Last week, a social media account linked to the Chechen-led Aleppo-based faction Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar posted something rather intriguing: a photograph of JMA emir Salakhuddin Shishani (Feyzulla Margoshvili) in a car, with a note to say that he was going to visit the emir of Ahrar as-Sham.
No more information was given, leading to some speculation (following the rather dramatic news of November 12 that Muslim Shishani, the emir of Junud as-Sham, was uniting with Ahrar, I wondered if it could be in connection with that…).
On November 12, however, JMA’s official website, Akhbar Sham, published a post saying that Salakhuddin had visited IS in Raqqa:
The other day, the Emir of JMA Salakhuddin met with the leaders of IS in Raqqa on a truce mission.
His trip was initiated by jihad scholars and the Emirs of the Islamic Jamaats to stop the bloodshed between the Mujahideen in the face of international aggression against the Muslims by the Kuffar.
However, the conversation with the leadership of IS was short. In response to JMA Emir Salakhuddin Shishani’s call to stop fighting with the Mujahideen of the Islamic Jamaats like JMA, Ahrar Sham and others, the IS leadership stated that they would not stop the fighting, because “the Emirs of all these jamaats are apostates and infidels.”
After these words JMA Emir Salakhuddin Shishani stopped the conversation and left Raqqa.
On November 13, IS Chechens responded to JMA’s post with a post on a pro-IS social media account.
The post claims that Salakhuddin went to visit Islamic State leaders in Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital, to table the idea of a truce between IS and the various factions that are fighting them.
Let’s look at what the IS Chechens have to say about that, and then examine why Salakhuddin, of all people, was chosen to go and visit IS in Raqqa.
Dear brothers and sisters, we want to explain some information that that some of the unrighteous are presenting in a distorted light.
Three days ago Salakhuddin Shishani the commander of the IK group (“Imarat Kavkaz” = Caucasus Emirate) came to the Islamic State and more exactly to the town of Raqqa with a request to meet the Emirs of IS, such that the Emirs of IS would give him time to listen to what he had come for.
During the conversation it became clear that Salakhaddin had been sent as an envoy from Jabhat al-Nusra and Jaish al-Islam, in their message they expounded:
1. That we should give a temporary ceasefire
2. That they understood that many groups which were in their ranks had been democrats.
3. That we had a shared enemy and that should unite us.
Thus with these incomprehensible words did Salakhuddin speak his mission to the end in that majlis, after that a reply was given by the Emirs of Islamic State:
We the Islamic State are fighting: the Kuffar, the Taghuts, the Democratic factions, and the apostates who joined the democratic factions, the murshiks, the hypocrites and all the rest who want something or other instead of the law of Allah!
1. We will not make a cease fire with those who first of all united with clear democrats and fought the Islamic State, and now you are clearing not expressing your position with regard to those democrats, you want to make a truce with cunning words!
2. If you talk thus then you clearly understand that you are in the same ranks as the democrats, this confirms that you fought against IS and are in the same ranks as those who wanted to establish a taghut!
Correspondingly, you have to to officially recognize that you were mistaken and each one of you has to officially make tauba and return to your religion, after that you have to clearly set out your position regarding the taghut and all groups and factions that fight against IS and with this explain how mistaken and with the kuffar are all those who fought and are fighting against IS!
3. We do not know who your enemy is and what your aim is… But our enemy is the entire worldwide Kuffar and Taghut and all those who unite with them and stand in the same ranks with them! And our aim is clear to everyone, we announced a Caliphate according to the methods of our Prophet Muhammad PBUH and we are expanding the borders of the Caliphate and establishing the laws of Allah on every meter of land we liberate!
And you want us to have a shared enemy and for us to be in the same ranks, then make tauba [repent] and give an oath to the Caliphate and join IS! And we will fight against the global Kuffar under the same flag and under the same Caliph to elevate the word of Allah on this land.
Assuming we can trust the statement from IS (and we know from JMA sources that Salakhuddin did go to visit the Emir of Akhrar as-Sham (and possibly others as well)), then the question becomes: why did the Syrian Islamist groups choose Salakhuddin as their emissary?
There are several possible reasons — including that JMA has been relatively neutral in the conflict between IS and Syrian Islamist groups (although some associated with it including the group’s second in command Abdul Karim Krymsky have slammed IS), and JMA of course is fighting alongside JAN and other groups — including the Islamic Front and FSA — in Aleppo.
But the other more plausible reason could be that Salakhuddin, a Russian speaker, met with IS commander Umar Shishani (and his inevitable sidekick, Abu Jihad) in Raqqa as well as other IS representatives, and the choice of Salakhuddin was about language and culture as well.
Of course, we only have IS’s side here, and not that of JMA, so we do not know exactly what Salakhuddin presented on behalf of JAN and the other groups.
Salakhuddin made the address from Layramoun in Aleppo where JMA are fighting alongside other factions.
— there is no fitna and that the “jihad continues”.
— I want to clarify the reason why two days ago I was in Raqqa
— We went there so that between the Muslims, between the katibas, there was Sulh (peace), so Jabhat al-Nusra, and Jabhat al-Islam (Islamic Front) asked me to make Sulh between IS and them.
— Alhamdulillah we went there.. I met with representatives of IS, these brigades had prepared an offer to end the bloodshed and so they would all be directed against the infidels.
— So they refused, they said [the brigades] were infidels and they would not make any agreement with infidels.
Salakhuddin talks about the pledge of allegiance he made:
He says he made a pledge of allegiance to Dokku Umarov, the former Emir of the Caucasus Emirate.
After that he made a pledge to Ali Abu Mohammad the new Emir of Caucasus Emirate.