I reported fairly recently on the fact that Tarkhan’s Jamaat have renamed themselves as Katiba Ibad ar—Rahman and had answered a few questions I put to them.
Earlier this month the group also did an interview with the fairly new pro-jihadi Russian-language media center Sham Center (which has been recruiting help on Telegram and Facebook, incidentally; they are not based in Syria as far as I can determine). The interview with Sham Center came after that group misidentified Tarkhan’s jamaat and its military/deputy amir Umar Shishani as Ramzanka from the Crimean Jamaat (there is some resemblance facially but Umar and Ramzanka are very different people).
Anyway, I translated the interview below which does include a lot of what I already asked the group, but has a couple of interesting points: one that Tarkhan, whose whereabouts has been a secret though it is known he is not in Syria and is probably in Turkey, is “prevented by illness” from joining his jamaat in Syria. The other interesting point is an omission: the group has not talked about the dispute between Tarkhan and Dokka Umarov in 2008, when Tarkhan was accused of aligning himself with “moderate” Chechen nationalists.
Incidentally I’m hoping to publish a Russian and English translation soon of an interview that a colleague of mine from Radio Marsho did with Tarkhan, which should have some very interesting information in it. My excellent colleague Mairbek Vatchagaev wrote about it here:
However, starting in 2013, rumors spread that [Tarkhan] was outside Chechnya, which he confirmed in a recent interview with the Chechen service of Radio Liberty.
In that interview, Emir Tarkhan said he was outside of Chechnya and, addressing one of his subordinates in Chechnya, calling him Sheikh, he gave reassurances that he would do everything possible to return to Chechnya’s mountains. It should be noted that he is the only Chechen rebel commander who has expressed a desire to return to Chechnya: those outside Chechnya usually go to Syria as a way to justify their unwillingness to return to their homeland. And Emir Tarkhan said he wanted to return to Chechnya despite the fact that he has his own armed group in Syria although he himself is not in the war-torn Middle Eastern country. The fact that some Chechen fighters are prepared to consider him their emir even though he is not physically present indicates that Emir Tarkhan is a highly respected figure by some Chechens. Interestingly, the websites under the control of long-time rebel propagandist Movladi Udugov (Kavkaz Center, checheninfo.com and others, accessed August 7) did not publish any of the videos of Emir Tarkhan.
Anyway I have translated the Sham Center interview. I liked that they included this photo, which is captioned “the national dish Khinkal, in the military base of the mujahideen.” The Russian of the original is rather non-jihadi in the words it uses, by the way. I would not expect a jihadi to use the term боевая группа for example.
Sham Center: Какие цели джамаат ставит перед собой? Только Сирия или больше направлены на Северный Кавказ?
What are the goals of your jamaat? Just Syria or are they more directed toward the North Caucasus?
Ibad ar—Rahman: Пока мы сражаемся в Сирии, но если появятся варианты, ин шаа Аллах, то хотим вернутся на Кавказ и продолжить джихад там.
Right now we are fighting in Syria, but if there is an option, inshallah, we want to return to the Caucasus and continue the jihad there.
Sham Center: Кто является амиром вашей боевой группы?
Who is the amir of your military group?
Ibad ar—Rahman: Нашим амиром является Тархан Газиев, по нации чеченец. Принимал участие во обеих чеченских войнах. 24 сентября 2006 года указом президента Чеченской республики Ичкерия Докку Умарова был назначен командующим юго-западным фронтом ВС ЧРИ. 7 марта 2007 года указом Умарова был назначен директором Службы нацбезопасности ЧРИ. После провозглашения Имарата Кавказ Газиев назначен командующим юго-западным фронтом Вилийята Нохчийчоь ИК. В радиоэфире был известен как: Абу Билал, Вайнах, Север, Абу Асим, Абу Асер.
В 2012 году вышли с Чечни для лечения и восстановления сил. По причине болезни Тархан Газиев временно не может присоединится к джихаду в Шаме. Поэтому его наибом (заместителем) назначен Умар Шишани, который также воевал в Чечне с 2007 по 2012 год, а с 2013 года присоединился к джихаду в Шаме.
Our amir is Tarkhan Gaziyev, who is a Chechen. He took part in both Chechen wars. On 24 September 2006 he was made the commander of the South Western front of the military forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria by decree of the President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Dokku Umarov. On 7 March 2007 by Umarov’s decree he was appointed the director of the Security Services of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. After the declaration of Imarat Kavkaz, Gaziyev was appointed the commander of the South Western front of Vilayat Nokhchicho of IK. On the airwaves he was known as Abu Bilal, Vaynakh, Sever, Abu Asim, Abu Aser.
In 2012 we [the original uses the plural so it seems they are referring to the jamaat, not just Tarkhan] left Chechnya for medical treatment and to recuperate. Because of illness Tarkhan Gaziyev temporarily cannot join the jihad in Syria. For that reason his deputy was named as Umar Shishani, who also fought in Chechnya from 2007 through 2012 and since 2013 joined the jihad in Syria.
Sham Center: Ваша катиба входит в состав коалиции «Джейш аль-Фатх»?
Q: Is your brigade part of the Jaish al Fatah coalition?
Ibad ar—Rahman: Нет, у нас отдельная группа, но мы проводим амалии (военные операции) совместно с муджахидами «Джейш аль-Фатх».
A: No, we are an independent group but we carry out battles together with the mujahideen of Jaish al-Fatah.
Sham Center: К кому обращен ваш призыв? Планируете ли вы расширяться?
Q: To whom is your call directed? Are you planning to expand?
Ibad ar—Rahman: Конечно, мы планируем расширять катибу, чтобы приносить максимальную пользу для Ислама и уммы Мухаммада, да благословит его Аллах и приветствует.
Of course we are planning to expand the brigade, in order to be of maximal use to Islam and the Ummah of Muhammad.
Sham Center: Хотели бы вы обратится к мусульманской общины или передать свое послание народам России и стран СНГ?
Do you want to address the Muslim community or give your message to the people of Russia and the CIS?
Ibad ar—Rahman: Ин шаа Аллах, скоро мы опубликуем видео с обращением, в котором расскажем более подробно о нашей позиции и о катибе в целом.
A: Inshallah, soon we will publish a video with an address, in which we will explain in more detail about our position and about our brigade in general.
As one would expect, sources close to the chechen,info website which as Mairbek notes above is close to Movladi Udugov were not particularly impressed with the interview, noting of Umar Shishani that:
этот тот самый Умар с Тархана джаамата который не признают ИК и сбунтовали протим Абу Усмана рахимуллах!! Они ичкирийцы закаева
That’s the very same Umar from Tarkhan’s jamaat that does not recognize IK and rebelled against Abu Usman rahumullah! They are zakayev’s Ichkerians