Who are the rank-and-file Russian-speaking jihadis in Syria? We take a look at three fighters from Chechen-led faction Jaish al-Mujahireen wal Ansar.
While we have managed to paint quite a detailed picture of the Chechen military leaders in Syria, not a great deal is known about the sort of people who are traveling to Syria to fight with the Russian-speaking jamaats.
A recent post by Akhbar Sham, the website of Chechen-led faction Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, offers some biographical and details about three fighters who have recently been killed. These accounts, while still sketchy, do provide some more details about the nationalities, ages, personality traits, and motivations of three young men who joined this group.
*None of the three men killed are Chechens. One is a Kazakh, one is from Dagestan and the other from Tajikistan. These three men, all from former Soviet states, all came to Syria and chose to fight with JMA, which considers itself aligned to the Caucasus Emirate.
*These men are very young. The Kazakh was just 19, the Tajik does not look much older than his early 20s, and the Dagestani is perhaps older than that. None of these men were seasoned fighters.
*They seem to have found a “home” or comradeship in the jamaat, although their fellow fighters knew surprisingly little about these young men who lived and died with them.
*The jamaats with which they fought knew very little about their personal backgrounds or why they had come to Syria. Apart from their country of origin, as expressed through their noms de guerre, little is known.
*The writer of the obituaries cannot help but digress into an account of JMA’s glory in battle in Aleppo, in which he says that Hezbollah fighters were among those maintaining the Assad regime’s bases in Layramoun, Aleppo.
*The fighters were killed because of their lack of fighting experience–they broke cover, and ran into enemy fire.
A translation of the post is below:
Abu Khurayra Kazaki
He was 19. Maybe a little more or less. From the very first day, he was at home in the jamaat, as if he had a reserved spot here. He was one of those who, as well as his youth, possessed an innate charm.
Watching his behavior and listening to him speak, it was impossible to imagine that you could ever argue with him. Merry, witty, he willingly got into conversations with his comrades, got into discussions, but somehow gently and respectfully, without straining himself or his companions.
He practically said nothing about himself, as is acceptable among the majority of mujahideen.
One of the older mujahideen would josh around with him:
“Now then, son of the Kazakh steppes, let’s have your name. You want me to make three guesses what they call you? You’re Zhumabay. No? Well, that means you’re Tuligen or Serik.”
“No,” he would say with a smile. “My name is Abu Khureyra.”
That’s all we knew about him. A short life, but he left a lifelong, bright trace in the hearts of his comrade mujahideen.
Abu Ahmad Tajiki
He arrived in Spring 2013 and wound up in a group named “The Commandos”. He was soft, shy, and with a permanent welcoming grin on his face, so it was hard to figure out when he was dissatisfied and what he didn’t like. He never complained and he never asked for anything, but from some things he said his close friend understood what bugged him.
And what bugged him was the too comfortable living conditions in that group. That’s why he often went to the frontline, where he felt better. Afterward he transferred to the 2nd base of the Sariyat “Caucasus Emirate”.
He took great care of the brothers, was interested in their needs and sincerely asked how he could help. I always liked his attitude toward the obligatory prayers – he tried to do them on time. When he was on the base, he was often made the imam during prayer. He read the Koran very nicely, by the way, as do many of our brothers from Tajikistan.
Someone who knew a bit about the events in Tajikistan, jokingly asked him:
“How is it that a guy from Kulob and suddenly wound up up in the jihad? Didn’t the Kulobis always support the government? And it was people from Qurghonteppa and other places who went to wage jihad.”
But Abu Ahmad couldn’t be taken unawares by a joke. He could counter with witty repartee. With a merry gleam in his eyes, he answered, imitating the voice of the wise elder:
“In this world, everything is changing, nothing stands still. Those who used to be considered the true heroes have been sucked into the world. And Kulob, where people used to sit on the sidelines, is starting to produce mujahideen.”
He had a really strong desire to participate in a battle. Every time he met the brothers, after he said hi, he would ask, “Well, when are we gonna make a move?”
And of course, he never missed a single action. He was wounded twice. The first time was during the assault in Jazeera. This was fortified by the infidels, who were near the hills of Shuweykha. Basically, just like in Shuweykha, Shiite militias from Lebanon were stationed there.
At night, the mujahideen crept unnoticed to the infidels’ positions. At that time we were intercepting their conversations. I still remember with a smile how during roll-call one of the Shi’ite’s voices said, “Somehow today not a single one (of the mujahideen) is to be seen.” And their commander’s response, decorated with obscenities: “Yeah, they all fled to Turkey”.
Their chatter over the radio was permeated with arrogance and self-confidence.
And how things changed in a few minutes, when one of them in a heart-rending voice shouted that the Mujahideen were just 10 meters from the house!
Then there was a fight that completely smashed the arrogance of the infidels. We heard their Shi’ite commander ordering to shoot at their deserters. During the offensive the brothers took a few houses, but were unable to build on this success, and were forced to retreat as during they day they would be cut off from reinforcements.
During that battle Abu Ahmad was in the rear of the attackers. When he came to the fence he saw a dead comrade. He had just started to think how to remove the body from the battlefield when he heard Arabic voices.
At that spot there were neither Ansars (“helpers”) or Arab mujahideen. Abu Ahmad immediately knew that these were infidels. Carefully, trying not to make a sound, he went to look.
At first he did not see them, but from their voices he knew that there were about 2-3 infidels standing a few tens of meters away under the spruce tree near the house. Then they ran into the building, show from various floors, and once again ran into the courtyard. He understood that they were cunning. With these maneuvers the Shi’ites wanted to give the impression of a lot of shooters.
Abu Ahmad spotted their position in the trees and began to fire. Infidels broke and ran in all directions. Two again ran into the house, and one started to run away down the street, firing as he fled with a machinegun. Abu Ahmad took aim and opened fire on him.
In this shootout a bullet pierced the right hand of Abu Ahmad, a kafir dropped dead. His body would later be found by the brothers who came to the rescue.
As is often the case with the Mujahideen in jihad, Abu Ahmad’s wound healed surprisingly quickly. He did not complain and endured the pain, and the Almighty Allah hastened his recovery. Even after being wounded, he tried to be useful, and traveled on jamaat business by car, driving it with one hand.
The first wound had not managed to hold him back, as our brother Abu Ahmad got up and went to the Ribat. During one combat duty he was wounded again, this time in the leg, a sniper from the Shuwejeh mountains hit him. By the grace of Allah, the bullet grazed the bone and Abu Ahmad pretty quickly came to his senses again and was eager to fight.
In the last third of March 2014, JMA took part in the battle for Leyramon. As ever calm and patien, Abu Ahmad never complained of difficulty and just did his job.
When pressed by his countryman and friend about what he needs and what he wanted, Abu Ahmad said quietly, as if about a third person, “It would be nice to have a warm jacket …”. It was almost the only request that you heard from him.
Our group lives in the basement of a large unfinished building. After fighting the brothers just need rest, and there are no conditions, but no one complains. On the second day they brought blankets and having spread them under ourselves with cardboard sheets, we built a sleeping area.
After clearing the kafirs from the 10th house, for us there was a pause in the fighting. Someone goes exploring or leaves for other things. The front line was put 300 meters from the infidels, we bask by the fire, we drink tea with friends and wait for further instructions from the emirs.
According to the plan, on March 22 after morning prayers were were supposed to attack the 17th house, but before Fajr we became aware that our help is needed.
We got an order to advance to the “Candle” (the tallest building on the mountain near Kafr Hamra) and strengthen the front there. Upon arrival, we found that Nuruddin az Zinki after a night assault and some success had moved away from their positions.
And as we learned the reason being was that they could not take the whole height, and their emir was wounded, and the fighters did not know what to do next.
Amir Abu Muhannad consulted with the brothers and decided to attack the enemy at once. It was impossible to give the opponent chance to recover and allow to them to strengthen their positions again.
As the crow flies it was little more than a mile to where the infidels were, but it was impossible to approach. The brothers went down to the lowland and went to bypass the three groups. Abu Ahmad as always tried to get into the front row. He was part of the advance team of the Mujahideen who stormed the “candle”.
The group with the battle progressed along the fence until they got close to the enemy. Perhaps it would have been wise to take a comfortable position, using large rocks and ditches, and fire from there. But Abu Ahmad, as soon as he saw the first enemies, did not hide or take cover but opened heavy fire on them … then fell, struck by enemy lead.
Ismail was a hard worker, so the brothers described him. No sooner had he arrived at the base, he started to improve things, to experiment on something.
The Mujahideen in their deliberations and discussions, often say, “it would be very nice to have such and such, .. or do such …”. But only a very few then start looking for that or do it.
Ismail was just one of those few.
I remember once, after he came from training, he started to make smoke grenades . Everyone was happy with the result, they were quality smokers. Whatever he undertook, he treated the matter seriously and responsibly.
He had some sort of inner concentration that made him taciturn and to those who did not know him he might seem even closed. But it was not so.
It was enough to address the subject of military tactics, military equipment, and he actively, to some extent, even passionately, began to express his thoughts on the subject. And the thoughts that he had were sometimes very interesting, unusual. His religious knowledge was like most of the Mujahideen.
Ismail was sent in advance to Mount Shuweyhe, with a small group of Mujahideen from JMA to help Nuraddin az Zinki as a tracker and scout. And that night, he participated in the assault with them. Although his job was only to show the way to the positions of the infidels.
According to reliable information, he killed two infidels during that first night at the Candle.
Despite fatigue, he took part in the new morning assault. The brothers say that he went alone, separate from the main force, and advancing first ran into the courtyard of the infidels. He was killed in an unequal battle, but the effect produced by such a desperate attack, played a role – 4-5 infidels huddled in horror in a small house and completely forgot about battle tactics.
They forgot all about dispersing among the houses and making crossfire, about occupying favorable defensive positions – Allah instilled terror in their hearts. These infidels offered to surrender, they tried to escape through the far gate and every single one was shot.
That’s the ignominious end that met these newcomers from Lebanon. In this battle the enemy suffered heavy losses. The remaining cowards fled. Such humiliation and defeat the Assadis and Hezbu-Shaytan have never experienced….