrian minister of the interior, accusing them of treason and treasury …, charging them with things which he is well aware that they have nothing to do with. He blamed them for the carnage committed at the artillery school and also the assassinations that took and are still taking place in Syria.”
In their statement, Muslim Brotherhood made clear that the group that committed the carnage, including Ibrahim el-Yousuf are well known to the Syrian authority, and that they have nothing to do with Muslim Brotherhood: “a- Captain Ibrahim el-Yousuf who committed the carnage at the artillery school in Aleppo is known as an active member of the (ruling) Syrian Ba’ath Party. He has not any connection with Muslim Brotherhood. So, why his actions are imputed to Muslim Brotherhood ? “
In the aforesaid statement, the Brotherhood challenged the Syrian authority to give any evidence about their involvement in the massacre: “ The Muslim Brotherhood challenges any authority in the world to prove, via neutral inquest, whether their leadership or members have ever committed violence; nonetheless the Syrian rule have found many adversaries who believe in the use of violence.”
Twenty years later, the present leader general of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Mr. Ali Sadruddin al-Bayanouni defended his organisation’s innocence when interviewed by “ No Frontiers” programme transmitted by Aljazeera satellite channel on 7th July 1999: “the Syrian authority made us responsible for incidents which we have nothing to do with, like the artillery school massacre, despite the fact that we issued a statement revealing our position. Those who committed the carnage left their statements”, he said Mr. Husni Abo, the leader of the “Combatant Vanguard” who was arrested after the massacre and executed in prison in 1980, said in a televised interview (while still in custody) broadcasted by the Syrian TV in 1980 that he had not approved the massacre. It is said also that Mr. Abdusattar el-Zaim who was killed by the authority near Damascus (1979) and who led the Vanguard after the death of Marwan Hadid in prison (1975) was also against executing the massacre. In the meanwhile Adnan Uqla was very determined to carry out the action. He planned for the massacre and committed it in collaboration with Captain Ibrahim el-Yousuf.
Immediately after the massacre, a country-wide campaign was started to uproot the Muslim Brotherhood organisation. In two weeks time, the authority had already arrested about 6000 citizens. Fifteen Muslim Brotherhood members already in prison were executed. The decree issued by the supreme state security court on 27th June 1979, some of whom had been in jail since 1977 all of them have nothing to do with this issue.
Cairo radio commented on the Syrian authority’s executions on 10th July 1979: “ The Syrian authorities have tried to put the blame for the massacre on the Muslim Brotherhood so as to divert attention from the covert conflict between Alawis and Sunnis within the Syrian party… The members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were executed recently had been detained in Syrian prisons since 1977 and had no connection with the artillery school incident.”
The Brotherhood’s statement we quoted, regarded the accusation as a pre-arranged plot made by the authority to trap and condemn the Muslim Brotherhood: “ Numerous Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders and members have been detained for months, and some of them for years. Is the announcement issued by the authority yesterday no more than a plot to condemn them (Muslim Brotherhood) with something they have not done ?”
The Syrian authority linked between the artillery school massacre and the external opposition supported by the Egyptian president regime of Anwar Sadat, because of the former refusal to sign a peace treaty with the Zionists as the latter did: “ These people moved immediately after the (Egyptian-Israeli)Sinai agreement (signed in September 1975). Their criminal actions escalated following al-Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem (in November 1977), and again following the signing of the shameful and humiliating agreements with the Zionist enemy. They began a series of assassinations in Syrian cities, in Aleppo, Hama and Damascus. The victims included innocent citizens in various walks of life and of diverse employment.”
The brotherhood’s response was very critical : “ It is incredible to accuse the Brotherhood of dealing with Israel, however , their struggle on the land of Palestine is known to all, meanwhile the others (Syrian authority) bear the responsibility of the successive defeats.” “ The (Syrian authority) claims that the Brotherhood are acting in favour of Camp David treaty is refuted by the fact that they are the only party who sincerely and insistently refuse a Jewish state on even a foot of the Palestinian land.”
The Combatant Vanguard members (Attalia Almoukatilah) wrote their organisation’s name on the board in the mess hall, recording their responsibility for the operation, leaving literature that confirmed their liability and disclosed their motives behind the massacre. Moreover, a year later on 11th June 1980, Adnan Uqla confirmed the Vanguard’s responsibility for all military actions taken, including the massacre at the artillery school. He stated: “ The Combatant Vanguard has its independent leadership since its conception in 1975, the Combatant Vanguard is the only party responsible for the historical confrontation resolution with the ignorance (Syrian regime)…”
Names of the main figures who planned and executed the massacre of the artillery school in Alepp
1- Adnan Uqla : born in 1953, an architect, resident of Aleppo, his family come from southern Syria. His membership in Muslim Brotherhood was terminated either in 1974 or 1977 because of his opinions regarding the armed confrontation with the Syrian regime.
2- Captain Ibrahim el-Yousuf: An active member in the Ba’ath Arab socialist party and the officer of moral and political steering at the artillery school. He was born in Tadif village in the governorate of Aleppo. It was said that his brother was killed by the Syrian authorities and he determined to avenge him. Other sources said that Adnan Uqla convinced him to work for the Combatant Vanguard.
1- Statement of the Minister of the Interior, Adnan Dabbagh. Radio of Damascus, 22/6/1979
2- Islamic parties and movements: edited by Faysal Darrage & Jamal Barout. (Arabic)
3- Statements of Muslim Brotherhood in Syria (24th June 1979 – 1st October 1979) (Arabic)
4- The struggle for power in Syria. Nikolas Van Dam (English)
5- Islamic struggle revolution in Syria : Omar abdul-Hakim (Arabic)
6- Without Frontiers programme 7th July 1999, Aljazeera Channel (Arabic Video)