Ever since the first reports of Russian-speaking militants fighting in Syria emerged in the media, questions have been raised about the specter of “blowback” — i.e. what would happen if and when some of these militants returned home to wage “jihad” in the Russian Federation. Here is evidence of one militant who did return from Syria to Dagestan, where he was killed in a counter-terrorism operation and was suspected of preparing to commit terror attacks in that North Caucasus republic.
This is Abdullah, who fought alongside Umar Shishani in the August 2013 capture of Menagh Airbase in Aleppo province.
It’s important to note the complex loyalties that existed among the group led by Umar Shishani during the time of the Menagh siege. During that battle, Umar was fighting alongside the then Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) but had not formally pledged allegiance to that group. He was still leading Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, which included a group of militants loyal to (in the sense of having bay’ah to) the Caucasus Emirate (Imarat Kavkaz, IK). IK swear that Umar also had bay’ah to IK, and broke this when he later pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, something Umar denied. What is important here is that Abdullah was loyal to Umar Shishani and has been linked to Pushtun and so when he returned to Dagestan he was not considered to be part of the IK group, though it is not clear at all whether Abdullah formally pledged allegiance to Baghdadi in Syria or indeed if he left after Umar Shishani did so.
However, Abdullah– an ethnic Kumyk– did not stay in Syria to fight alongside the IS group but returned to Dagestan, sometime after the battle of Menagh, so either late 2013 or early 2014, where he was known as “Abdullah Siriets” i.e. “Abdullah the Syrian” obviously because of his participation in the fighting in Syria. He managed to return without being arrested, and his full identity appears not to have been published even after his death, which suggests that he was likely not on the wanted list and was not known to have gone to Syria. Yes, this happens.
In any case, Abdullah did not last long in Dagestan. He was killed in Semender in Dagestan on May 7, 2014 in a counter-terrorism operation that besieged a private home where Abdullah had been holed up alongside a group of militants.
Alongside Abdullah The Syrian, three other militants were killed, according to reports:
— Magomed Guseynovich Guseynov a.k.a. Amir Tarkov
— Ali Gazikhanovich Mustafayev
— Magomed Amiralievich Amiraliev
Russia’s National Anti-terrorism Committee later said that the militants killed in Semender had been preparing to carry out terrorist attacks during the May holidays, which include Victory Day on May 9.