Tatar speaking militant from Afghanistan

More Detailed Information & Interview With Newly-Formed Tatar Group Junud Al-Makhdi Whose Amir Trained In North Caucasus With Khattab

I am now in a position to report more information on Katibat Junud al-Makhdi (KJM), the newly formed Tatar and Bashkir jamaat in Syria, which was created from the merger of two existing groups, Jamaat Bulgar and Jaish al-Shomal al-Islami.

Here is an interview that the group has given in Russian, which I include below in the original Russian with my English translation. Below that is some more information about the group.

But first a disclaimer. It is my belief that understanding the various foreign fighter groups in Syria is key to a deeper understanding not only of the conflict in that country, but also of other conflicts around the globe, including those in these fighters’ countries of origin. In this way, by gathering information over time, we can see how these conflicts are interconnected, and how one affects the other.

By avoiding discussing these questions, by avoiding examining these groups, by avoiding understanding them, or by oversimplifying them or making assumptions based on what we would like to be true, and by avoiding knowledge about these groups’ motivations and beliefs, we are reducing our ability to make sense of and address important issues that lead to war, conflict and displacement of peoples. I would rather attempt to seek out complicated, messy truths that have to be constantly updated and amended with new information, than be satisfied with superficial knowledge. So here’s the information. You’re welcome.

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Журналист: Здравствуйте. Расскажите вкратце о вашей катибе. Какие джамааты были объединены и в процессе ее формирования.

Tell me a little about your katiba. Which jamaats were merged in the process of its formation?
Представитель: Новая катиба «Джунуд аль-Махди» была образована в результате объединения джамаата «Булгар» с «Исламской северной армией». Изначально группа «Булгар» была образована на территории Афганистана и сражалась на стороне Талибана в течение 10 последних лет. Это известный джамаат на территории Татарстана и Урала. Вторая группа изначально воюет в Шаме против режима Башара Асада.

The new group Junud al-Makhdi (JM) was created as a result of the merger of the Jamaat Bulgar with Jaish al-Shomal al-Islami. Initially, Bulgar was formed in Afghanistan and fought alongside the Taliban for the past 10 years. This is a well-known jamaat in Tatarstan and the Urals. The second group initially fought in Syria against the Assad regime.

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Журналист: Выходцами каких стран являются муджахиды катибы «Джунуд аль-Махди»?
Which countries do the fighters of JM come from?

Представитель: В основном все муджахиды катибы являются выходцами из республик Татарстан и Башкортостан, а также с других мусульманских регионов России, где проживают татары и башкиры.

In the main, all the mujahideen of the katiba are from the Republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, and also from other Muslim regions of Russia where Tatars and Bashkirs live.

Журналист: Ваша катиба является отдельным джамаатом или частью военной группы?

Is your katiba a separate jamaat or part of a fighting group?

Представитель: Катиба «Джунуд аль-Махди» на является отдельной боевой группой и не входит в состав какого-либо джамаата в Сирии.

The katiba Junud all-Makhdi is an independent group and is not part of any jamaat in Syria.

Журналист: Скажите, кто является вашим амиром?

Who is your Amir?

Представитель: На шуре катибы было принято решение выбрать амиром Сайфуддина аль-Татари, который ранее возглавлял «Исламскую северную армию», сражающуюся на территории Сирии против режима Башара Асада и союзных ему шиитских бандформирований. Сайфутддин изначально проходил подготовку в тренировочном лагере амира Хаттаба на Северном Кавказе, после чего в течение 5 лет совершал джихад на стороне армии Талибана в Исламском Имарате Афганистан.

The Shura of the katiba took the decision to select Amir Sayfuddin al-Tatari, who previously led Jaish al-Shomal al-Islami, which fought in Syria against the Assad Regime and allied Shi’ite groups. Sayfuddin initially trained in the training camp of Amir Khattab in the North Caucasus, after that he fought for five years in the Taliban.

Журналист: Связана ли ваша катиба с другими татарскими джамаатами в Сирии? Например, крымские татары, имеется ли у вас с ними связь?

Is your group linked to other Tatar groups in Syria? E.g. do you have links with Crimean Tatars?

Представитель: Нет, мы не связаны с ними, это отдельная катиба.

No, we are not linked to them, this is an independent jamaat.

Журналист: В каких провинциях Сирии вы участвуете в боевых действиях против режима Башара Асада? Проводите ли вы совместные операции с другими джамаатами?

In which Syrian provinces are you fighting against the Assad regime? Do you fight in joint operations with other jamaats?

Представитель: Основные боевые действия катибы разворачиваются в провинции Латакия, находящейся на севере Сирии. Мы проводим совместные операции с тюркоязычными джамаатами: с уйгурами из «Исламской партии Туркестана», а также с турецкими и туркменскими муджахидами. Татарский язык очень похож на их языки, и у нас не возникают проблемы во взаимодействии друг с другом.

The katiba’s main combat activities are in Latakia in the north of Syria. We carry out joint operations with Turkish speaking groups: with the Islamic Party of Turkestan and also with Turkish and Turkmen mujahideen. The Tatar language is very similar to their languages, and we do not have problems cooperating with each other.
Журналист: Некоторые СМИ называют вас представителями или вербовщиками ИГИЛ, как вы связаны с этой организацией?

Some media have called you representatives or recruiters for IS, what are your links with that group?

Представитель: Эти высказывания являются ложными и безосновательными. Ни в одном из своих обращений мы никогда не говорили о том, что как-то связаны с ИГИЛ, ССА или подобными организациями. Наша акыда построена на убеждениях ахлю-с-Сунны уаль-джамаа.

These statements are false and baseless. We have never said in any of our addresses that we have any links to IS, the Free Syrian Army or other groups. Our aqida (faith) is based on the beliefs of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah.
Журналист: Почему вы приехали в Сирию?

Why did you come to Syria?

Представитель: Также как и все остальные муджахиды мы переселились в Шам ради установления законов Шариата на этой благословенной земле. Мы сражаемся с объединенными силами врагов Ислама ради возвышения Слова Аллаха. Однако нашей стратегической задачей является поднять мусульман Татарстана и Башкортостана к выходу на джихада на территории самой России, чтобы они подняли знамя джихада на родных землях и уничтожили преступный режим Путина.

Like other mujahideen, we moved to Syria in order to establish the laws of Sharia on this blessed land. We are fighting the united forces of the enemies of Islam in order to raise the word of Allah. However, our strategic aim is to raise the Muslims of Tatarstan and Bashkortistan to go out to jihad in Russia, so they would raise the banner of jihad in their native lands and destroy the criminal Putin regime.

Журналист: Что вы думаете о военных действиях России в Сирии?

What do you think about the military activities of Russia in Syria?
Представитель: На сегодняшний день Путин является одним из главных врагов Ислама, который убивает мусульман начиная с Кавказа, Татарстана и Башкортостана и продолжая их убивать здесь в Шаме. Вторжение России в Сирию показывает нам насколько слабы шиитские формирования Асада, Ирана и Ливана, которые имея численный перевес в технике и живой силе до сих пор не могут одержать верх над муджахидами. И Путин сегодня является их последней надеждой в этой войне, но Покровителем верующих является Аллах, а у неверующих нет покровителя.

Right now Putin is one of the major enemies of Allah, who is killing Muslims, starting with the Caucasus, Tatarstan and Bashkortistan and continuing to kill them here in Syria. Russia’s invasion of Syria shows us how weak are the Shi’ite groups of Assad, Iran and Lebanon, which have a numerical superiority in technology and manpower but which still can not defeat the Mujahideen. And right now Putin is their last hope in this war, but Allah is the Patron of the believers and unbelievers have no protector.


Here is some more background on the group:

Jamaat Bulgar has been in Syria since the start of the conflict. It emerged from a group of Tatar jihadis from Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan, who went to fight in Afghanistan and Waziristan. Their amir there, a Dagestani Avar, was killed in 2012, after which jihadis from the group started to go to Syria, which they saw as an opportunity to continue to fight and to attract new members. The group fought alongside the Taliban and Al-Qaeda though was not formally a part of those groups.

The militant who speaks first in the video is, sources say, speaking in classical, literary Tatar and is a representative of Jamaat Bulgar.

Tatar speaking militant from Afghanistan

The second militant who speaks in the video, and is speaking in Russian, is also a Tatar and was the amir of Jaish al-Shomal al-Islami. He has been selected as the amir of the new group, JM. He is Sayfuddin al-Tatari and was chosen as amir of JM because “of his high combat qualities, excellent morals, as well as his great military experience and knowledge of Sharia.”

Sayfuddin says, in essence, that the point of the video is to let Muslims living outside Syria know that Jamaat Bulgar and Jaish al-Shomal al-Islami no longer exist and have merged into a more powerful group, which is calling on Russian Muslims to move to Syria and fight in their ranks against “the enemies of Islam who are trying to overthrow the Sharia of Allah and are organizing a genocide of the Muslim population.”

A 2012 interview in APN.ru with a member of Imarat Kavkaz discusses Tatar jihadis and mentions that Jamaat Bulgar has fighters in Syria.

The interviewer, Avraam Smulevich, says that many Tatars have joined together in Jamaat Bulgar. The interviewee, Salyaf, says:

“They are based in Pakistan…their amir was a Dagestani-Avar, who recently became a martyr [was killed].”

Avraam: What are their approximate numbers?

Salyaf: They are around 400 people.

Avraam: Are they not returning to Tatarstan?

Salyaf: They will soon decide about that.

Avraam: And what do you think?

Salyaf: Right now they are in Syria and Yemen.

Avraam: I heard that some of them are starting to rebase themselves in Russia, is this true?

Salyaf: By the laws of Islam they are obliged to go to help when they are asked. I think that the experienced ones could bring young people to Syria as a training, that would be more useful.
Avraam: Bring young people to Syria — do you mean young Muslims from Tatarstan

Salyaf: Yes, to get experience, a type of training assembly line.