Umar Shishani’s Biographer Distances Him From Imarat Kavkaz Bayah

Just a few notes about something I found interesting in the recent biography of Umar Shishani that has been published in IS’s An Naba magazine, in the light of my recent post about the early days of the North Caucasian involvement in the Syrian conflict, and the ongoing attempts by Umar Shishani’s camp in IS (led by Abu Jihad) to deny that both Umar and Abu Jihad ever had a bayah (pledge of allegiance) to the Caucasus Emirate.

tl;dr: Abu Jihad throws shade at Imarat Kavkaz with the ultimate diss — pretending they never existed.

As I noted in that post, which has details about the early days in Syria and which I don’t want to repeat here, Umar’s insistence after he left Jaish Muhajireen wal-Ansar for IS that he never had any bayah to the Caucasus Emirate (IK), has caused anger among other groups in Syria, notably among veteran North Caucasian fighters including those who have remained loyal to IK.

So I was interested to read how Umar’s biographers have framed this part of Umar’s history. They do not mention IK at all, not Umar’s involvement with that group in Syria. (Though it must be noted that this is an Arabic biography, so details of the loyalties of North Caucasian groups are likely less interesting or known to the author. However, the author’s comments about how those who did not join IS with Umar were “subjected to humiliation and disgrace” is interesting in this context.)

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Instead, they mention a different figure, one Abu Mukhammad Absi:

Сначала он примкнул к одно-му из батальонов в Халябе, который заявлял, что следует методологии единобожия. В нём он пробыл некоторое время, пока не встретил группу му- хаджиров из Кавказа под предводительством Абу Мухаммада Абси (да примет Аллах его шахаду) из Маджлис Шура Муджахидин. Он дал разрешение этим муджахидам выйти из своего батальона. Та- ким образом образовалась группа из нескольких десятков мухаджиров, которые позже образова- ли Батальон Мухаджиров (Катибат Мухаджирин), а сам Умар стал её военным амиром, а после и общим амиром.

At first, he joined a certain battalion in Aleppo, which claimed that it followed the methodology of monotheism. He spent a certain time in it, before he met a group of foreign fighters from the Caucasus under the leadership of Abu Mukhammad Absi (may Allah accept his martyrdom) from the Majlis Shura of Mujahideen. He gave permission to those mujahideen to leave his battalion. Thus a group of several dozen foreign fighters was formed, which later formed the Muhajireen Battalion and Umar became its military Emir and later its general Emir.

So who was this Absi? There was some confusion over this individual but here is his identity, very many thanks to @mrorangetracker– a Syrian:

The Abû Muhammad al-‘Absî mentioned in the biography is the first leader of , Firâs. Firâs was the older brother of Abû-l-Athîr al-‘Absî (Abû-l-Athîr al-Halabî), he founded Majlis Shûrâ al-Mujâhidîn in Aleppo.

@mrorangetracker added this interesting context:

Abû-l-Athîr may have tried to recruit ‘Umar to his group for (as happened later) without ‘Umar knowing about MSC being an front. So after they asked him to unite his counter-proposal was to have an even bigger merger with which was exactly the opposite of what Abû-l-Athîr wanted seeing that he was a track two approach to gather strength for in Syria after Baghdâdî had become aware of Jawlânî doing his own thing.

The confusion is over another individual who was close to Umar at the time, who was an Azeri who lived in Georgia and who helped Umar financially. He was not open about the fact that he was Azeri. He was also known as Abu Hafs or Abdurohman and he had a Chechen wife named Amina who after the First Chechen War had been a teacher for women in a religious school. No one has a photo of him.

The clarification makes sense — the story here is that the group of North Caucasians were originally in Absi’s battalion, until he allowed them to leave to join Umar. This is interesting in the light of the claims that Umar had originally been involved with IK. I would need more details on dates, though, to fully evaluate this.

Later, the story talks about why Umar rejected joining Nusra (this is the first time that I have read that he considered this!):

Когда Абу Асир Халяби (да примет Аллах его шаха- ду) предложил объединить Маджлис Шура Муд-жахидин и Катибат Мухаджирин, Умар ему сделал ответное предложение – войти обоим группам в состав Джабхат Нусра, чтобы объединить слово муджахидов и усилить их ряды. Но Абу Асир, зная об искаженности манхаджа руководства Джабхи и их худого нрава, отказался от этого предложения. Абу Асир сидел вместе с ними в тюрьме и потому знал их явную и скрытую сущность, в особенно- сти то, что выявилось в известном происшествии в тюрьме Сайданая.

When Abu Asir Halabi suggested uniting the Majlis Shura of Muhajireen and Katibat Muhajireen, Umar gave a counter proposal — that both groups should join Jabhat al-Nusra in order to unit the word of the Mujahideen and strengthen their ranks. But Abu Asir was aware of the distortion of the manhaj of Nusra’s leadership, and so he refused this proposal.


Несмотря на эти проблемы, предатель Джауляни предложил Умару и его батальону дать ему присягу. Он также заручился поддержкой Хадж Саляма и Абу Усамы Магриби (да примет Аллах их шахаду), зная любовь Умара к ним. Умар провёл заседание со своим советом, на котором было решено дать присягу Джауляни, который в это время уже начал принимать присяги на своё имя. Для того, чтобы узнать Джабху ближе, было решено сначала дать присягу, которая касалась бы только сражений. После чего состоялась встреча, на которой, в добавок к обману в разделе трофеев, по воле Аллаха, открылась другая отвратительная черта Джауляни. На встрече он вёл себя гордели- во, и разговаривал с братьями с высокомерием. Несмотря на то, что он сам предложил братьям дать ему баят, он отказал им в возможности устанавливать какие-либо условия в своей присяге. Аллах уберёг их от его ловушки, показав им от- вратительную сущность этого негодяя.

Despite these problems, the traitor Jolani asked Umar and his  battalion to give him bayah…. Umar had a meeting with his Council, at which it was decided to give bayah to Jolani, who at that time had already started to accept bayah in his name.  In order to get to know Nusra better, it was decided to give an oath that was only a battle [oath]. Afterwards there was a meeting at which, in addition to fraud in dividing spoils, by Allah’s will, another disgusting feature of Jolani was revealed. At the meeting he behaved proudly, and talked to the brothers with arrogance…

The next section repeats a claim that IS’s Russian contingent has voiced before — that Umar pledged allegiance to Baghdadi because the latter promised assistance to the North Caucasus:

Это произошло после того, когда Государство официально объявило о распространение своей территории на Шам. Шейх принял условие Кати- бат Мухаджирун об оказании помощи муджахи-дам Кавказа, и был рад этому. Он сказал: “Какое же в нас благо, если мы не поможем своим брать-ям?” Таким образом Умар Шишани стал одним из воинов Исламского Государства.

This happened after IS officially announced the expansion of its territories in Syria. The Sheikh [Umar] accepted the condition of Katibat Muhajireen regarding assistance to the Mujahideen of the Caucasus, and was glad of it. He said, “what good can come to us if we cannot help our brothers?” Thus Umar Shishani became one of the soldiers of the Islamic State.

The next part argues that those who did not join Umar in IS did so in order to preserve personal power (again, the author does not mention IK, and he does not even get the name of Umar’s jamaat correct — it was JMA not Katibat Muhajireen). There is a particularly harsh sting there to IK and to its leadership (and I am not talking about Salakhuddin here, though he too is implied).

Отказ от статуса независимости для его сильного батальона и становление воином, который теперь уже сам должен слушаться и подчиняться не было лёгким делом. В рядах Батальона Мухаджирин были и такие, кто теперь решил отделиться, чтобы сохранить власть и некоторые личностные выгоды, которые они потеряли бы, дав присягу Исламскому Государству и став её воинами. В этот момент Умар без колебания настоял на необходимости присяги и отказался что-либо менять, передав всё оружие, ценности и своих подчинённых в распоряжение Исламского Государства. Те же, кто призывал к смуте, остались одни. Умар согласился оставить им имя былого батальона, которое ничем им не помогло. Скоро люди отвернулись и ушли от них. Более того, они подверглись унижению и позору, Аллах стёр их имена, а имя тех, кто был смиренен перед ним, Аллах поднял высоко вверх.

Rejecting the independent status of his strong battalion and becoming a warrior who must now listen and obey was not an easy task. In the ranks of Katibat Muhajireen were those who now chose to leave, in order to preserve power and certain personal  benefits that they would lose by giving the bayah to Islamic State and becoming its fighters. At this point, Umar without hesitation insisted on the need for a bayah,…Those who called for fitna, were left alone. Umar agreed to leave them the name  of the former battalion, which did not help them one whit. Soon, people turned their backs and left them. Moreover, they were subjected to humiliation and disgrace, God erased their names, and the name of those who were humble before him, God raised up high.