Militants from the Uzbek-led Liwa al-Muhajireen in Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra appear in a new video released on October 27, entitled ‘Sham Is The Graveyard Of The Occupiers.’
The video shows footage of the jamaat during a preparation lecture given by the group’s emir, Abu Ubayda al-Madani — an ethnic Uzbek. A masked militant speaks in Russian and Abu Ubayda shows off his Arabic skills (don’t underestimate the importance of the prestige accorded to Russian-speaking militants who have trained in Arabic — perhaps this is the same for all foreign jihadis in Syria from non-Arabic countries).
The video is published using the Nusra brand but has Russian subtitles. This is the first time I have seen this, at least with Liwa Al-Muhajireen (or more specifically, its predecessor, Katiba Sayfullah).
To me, this indicates the push by Nusra to incorporate the smaller Russian-speaking jamaats and make them an official part of the Nusra “family.” That may sound strange, considering that Katiba Sayfullah has been part of Nusra for some time, but perhaps its recent expansion, and the trend of “unification of mujahideen” is reflected here.**
The opening footage in the video shows what appears to be shots from a training session conducted recently in northern Aleppo by Abu Rofik.
The audience for Abu Ubayda’s lecture is a mixture of Russian-speaking militants who appear to include Central Asians, and Arabic-speaking fighters.
The masked speaker explains that the mujahideen are familiar with the Syrian Army and those who help them, i.e. Russia, and they know that the Russian army cannot handle long wars, and will give up quickly, he refers to Afghanistan.
He says the same mistake happened to the Americans when they came to Afghanistan, who have not been able to withdraw. “The same awaits Russia in Syria.”
** Nusra released another video this week showing the Crimean Jamaat pledging allegiance to it, the video was removed but a screen shot of Ramadan “Romka” the group’s emir (who is from Russian Tatarstan not Crimea) swearing bay’ah has remained online. Interestingly, the group was apparently not even referred to as the Crimean Jamaat but as a “muhajireen group.” The Crimean Jamaat left JMA last year after a disagreement with Abdul Karim Krymsky. Apparently, there is a rift between Crimean Tatars and Russian Tatars whom the Crimean Tatars do not consider “real” Tatars or Muslims.