Via RFE/RL: Chechen Linked To Lopota Gorge Incident Heads IS Battalion In Syria

I wrote this piece for RFE/RL (read the full piece here) on February 25.

An ethnic Chechen and Russian national (i.e. from the Chechen Republic) named Akhmed Chatayev, also referred to as Akhmed al-Shishani, has surfaced in a video published by the IS Chechen group FiSyria, which is close to Umar Shishani, IS’s military emir in Syria. Chatayev was previously granted refugee status in Austria, and was arrested in 2012 in the Lopota Gorge. He was acquitted of terrorism charges in 2013. Note that Chatayev appears in the video with Abu Jihad, Umar Shishani’s confidante, who has taken on the role of a sort of media man who makes video addresses and answers religion-related questions.

Colleagues on Twitter have shared more information in the form of news reports about Chatayev, so I will post more details about his background here over the next days.

My piece on Chatayev for RFE/RL starts like this, and you can read the rest here.

Russian citizen arrested and acquitted by a court in Georgia in connection with the so-called Lopota Gorge incident of 2012 has apparently surfaced in Syria as the commander of a Russian-speaking Islamic State battalion.

Akhmed Chatayev, also referred to as Akhmed al-Shishani, is an ethnic Chechen who was previously granted refugee status in Austria. He was arrested by Georgian forces in September 2012 in the Lopota Gorge and was named by the Georgian Foreign Ministry as a member of the armed group that clashed with Georgian special forces in August 2012.

The featured image is a screen capture of Chatayev in the video with Abu Jihad. More images of Chatayev during his arrest and trial are below: