Public Service Announcement: This Is An Academic Blog NOT A PRO-JIHAD SITE

It has been brought to my attention that some individuals are apparently incapable of reading the About page or any of my posts, and based on the title of this blog are laboring under the delusion that it a pro-jihad site run by Chechens.

I had thought this was patently obvious…

This blog tracks North Caucasian militants in Syria and Iraq and the impact of their participation in the Syrian battlefield on the insurgency in the North Caucasus.

Translation of Interview with HTS Uzbek jamaat Tawhid wal Jihad Amir Abu Saloh

The Russian-language broadly pro-HTS (actually it is officially independent) media group Golos Shama (“Voice of Sham”) published an interview on 29 January with the amir of the Uzbek (with some ethnic Uighur) HTS jamaat Tawhid wal Jihad, Abu Saloh. The interviewer, Faruq Shami, speaks in Russian and Abu Saloh’s answers in Uzbek are dubbed into Russian. It’s an interesting interview for that reason and because of Abu Saloh’s reaction to the situation in Idlib and Hama, and because of his background. I wrote an analysis for Jane’s and my translation of the interview has been sitting on my desk for two days, as events overtook me and I didn’t get a chance to post it. So here it is.

Some context: the interview takes place near the front as TwJ are preparing to go and fight — you can see a group of them in the background.

The interviewer asks Abu Saloh to comment on the “panic” by activists on the internet etc regarding the recent loss of territory in Idlib and elsewhere by HTS/other rebel groups (in particular he is referring to the loss of Abu Duhur air base on 21 January).

The main reason for the abandonment of certain lands and for the tactical withdrawal from certain areas by the Mujahideen of Sham are those [people] who have been considered throughout the history of Islam as a “cancerous tumor” for this Ummah and who have always been a dagger in the back of this Ummah – these are the Kharijites [he is of course referring to Islamic State — ed]. The Kharijites waited for such a moment when the Mujahideen were fighting on many fronts against the infidels. Using this situation, they despicably attacked the Mujahideen. This became a heavy burden for the Mujahideen and a heavy load. During the hostilities against the Kharijites, hundreds of Mujahideen were martyred. And praise be to Allah as many of the Kharijites were also killed. Having seized the moment, the infidels and kharijites jointly attacked the Mujahideen at the same time. As a result, the Mujahideen retreated from some settlements. One of the main reasons for the retreat of the Mujahideen, as I have said, is the advance of the Kharijites. And the second reason is that those areas from which the Mujahideen retreated are open areas. Because the heavy weapons of the infidels work well in open areas, the Mujahideen were compelled to withdraw from some settlements. But praise be to Allah, for the moment, the Mujahideen have realigned their ranks. And this is what Allah has ordained. As Allah said: “We alternate days of happiness and misfortune for people.” Sometimes the hand of infidels will prevail, and sometimes the hand of Muslims will defeat the infidels. And thus will continue the trial from Allah.

The interviewer asks Abu Saloh about the spirits of the fighters given the current situation.

Praise be to Allah, the military spirit of the Mujahideen is at a very high level i.e. how can it be otherwise, if the Mujahideen go to the battlefield, seeking only the contentment of Allah and seeking to attain His Paradise? It can not be otherwise. The fighting spirit of the Mujahideen is at a very high level, praise Allah. The ruler of Oman accepted Islam because of Amr ibn al-Asa […] and explaining the reasons for coming to Islam said: “I followed such a messenger who follows all that he himself calls.” He avoids all that he warns against. If he prevails then he will not be proud, that is, he will not consider people as lower than himself, and if he is stricken, he will not lose heart.” We are also those Mujahideen who followed this man. If we win, we will not consider people lower than ourselves. If we lose and lose some land, well, we will not lose morale. Because the Almighty said: “Tell me, do you really expect that you will lose anything but one of two good things?” One of these benefits is that we will achieve shahada. And the second, that Allah will, with our hands, destroy the infidels and this too is good. Therefore, in the minds of the Mujahideen, there is no such thing as a fall in spirit.

He then talks about the Astana talks etc.

All these words are a lie. And this is one of the sort of lies that is being thrown up against the Mujahideen. The fighting in the east of the province of Hama has been going on for 3 months already. During these 3 months, about 1,350 Assadite soldiers have been killed and this is confirmed even by the infidel media. But in reality, these figures are much higher than they say. If the Mujahideen gave away these lands, then so many infidel soldiers there would not have been destroyed. And among the Mujahideen there were martyrs too. And the fighting continues. But the words saying that the Mujahideen have given away – it’s true. They gave away, they will give away and they are giving away today. But not the land of Muslims, but their lives to their Lord, insha Allah.

Tarkhan’s Jamaat (Katiba İbad ar-Rahman) Fighting In Hama Alongside Muslim Shishani

Tarkhan’s Jamaat (aka Katiba Abd Ar-Rahman) are fighting in Hama alongside Muslim Shishani.

A photo of the group’s de facto leader (Tarkhan Gaziev’s deputy/military amir) Umar Shishani with Muslim in Hama  was included in a statement published by Muhammad Jazira on 25 January in which Muslim clarified that he was not fighting in Afrin alongside Turkey (as a rather silly internet rumor, started by a bizarre story in a Turkish media website had claimed). Continue reading Tarkhan’s Jamaat (Katiba İbad ar-Rahman) Fighting In Hama Alongside Muslim Shishani

Maps – Imom al-Bukhoriy Katibasi operations in Uzbek-majority province of Afghanistan

I love maps. So here are some showing the locations of some operations carried out by the Taliban-aligned Uzbek group Imom al-Bukhoriy Katibasi in Uzbek-majority areas in northwestern Afghanistan since August 2017. Imom al-Bukhoriy Katibasi is an Uzbek jamaat with a presence in both Syria and northwestern Afghanistan. I’ve written a far more detailed piece about them for Jane’s with some info from sources close to the group. But I wanted to post some brief notes and some maps here. The group is led in Syria by amir Abu Yusuf Muhojir, selected after the group’s previous amir, Sheikh Salakhuddin al-Uzbeki, was shot dead in Idlib province by a pro-IS media activist (who has since, I believe, been killed — sources say that Sheikh Salakhuddin’s wife was allowed to kill him in order to enact revenge). Anyway, the Syria operations are shown here.

Continue reading Maps – Imom al-Bukhoriy Katibasi operations in Uzbek-majority province of Afghanistan

Maps showing deployment of Dagestani-led and Uzbek jamaats in Idlib/Hama counteroffensive

I’ve been writing some detailed pieces about the deployments of various Russian and Uzbek-speaking jamaats with HTS and Ahrar al-Sham in the counteroffensive against Syrian government troops in Idlib/Hama, and in doing so I put together some maps, which I thought I’d share here.  I like seeing locations on a map as I write so I thought others might find them interesting. Continue reading Maps showing deployment of Dagestani-led and Uzbek jamaats in Idlib/Hama counteroffensive

‘I don’t want to go against Georgia, but don’t force me’ – Father of Pankisi teen seriously wounded in antiterror op


The family of 19-year-old Pankisi resident Temirlan Machalikashvili, who was shot in the head during an antiterrorism operation in Duisi and Omalo villages on 26 December, are requesting that be be transferred to a clinic in Berlin for treatment,  and have accused the Georgian Health Ministry of hiding information about the clinic, Sova reports on 9 January.

According to Sova, Machalikashvili’s father, Malkhaz Machalikashvili, claims the family have received consent from a German hospital to treat Temirlan, and have accused the Health Ministry of hiding information that the clinic is ready to admit him. Continue reading ‘I don’t want to go against Georgia, but don’t force me’ – Father of Pankisi teen seriously wounded in antiterror op

Ajnad al-Kavkaz view Iran protests with “guarded optimism”

Idlib-based Chechen-led jamaat Ajnad al-Kavkaz published a post on their Telegram channel on 1 January on the protests in Iran. I translated it as I was writing an analysis of it, and so I’m posting the translation here — it’s only short. It’s fascinating that such a short post can tell us so much about the worldview of this small group. Continue reading Ajnad al-Kavkaz view Iran protests with “guarded optimism”

Седа Дударкаева родила 2 сыновей в Сирии, отчества Умаровичи

English after Russian.

Седа Асуевна Дударкаева, дочь тогдашнего главы Федеральной Миграционной Службы Чечни, Асу Дудуркаева, родила в Сирии 2 сыновей. Отчества обоих из них — Умаровичи.  Continue reading Седа Дударкаева родила 2 сыновей в Сирии, отчества Умаровичи

Salakhuddin Shishani: “scout & pathfinder” who aided Esabaev and Gelaev in Pankisi in 2000-2002

Русский после английского!

Following the death of Salakhuddin Shishani in Hama on 17 December 2017, I have been contemplating what to write about him. I have been lucky enough to carry out a bunch of informal interviews both with Salakhuddin himself and those around him, most of which is for my private research. But I thought I would share a few interesting bits here. I finally got around to translating it into English — the Russian is below as noted above.

Also, I am planning to write a separate piece soon with some notes on Salakhuddin’s ideas about what he saw as his mission in Syria.

I hate having to say this but apparently it’s necessary to remind people that if you quote my work, you need to reference me as the source.


I should add that Salakhuddin very rarely talked about his past in Pankisi or about the situation in Syria. He disliked talking to journalists ! So it is very rare to obtain this information, to say the very least. Salakhuddin said that he did not like to talk about himself and he hated having his picture taken. It seems that he felt very uncomfortable with this aspect of things (though he wanted to be an amir of course) during his time as amir of JMA, when the then-main amir of IK abroad, Abdulaziz KBK, pushed him into the limelight.

Continue reading Salakhuddin Shishani: “scout & pathfinder” who aided Esabaev and Gelaev in Pankisi in 2000-2002