Now It’s Official: JMA Has Joined Jabhat al-Nusra

After months of speculation — well, since June when the group split, and the Caucasus Emirate (IK) in Syria left — Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar has joined Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

Before I translate the official announcement from White Minaret, Nusra’s Russian language media wing — which contains some FASCINATING information — here are a few points to bear in mind (based on questions I have been asked…):

— JMA is NOT a “Chechen led group” and has not been since June when Salakhuddin and IK in Syria left. Salakhuddin’s replacement as Emir was a Tajik, who quit earlier this month to be replaced by Muatassim, a Saudi.

— JMA under Salakhuddin was NOT “really AQ.” IK is not AQ and was never AQ. IK is IK. There are many differences between IK and AQ even though IK has formed battlefield coalitions with AQ, these differences are rooted in IK’s history and formation in the North Caucasus, which crudely put is an “ethno nationalist” form of Salafism.

— JMA is a predominantly Arabic speaking group not a Russian speaking group.

— Sources say it is likely that some or even most of the North Caucasian militants still in JMA will leave now, because they do not want to join AQ.

And now on to the White Minaret translation, with the exciting information bolded.

On 22 September 2015, the Mujahideen of JMA convened a Majlis Shura, during which a final decision was taken about the unification of all JMA’s katibas (brigades) into Nusra (Al-Qaeda in Syria). Participating in the meeting were: Main Emir Muatassim al-Madani, Shari’a Judge Abu Hafs, Military Emir Umar [ad-Daghestani — Ed], the head of the Baitul Mal (financial house) Abu Nasyr and the Emirs of the Makkars (military bases of the mujahideen).

A video of the joining of JMA to Al-Qaeda will be published later. All announcements that apart from JMA several Arabic groups also united are unofficial and will be published after a decision of the Majlis Shuras of the given groups.

NB! JMA consists of several hundred fighters — that is around 500-600 Arabs, of which 50 are emigrants from the Arabian peninsula and also around 100-150 are Russian speaking militants, mostly emigrants from the Caucasus Emirate**; Avars, Kumyks, Chechens, Ingush, Kabardians and Tajiks***.

** — they do not mean that these fighters are loyal to IK, just that they came from the “lands of the Caucasus Emirate.”

*** No Tajiks are not from the Caucasus.

So as I reported, based on information from sources in Syria, most militants in JMA are NOT North Caucasians, but Arabic speakers and those are mainly Syrians.

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