Salah ad-Deen al-Ayubi (Part-78)

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The range of raids and sudden attacks gradually started to increase, and in Rajab 530 AH, a great attempt was made by Suwar, who led three thousand Turkmen horsemen and launched a surprise attack on Latakia and its environs, which the Crusaders were not expecting. Thus he managed to capture seven thousand prisoners and seize a large amount of booty, and he swept aside dozens of Crusader villages and farmsteads, from which the Muslims filled their hands with booty and took many prisoners. The Muslims of the region were delighted with this great victory achieved by Suwar, which was a disaster for the Crusaders of the north who had never suffered anything like it.391In fact the internal strife witnessed by Antioch between 529 and 530 AH due to the contest for power contributed to a large extent to the inability of this county to defend itself against Muslim attacks.392This prompted the Muslim commander to take the opportunity to achieve a great victory against the Crusaders of the north.

At the end of the following year, Suwar launched a sudden attack against a large Byzantine expedition that was heading eastwards, and managed to kill and capture a number of its troops before heading back to his base in Aleppo.393No more than a few months had passed following this attack before the Crusaders and Byzantines sent a joint expedition to occupy the citadel of al-Atharib, near Aleppo. After these forces had achieved their goal, a garrison was appointed to guard the Muslim prisoners who had been brought together there. Suwar soon came out, leading his forces, and attacked the Crusader-Byzantine garrison, and he managed to free most of the Muslim prisoners and bring them back to Aleppo, where there was great rejoicing at this victory that had been achieved by its emir.394In 533 AH, Suwar attacked a number of Crusader sites and captured some booty, but the Crusader knights managed to catch up with him and inflict a defeat on his forces that led to the capture of more than a thousand horsemen, and he withdrew to Aleppo with those of his troops who had escaped.395

The clashes between the two sides continued for the next few years and then slowed down somewhat during the period 534-535 AH, after Zangi failed to capture Damascus and the Damascenes and Crusaders formed an alliance against him. However, these clashes soon flared up again in 536 AH and the following years. In the first months of 536 AH, the Crusaders launched a swift attack against some Muslim sites west of Aleppo, and when they dispersed, Suwar sent a force of Turkmens, led by his son 4Alam adDeen, who raided Crusader sites and reached as far as the walls of Antioch, then returned carrying a large amount of plunder and booty.396A short while later, Lujat at-Turki raided some Crusader territories in the north: killing, capturing prisoners and seizing booty. It was said that the number of slain was seven hundred.397In Ramadan of the same year, Suwar attacked a Crusader camp at Jisr al-Hadeed ('Iron Bridge'), northeast of Antioch, after crossing the Orontes river with his troops towards the enemy's gathering. He managed to kill most of the troops in the camp, and took the rest captive.398

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