From South Korea to an Uzbek Al Qaeda group in Syria…to a Russian prison


On May 6, 2016, a court in Magnitogorsk in Russia passed sentence on a man named A. I. Nuriddinov after finding him guilty of fighting alongside the militant jihadist group Jannat Oshiklari in Syria.

Before I start, I am embarrassed to have to make a tedious public service announcement: don’t use my work without attribution. That is plagiarism. It’s also really, really sad. Thanks.

So let’s get to it. This story has everything including a faked death, so it’s worth reading.

Nuriddinov was sentenced to a total of three years and six months in a penal colony with a further one year restricted freedom during which he will be forbidden from leaving his place of abode between 22:00-06:00 hours unless connected with work and also forbidden from traveling outside the municipality where he will reside after serving his prison term. The Court ruling gives the applicable laws under which the sentence was passed.

There are several interesting things about the ruling.

First, the Court (and also therefore the prosecution) gave the group that Nuriddinov fought alongside as Jannat Oshiklari (JO), and not simply as “IS” which it has done in previous cases (at least according to what has been published in the media).

JO  is also known as Tawhid val Jihod and is an Uzbek group that joined Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, last year. Here is a link to a publicly available video clip of the group training.

It is not clear what Nuriddinov’s ethnic background is. An Uzbek colleague informs me that his surname could be Uzbek but also Tajik.

The indictment alleged that in March 2015 Nuriddinov was working in South Korea and was recruited by persons unknown to fight alongside an illegal armed group in Syria.

Nuriddinov bought tickets for a flight from South Korea to Turkey and on March 28, 2015 flew to Turkey where he was met by persons unknown in the airport who helped him cross into Syria between March 28-30.

On March 30, 2015, Nuriddinov was in Syria (the ruling sadly has redacted the exact place where he was). There, the court ruling says that , “while aware of the unlawfulness of his actions whose aims contradict the interests of the Russian Federation, he joined the illegal armed group JO (“Striving for Paradise”) which is active in Syria on the side of the opposition forces and whose leader is an individual of unknown identity who goes by the name Abu Salah.”

Nuriddinov then underwent training in a camp whose address has been redacted but which is named as the former military base of the Syrian forces of Sheikh Suleiman.

After the training, Nuriddinov was given a 7.62mm caliber Kalashnikov for $700 and was also provided with ammunition including an F-1 grenade.

Up until 17 June 2015 Nuriddinov then took part in fighting including in Leramon in northern Aleppo (where Imarat Kavkaz in Syria, among other foreign fighter groups, have been fighting).

The court document adds the following color about Leramon, after saying that it is “under the control of anti-government armed forces [and] where Sharia law is practiced, there are numerous restrictions of a domestic nature, public executions and physical punishments are carried out, that have led to the displacement from these areas of ethnic and religious minorities (Christians, Kurds), and [Nuriddinov] also carried out other duties given him by the leaders of the armed group, which result in the discrediting of the RF in the international arena and also prevents international peace, security and normal inter-state relations.”

So, according to the indictment, Nuriddinov was in northern Aleppo after his training for less than three weeks.

He then left Syria, crossed back into Turkey and on 18 June flew from Istanbul to Moscow and from there to Chelyabinsk — where he was promptly detained by the local FSB.

What happened next is not clear, and the narrative of the indictment breaks down. Basically,Nuriddinov was not charged because the Court ruling notes that in the morning on August 30, 2015, Nuriddinov happened across a pistol and some ammunition “in a wooded area” and transferred this to an apartment. On September 1, Nuriddinov was arrested and the pistol was discovered along with a silencer and some other weapons.

Nuriddinov pleaded guilty to all the charges, in case you were wondering.

TASS reported on the case on May 16 and gives some details that were redacted from the court document.

Nuriddinov’s age is given as 30, he is described as a resident of the southern Urals who is from “one of the Central Asian republics.” He was reported to have met the man who recruited him via the internet. Nuriddinov told the court that his elder brother had gone to Syria in 2013.

When Nuriddinov wanted to return to Russia in June 2015, he faked his own death by posting photos on social media.