Tag Archives: Umar Shishani

Chechen Jihadi Sayfullakh Slams “Fitna” Between ISIS & Insurgents

Ethnic Chechen jihadi Sayfullakh Shishani, the former second-in-command of Umar Shishani, has released a 24-minute video in which he criticizes the fighting in Syria between the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) and other insurgents, including the Islamic Front.

Sayfullakh split from Umar in Summer 2013, when both were still members of the largely Chechen and North Caucasian faction Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, after the latter accused him of “fitna” (sedition).

However, it is likely the split was largely ideological, with some Chechen fighters disagreeing with Umar’s growing closeness to ISIS. In November, Umar formally swore an oath to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leaving Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar. Meanwhile, Sayfullakh and his group of men joined Jabhat al-Nusra. Both Sayfullakh and Umar acted contrary to other Chechen and North Caucasian fighters, who chose to retain loyalty to the leader of the Caucasus Emirate, Dokku Umarov.

Despite this, Sayfullakh, who like Umar is an ethnic Chechen from the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, has retained an emotional connection to the conflict in Chechnya, threatening the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, in a recent video address.

In this new video, Sayfullakh also addresses the situation in Chechnya, saying that the leadership has damaged the Chechen people by refusing to establish the correct version of Islam and by allowing secular and even Christian symbols to appear in the country. Once again, Sayfullakh threatens Kadyrov, and calls on Chechens to rise up against him.

Sayfullakh — who chose to fight in Syria rather than Chechnya, likely because the security situation in the North Caucasus meant that it was far easier to reach Syria via Turkey than to fight in Chechnya — relates his position in Syria, which he describes as part of a struggle by Muslims against the “infidels”, as connected to the struggle in Chechnya and beyond.

Notably, Sayfullakh distinguishes between the “jihad” that he believes he is waging on the ground in Syria, and between the ideology of jihad discussed by Islamic scholars or jihadi thinkers. He uses a phrase we have noticed elsewhere in recent writings and expressions of North Caucasian jihadis in Syria, saying he has no interest in “what one sheikh says to another sheikh”.

I want to talk about the fitna in the land of Sham.

I am very unsatisfied with this fitna.

We didn’t want this fitna to happen.

We are in the midst of brothers, we are all brothers together, we all help each other.

Sayfullakh says that the fitna is being carried out by the “Jaish al-Hur”, (the FSA — he pronounces the name incorrectly the first time and conflates the FSA with the Islamic Front and other non-ISIS groups), and that there have been rumors that he had taken part in the fighting against the FSA.

Sayfullakh strongly denied this.

I don’t fight against the Islamic Front, I don’t fight against ISIS, I don’t fight against anyone, I only want to fight against the infidels….

Sayfullakh says that the fighting has caused Allah to intervene in events in Syria, to the detriment of him and other jihadis:

When we came here earlier, Allah liberated a great deal of territory for us. Now it’s the opposite, the infidels are kicking us out…. This place that we took, the infidels just kicked us out. In our jamaat, 120 people were wounded. Stop this fitna, Subhana’llah!”

Sayfullakh says that the sides should “sit down and talk and decide things”.

He emphasizes that everyone involved — the Free Syrian Army, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic Front and ISIS — should all fight against the infidels.

The infidels are advancing every day! Every day! They took the ribat (the front)… I am in Jabhat al-Nusra. Thank Allah, Jabhat al-Nusra looks after us. Every day. How much they want to help us, to help our sisters,” he says.

Sayfullakh says that many of “the brothers” had left.

He appears to refer to the closure of the Turkish border, saying that “the closing” had affected the entry of fighters into the country.

“We don’t want this fitna. We want this fitna to end. We want all the Muslims to stand together,” he says, adding that all believing Muslims are his brothers.

Everyone who fights for Allah, they are our brothers. Everyone who fights for democracy, they are infidels.

Even if his father was Bin Laden, he is still an infidel.

Everyone who fights against the Muslims is an infidel. This is my motto.

We are not afraid of anyone apart from Allah. We would not even be afraid of Bin Laden. We want the religion of Allah to be established on this land…

Some of our brothers are on this side, some are on that side, I don’t know who is going to sort this out, we already left to a new place and we are waiting for news.

Sayfullakh calls on his listeners to pray that the Caliphate and Sharia Law will be established in Syria, and that Muslims would then emigrate and resettle there.

Sayfullakh then switches to the issue of women, saying that the women living among them were afraid and some had been taken prisoner.

He says the fighting only benefits the “infidels”.

Stop the fighting for Allah’s sake! The infidels want us to fight each other. We don’t want this war! Let’s free our sisters! Let’s free our children! Children who are in prison…

Sayfullakh says that those who do not do so must say to themselves, “you are not a Muslim, you are not a man”. He adds that thousands of women have been taken prisoner.

He now makes a wider address to Muslims, saying that they should stand up and fight the infidels, whether they are in “Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Uzbekistan”.

Wherever you are, fight against the infidels! They will annihilate us. They must be killed. Their democratic regimes must be removed and the law of lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāh’ (There is No God But Allah) must be established.

Sayfullakh then leads his men in a takbir.

Sayfullakh now has a few words to add about Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, and makes an address to the Chechen people.

What type of man is he? You have humiliated us, for God’s sake. What kind of Islam is it? You put up a Grandfather Frost (the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus, considered a Christian symbol). What sort of Presidents have we had?

Sayfullakh says that all the Chechen presidents have humiliated the Chechen people, including by “putting up Grandfather Frosts and reciting poetry”.

He calls on the Chechen people to arise and fight the infidels, and addresses Kadyrov, saying that he, Sayfullakh Shishani, will kill him.

He is not afraid, he notes:

Only Allah can kill me. Nobody else can kill me… Now I am addressing the Muslims. Stand up and kill these infidels. They are killing our sisters. They are killing our religion.

Sayfullakh says that he is not interested in what “this sheikh said to that sheikh” or what another sheikh said in response. He is only interested in the law of Allah.

He calls once again on the Muslims to rise up against the infidels in the Caucasus and Uzbekistan, “and in Iraq and in Afghanistan and in the whole world. We will ruin you, will will kill you.”

He swears that they will liberate the entire Muslim world from the infidels, and if they don’t live to see that day, then their descendants will do it.

Sayfullakh later allows one of his men to give an address in Arabic, for the benefit of Arabic speakers.

North Caucasus Fighters In Syria Ask “Is It So Hard To Blow Up Saunas In Cherkessia?”

Fighters from the Chechen-led jamaat Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar — formerly led by Umar al-Shishani — have made a video message, addressing the Karachay people of the North Caucasus Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia.

The video sheds light onto some of the complexities of the presence in Syria of foreign fighters from the North Caucasus. While some of these fighters have adopted an ideological stance more aligned to that of transnational jihad, some fighters have retained an ideological or emotional connection to local ethno-nationalist struggles in the North Caucasus, even while discussing elements of these conflicts in terms of a wider struggle by Muslims against “infidel” oppression.

The message comes after a faction from Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar split from its former leader Umar al-Shishani in November, after Umar chose to swear an oath of allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Some Jaish fighters refused to join Umar, on the grounds that they had already sworn allegiance to the leader of the Caucasus Emirate, Dokku Umarov and therefore retained a loyalty as well as an emotional connection to the struggle in the North Caucasus, even though they are displaced from it.

Who Are The Karachays & Where Is Karachay-Cherkessia?

The Karachay people mostly inhabit the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic in the North Caucasus.

The region which borders the Russian areas of Stavropol and Krasnodar, was taken over by the Russian Empire in the 19th century.

The address by the fighters refers to a mass deportation carried out by Stalin in 1943, when the Karachay people were transported to Central Asia for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. The deportations were part of a wider ethnic cleansing of around one million people from the North Caucasians and Crimea, including the Chechen and Ingush people.

”Is It Really That Hard To Blow Up A Sauna In Karachay-Cherkessia?!”

The video was filmed in Aleppo this month.

Six fighters are shown in the video. The leader speaks in Russian, saying that he wants to give a short message to his people back home. The fighter then starts to speak the Karachay language. He says that the group wants to go home.

The fighters talk about the struggle back home in Karachay-Cherkessia, and call on people in the Republic to wage jihad against the Russians.

While the fighters do situate the struggle in Karachay-Cherkessia within the context of a wider struggle of Muslims, the address remains very focussed on events in Karachay-Cherkessia in particular, and the North Caucasus in general. The fighters are concerned primarily with returning home, and with calling on locals to fight — and not in Syria but in their homeland. The fighters talk about hitting back at the Russian security services, the FSB; they also call on the Karachay people to commit terrorist acts against saunas in the Republic.

The message comes amid heightened security — and heightened tensions — in the region, with Russian President signing a law earlier this month that allows for a punishment of five years in prison for separatist speeches or activities.

Another law designed to increase security ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics has defined a closed “security zone” in the North Caucasus bordered by Karachay-Cherkessia and Abkhazia, forbidden to anyone without official business.

I have translated the video address below:


Dear Brothers, today we are in Syria. Whatever and however it happened, we inshallah are trying to get home.

We call you, brothers, to go out to Jihad inshallah, because Allah calls for jihad in the Quran.

Today, brothers, such a time has come for our people that they are getting at, beating having a go at our brothers, they’re killing our sisters. Allahu Akbar! We must go out!

How can you watch all that brothers. Allahu Akbar! You must go out today for jihad for sure!

If we don’t go out for jihad now, then we’ll be severely punished by Allah. A hard time has come for our Ummah.

Another of the fighters speaks:


O our Jamaat! I’m not going to add much or little to what’s been said, just that they’re cutting us like prize sheep for their needs. It’s happening at home, and in Dagestan, and everywhere. And we can’t wait and pull on the hope that everything will pass, that it will be passed on to someone else. Why, that’s sinful and shameful before Allah and before people!

Start to excise the FSB from the very fat and the middle and then from all the rest. If they harm one person, excise two of them, if they harm two people, excise five of them.

What you can do alone, don’t do with two people. What you can do with two people, don’t involve three. As far as possible, try to have as few people as possible know what you are doing.

Don’t gather in large groups in one place. Information gets about in places where there are lots of people. Take care of yourself! But at the same time, don’t feel sorry for yourself!

Strive to do what you can, and do it in the name of Allah. You know yourself what you do. If everyone excised one, then there would be an end to it.

Arouse yourselves, strive in the will of Allah! If you don’t do it, then no one will do it and if we don’t do it then no one will do it.

If Allah allows it we will unite with you. Choose a place for yourself and strive to prepare a place for our arrival.

Now it is not the time to gather en masse in one place. Alone, in twos, in threes, you don’t need more than that.

May Allah support you! May Allah join you on your path!

A third fighter speaks:


We want to address our older generation. You are helping those red FSB-niks! Do you remember how you were all kicked out of your homes in two days?

You were thrown into wagons and taken to some foreign lands. Most of the people perished in the wagons! Children and old folk were kicked out like dogs!

So quit helping them and help your Muslim brothers and sisters! You should be ashamed! Allahu Akbar!

We’ll all die today or tomorrow, we will all stand before Allah and inshallah everyone who sold us before Allah in that hour will suffer for their crimes!

Don’t help the FSB-niks, those dogs! They are just like dogs in this life and the next and they’re gonna die like dogs!

And then you will understand, who served Allah.

Whoever you will be with in this life, that is who you will be with in the next life. Try to get closer to the Muslims so that in the next life you won’t be resurrected with the infidels.

Brothers, we are turning to you, we are doing everything possible for you here. We ask you, do something there!

In Cherkessia alone there are 70 saunas, for God’s sake! Torch them, blow them up! Can’t you even make one bomb, for God’s sake?

Blow them up, Allahu Akbar! Is it really that hard to blow up a sauna in Cherkessia? Their attention is all directed here. Work, Allah will make opportunities for you!

Right now, Allah the Almighty is giving such opportunities to the Ummah of Muslims. Come on, Brothers! And may Allah help you!

Syria: Umar Shishani To Syrian People – “We Didn’t Come To Fight You”

A new propaganda video from ISIS shows the military leader of the faction’s northern division, the ethnic Chechen Umar Shishani, giving an address regarding the recent fighting in Al Bab in Aleppo Province. The second part of the video shows a montage of operations in Al Bab.

Several important pieces of information can be gleaned (translation below):

1. According to Umar, who says that “today we captured Al Bab”, the footage of his speech was shot last week and released on Monday.

2. Umar, who has previously made video addresses in Russian, speaks in formal Modern Standard Arabic with a heavy Russian accent. Unlike his previous addresses, this video is not intended for North Caucasian, Russian-speaking viewers but an Arabic-speaking audience.

3. Umar appears to be genuinely shocked and surprised that other insurgents would attack ISIS headquarters, especially when he and his men were absent, fighting in Deir Ez Zor Province in eastern Syria.

4. Umar asks the Syrian people why they do not accept the Muhajireen (foreign fighters), even though hundreds from his faction have been killed in the recent battle and thousands of foreign fighters have died in total.

5. Umar describes the insurgents fighting ISIS as making a pact with the Taghout (the “idol worshippers”) who want to continue the Assad regime.

This video message follow another speech made last week by Umar, via his second-in-command Abu Jihad (translation below), in which he addressed the Syrian people and asked why they did not support the foreign fighters.

The leap to addressing an Arabic-speaking audience comes two months after Umar made an ideological jump, swearing an oath to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in late November and taking many of his men with him from the faction Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar. Doing so, Umar cut his ideological umbilical cord to the North Caucasian jihad and the leader of Imarat Kavkaz, Dokku Umarov. (Notably, those of Umar’s men who had previously sworn allegiance to Umarov refused to follow him in swearing allegiance to Baghdadi.)

Umar’s previous messages have mostly focused on talking about the gains he and his men had made. Later video addresses made with Abu Jihad explained why he had sworn allegiance to al-Baghdadi, with one attempt to address wider jihadi ideology.

UMAR’S VIDEO MESSAGE

Today we captured the town of Al Bab and cleansed it from the criminals.

These traitors. They are traitors because they were sold for money. We came from Deir Ezzor, around 300 kilometres. Why did we run from Deir Ezzor? Because these traitors played foul to us and stormed our headquarters and captured our brothers. And they still have our brothers captive. We came back to protect ourselves. We will not leave a single one of our brothers and sisters, by Allah.

We came to liberate the region from the Nusayris (Alawites), and left our headquarters in the Northern Aleppo countryside in the Vilayat of Aleppo empty. And they attacked us like cowards. Like cowards, they attacked us. We canceled our operation because of these cowards.

We didn’t come to fight you and especially the Syrian people. We buried in this land around 500 foreign fighters from our brigade. And thousands of other foreign fighters have been killed. We will not leave until you repent and surrender your weapons to the headquarters of ISIS. We will even give sanctuary […]. We cannot prevent people from accepting Allah the Almightly, we cannot prevent repentance….

I ask Allah to secure our brothers… right now there are brothers trapped in many places, inshallah, we will not leave you until we come for you and aid you. And this speech is especially for the people of Syrian of this blessed land. Those traitors have sold you out and made a pact with the Taghout, with agents from the East and West, knowing full well that they want to establish a new regime with the Nusayris (Alawites), and taking advantage of the name of the Syrian people to establish their project. By Allah, we did not come to kill you, O brothers and sisters. We did not come here to drink the blood of this people. And We we want to stand up for this blood. These traitor cowards who made this whole fitna…

I ask Allah to unite all the Muslims and unify them to make this land under the rule of Sharia Law.


Umar’s first Arabic audio message, spoken via Abu Jihad Shishani:

(The image in the video shows Abu Jihad on the far right and Umar second from left.)

We loved you even before we met, because the hadith talk of Sham and its people.

When we heard about the great oppression in Syria, we held you higher than our families and our land.

When we came here, and looked for which group to join, the idea to form an independent group never crossed our minds .

We were joined several groups, in search of the correct ideology, but we could not choose that — they were all about freedom and democracy.

So we decided to stay an independent group until until we find the correct group (Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar).

We thought we found the correct group, but when we joined them, we found them arrogant.

We asked that from time to time we could send fighters back to the Caucasus to help there, but they said that we cannot dictate our terms.

So we left the group and remained independent until we found the declaration of the Islamic State of Iraq.

The first thing we did was to study their history in Iraq, because we do not follow titles but the Truth.

When we studied their history, we found them sincere before the Lord. They have learned from their trials.

All have turned away from them, the “unfaithful”, the government, scholars, etc., but they survived.

Even when their own people turned against them (Sahwa), the Lord will protect them and gave them the victory.

Next, we met up with them and found them polite, sincere and simple.

As we requested them from time to time we send people to the Caucasus. We were surprised their reaction.

They were enthusiastic and said that for a long time looking for ways to help the Caucasus Emirate. But they could not find a way.

Baghdadi said, of course, since it is our duty.

Since then we have given our oath to ISIS, and day after day we’re convinced that this is the correct group.

The attack on us from all sides means we are in the right.

As for current events, we will talk about what happened.

We were in Deir Ezzor, planning more attacks on the Nusayris (Alawite) and one day before we heard:

Our home in Aleppo was attacked by traitors.

Our headquarters were mostly empty, except for a few guards, and in the houses were only women and children, as the men were at the front.

If they had been men, they would have warned us, but they are cowards.

To the Syrian people, but not the tyrants, we have questions.

Is this your gratitude? After our thousands of victims? The Caucasians alone had 500 of them.

Another question — how do you meet your Lord? When I (we) were in trouble you just stood and watched.

But when we heard that you were being killed, we came with our money and our blood.

When they heard that our children have been killed, they stood and watched, and when we heard the same, we came to save them.

[Important] Did you know that more than 50 immigrant sisters have been captured by these traitors? Some of them were raped, some killed.

We did not come here apart from to help people to establish Sharia. So why did they attack us?

And if they fight against us because of a mistake, then you know their crimes and mistakes outweigh those that we could make.

And sometimes they fight, but are quickly stopped. By whom? By their daddy sitting in Turkey.

We do not deny there have been mistakes or crimes by individuals but we sentenced them and some we even executed .

This is the daddy in Turkey, who feared ISIS’s expansion and the possibility of establishing the Caliphate and told them to fight against us.

Does it not speak volumes to you when the people fighting against us are criminals and bandits like Hayani, Afash and Jamal Ma’rouf.

And people in their ranks, people who claim innocence, but their goal is to destroy ISIS and bring back the Taghut (Assad).

The conspiracy is not against ISIS but against the whole of the Syrian people, they want to return you to the law of the Taghut for decades.

Do not give them a chance to return you to shame and humiliation.

With regard to this freedom, which you talk about, I will give you an example of their freedom .

A Muslim left their country and went to America to earn money and live an easy life.

He stayed there and his children grew up, and one day his daughter came with a man, her boyfriend.

The father was furious, so he hit her and threw her out of the house, she called the police, who arrested him.

She said that she would drop the charges if she had a house, and he agreed. After he was released, he returned, but she chucked him out.

Now he lives on the street, that’s their freedom.

Our message to the rest of the groups is this: now you have to choose. There cannot be two camps, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said.

There is the Camp of Faith and the Camp of Hypocrisy — so choose your side, because the world has begun to be divided into two camps.

And do you really think you’ll will be protected? The same thing will happen to you if you do not change your ideology.

We are not telling you to join us but to join the truth and be with it.

Our third message is to the sincere scholars, we need you to take a firm position in relation to what has happened and not be silent.

Our final message is to the criminal traitors and all who help them by giving fatwas and money.

You are not just traitors and criminals, but you also stupid. You do not learn lessons from the people who came before you. Those who tried to extinguish the light of Allah but they did not succeed in Russia, they attacked us for more than 20 years and they could not do it.

And you know how strong Russia is and what you are compared to Russia, but they could not beat us.

Or look at the brothers in Iraq, the Americans fought with them for a long time with the help of traitors.

But they lost and left Iraq, so what makes you think that you can win?

We will not tell you, “we do this” or “we will do it”. We just do it, without a word. You will see what we will do with you.

As for those who twisted fatwas from the scholar-minions, we urge you to seek the Lord (repent) and that you do so in public.

Whoever does this will be safe and we will not hurt him .

Once we cut the head of the snake, we can regroup and fight back against the Nusayrite Government.

Interview With Salahuddin Shishani, Amir Of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar

Kavkaz Center, the mouthpiece of the Caucasus Emirate, has published a long interview with Salahuddin Shishani, the new Amir of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar (“Army of Emigrants and Helpers”), now the Caucasus Emirate’s official affiliate in Syria. The interview was given to the Russian language jihadi site Sham News.

Salahuddin replaced Umar Shishani as leader of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar (JMA) in November, after Umar formally swore allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. A faction of JMA, including Salahuddin, refused to pledge an oath to al-Baghdadi because they had already sworn allegiance to Dokku Umarov, the Amir of the Caucasus Emirate, considered a terror group by Russia.

Salahuddin was previously the leader of a faction within JMA.

I have translated the interview below. It helps shed some light onto the attitudes and perspectives of the Chechen leader of a predominantly North Caucasian faction that has remained relatively independent with respect to other jihadist groups in Syria.

Key points to note are:

  • Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar are remaining independent in the infighting.
  • JMA has helped some ISIS fighters injured in the conflict.
  • JMA has operated alongside Jabhat al-Nusra though it is not formally part of that group – another Chechen faction, led by Seyfullakh Shishani, has sworn formal allegiance to Jabhat al-Nusra leader al-Jolani.
  • JMA is responsible for securing certain parts of Aleppo on behalf of Jabhat al-Nusra.

QUESTION:
For more than 2 years, events in Syria have attracted considerable interest from both Muslims and infidels worldwide. The global media puts them on the front page, as Jihad in Sham causes all Western politicians fear and concern. Recent developments related to internal strife in the ranks of the anti-Assad forces has cheered the infidels and greatly saddened believing Muslims.

Statements by some leaders of military jamaats involved in the conflict are already known, and also by those who eschew fitnah and seek reconciliation of the warring parties. I would like Muslims to know the position of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar and its relation to this difficult situation. And, of course, many people are asking questions: “How did it start? And who is to blame?”

SALAHUDDIN:
The more you try to figure out “how did it start, who’s to blame?”, the more you get confused. And until all sides go to the same Sharia Court, it’s hard to figure out the truth. But we know that it doesn’t happen in such fitnas that one side is totally in the right, and the other totally in the wrong. And it doesn’t matter how it got started, that’s not important, what is important is that this fitna had been brewing for a long time.

Regarding our position, that’s clear. We won’t fight on either side. Because this bloodshed is very dubious and raises a lot of questions. And I am afraid that a victory or defeat in this war today can turn into a defeat in the Afterlife. We didn’t come to the Blessed Land of Sham to die at the hands of Muslims or to shed Muslim blood.

This conflict caught us at a moment when our main forces had been transferred to Hama, where we had planned an action. In response to these events, we had to revise our plans.

I must note, our brothers from Jabhat al-Nusra received us in a most hospitable and cordial manner. I mean with various representatives of Ahram ash-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid, Jabhat al-Nusra and others with whom we discussed the developing situation.

QUESTION:
With whom exactly, may I ask?

SALAHUDDIN:
There was Abu Turki, Amir Haleb (Aleppo) from Liwa al-Tawhid, and also Sheikh Tawhik, the military Amir of Liwa al-Tawhid. And several times I met with Sheikh Abu Umeir, the amir of one of the brigades of Ahrar ash-Sham. That is a very well-respected Mujahid, a veteran of the jihad in Afghanistan, who personally knows many of the famous Islamic leaders. There were also representatives from various groups of the Free Syrian Army.

Q:
And did you voice our position regarding the conflict, and our view?

SALAHUDDIN:
Yes. We said that we had come to Sham with a clear aim and goal — to fight with those who are oppressing the Muslims — the Alawites, the Shias, the Assadites, and other infidels. And that we strongly avoid any fitna between the Mujahideen.

Not only avoid, but if it arises, we try to make peace between the warring sides and to support any steps that are taken towards making peace.

Any Mujahid from any side who asks us for asylum will get it, inshallah. And afterward he is free to return to his unit or to any other one that he chooses.

We are ready to help anyone wounded in these hostilities and to give them treatment, inshallah. Today our doctors treated 11 wounded Mujahideen from ISIS. Several were seriously wounded….

Those who got left out in the surrounding area, we will try to bring them back under our protection.

Together with the forces from Jabhat al-Nusra, we returned several tens of Mujahideen from ISIS from the outskirts around Hama, with a guarantee of safety. 30 remained with Jabhat al-Nusra. 10 of them wanted to come with us These are mostly Mujahideen from Europe.

Q:
Unfortunately, it is often the case that however much you don’t want to get involved, the situation draws you into the maelstrom…

SALAHUDDIN:
I don’t know. Every situation is a test from Allah. Several of our brothers recalled the words of Allah in the Quran: And We have made some of you [people] as trial for others – will you have patience? And ever is your Lord, Seeing.

Inshallah, we will not exceed that which we want or which seems to us to be. All important, related decisions we decide up ahead with Islamic scholars, and inshallah, we will continue to do so in the future.

But one thing we do not doubt. We will declare war and fight with anyone who takes even one woman into captivity, whether she comes from the Muhajireen or the Ansars. Whoever tries to kidnap women and children will severely regret it.

And those who try to oppress local Ansars and their families should not doubt that they will feel the full wrath of our Mujahideen. Inshallah, we shall not leave a single evil deed unpunished, whoever is responsible.

Q:
But there were ongoing rumors that three women from the Muhajireen were kidnapped after their men were killed?

SALAHUDDIN:
They were just rumors, and nothing came of them. And I suspect that the rumors were put out intentionally.

There’s another situation where we won’t leave things to chance. If our property is stolen then we will demand it back, and if it is not returned, we will fight with them. And we have a basis for that.

(Salahuddin quotes from the Quran)

Incidentally, like I already said, one of our most important tasks today is the strengthening of the front at strategic important directions near Aleppo, in those areas where our brigade is responsible.

Q:
There is another typical question that journalists ask. What’s your prediction?

SALAHUDDIN:
I don’t have any prediction to give. But today or tomorrow there should be a general majlis (“parliament”) session for all those involved in the conflict. All the leaders of the groups, as far as I know, have given their agreement for this.

Inshallah, we will make du’a and hope that Allah gives us sense and helps us make the right solution and the guide us on the right path.

Umar Shishani Reports Advance For ISIS In South-West Aleppo

Russian-language, pro-jihad sources report that the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham, led by ethnic Chechen Umar Shishani, have made advances in the south-western part of Aleppo Province over the past week, in an operation named Operation Fatih.

FiSyria, which reports on events in Syria involving ISIS and related groups, particularly where Russian-speaking fighters from the North Caucasus are involved, said that during the night of December 3-4, ISIS took seven hilltops from pro-Assad fighters, plus two villages.

FiSyria did not name the villages or give any details of the location of the captured bases, but said that the fighters had managed to advance their position closer to the road linking Aleppo city to the south-western part of the province.

According to FiSyria, Umar’s fighters managed to capture a T-72 tank, and anti-aircraft gun and a cache of small arms during the offensive.

It is notable that FiSyria names Abu Umar as the military Emir of ISIS. Previously, Umar has been described as the commander of ISIS’s northern branch, as well as the Emir of the predominantly North Caucasian group, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar.

Those members of JMA who had already sworn allegiance to the leader of the Caucasus Emirate, Dokku Umarov, refused to swear an oath to Baghdadi.

There is a third faction, led by Abu Umar’s former second-in-command, Seyfullakh, who have stated that fighters from the North Caucasus must be independent in Syria, even though Dokku Umarov does not hold sway over Syrian land.

” Jihad For Export”, Part II

On Tuesday, I posted a translation of the first part of a special report by Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP), who sent two reporters on what it dubbed the “Jihad trail”, following the paths of Russian-speaking jihadists seeking to fight in Syria.

The piece is interesting not just for the information it brings about how Russian-speakers, mostly from the North Caucasus, are making their way to Syria, but also for what it reveals about Russian attitudes to the Syrian conflict in general, the participation of Russian nationals, and Russia’s own fears over the ongoing insurgency in the North Caucasus.

It is notable, for example, how KP conflates the “armed opposition” with extremist groups, particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham and with affiliated groups comprising fighters from the North Caucasus. KP’s entry point into the refugee situation in Turkey is by highlighting concerns that Turkey is “losing sovereignty” over part of its territory along the border, but does not mention the battles between ISIS fighters (including from the North Caucasus) and the PKK along the border. The piece also confronts Russia’s own part in the Syrian Civil War, via Moscow’s ongoing support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A major concern for KP is what will happen when the Russian-speaking jihadists return to the Russian Federation.

Below is the second part of KP’s special report.


It turned out not to be easy to find a legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli. There was a whole chain of negotiations: Skype, phone calls, recommendations, guarantees… For starters, they dispatched a political director of one of the battalions of the Free Syrian Army to meet with the Russian reporters. Abu Khaldun smoked a lot, looked at us with curiosity, and started off by giving us a whole thesis about the history of the three-year conflict in Syria. A bloody regime wanted to put down the people’s social protests, the people took up arms…

“We’ve been your friends for 60 years,” continued the zampolit (political commissar) continued to shoot off cliches. “But now Syrians are very badly disposed toward the Russians, because you’re killing us with Russian weapons. I would advise you not to flaunt your nationality here.”

“Aren’t they badly disposed toward the terrorist groups?”

“The Islamist groups,” Abu Khaldun corrects. “They act in the interests of the regime, who is happy to dub them the opposition. Half the victims of this war are the “servants” of the Assad regime, the other half, are on the conscience of Russia.”

Our conversation is joined by an FSA general named Adib Aleui. At some point, he, a Sunni, was a pilot in the Government airforce. But he felt, as he put it, a second-class citizen among the Alawites. At the start of the war, he didn’t think twice about joining the opposition. “I couldn’t bomb my parent’s house.”

“During the time of Brezhnev and Andropov, we were very friendly,” he puts on the same old record. “I had a
Russian teacher, we all studied together for the progress of Syria, but this knowledge is now being used against the people.”

“Is Russia guilty because of what it taught you?”

“All the weapons were bought from Russia, and now these weapons are being used against the people,” the general stuck to his guns. Let his army fight with some other weapons…

WE CAN’T GUARANTEE YOUR SAFETY

According to the general, the revolutionary army controls 70% of the country. And
the opposition-held territory, there is a poor, but democratic rule with religious pluralism and tolerance. We ask for a permit to take a look at these new sprouts. And to go into the nearby Syrian countryside, which is controled by the FSA.

But our innocuous request is met with a stupor by our acquaintances. The opposition leaders talk amongst themselves for a long time, then ask advice from someone on Skype, and in the end they tell us that they cannot guarantee our safety and people there are very, very badly disposed toward Russians.

But do they worry so very much about our safety?

“Islamist groups often set up posts on the roads,” explains Professor Mukhiadin Bananekh to us in Russian. He is the man responsible for helping refugees. “They could take you for spies, and our guys could be accused of conspiring. That’s no good for anyone.”

The FSA general cannot guarantee the safety of his guests on his own territory! Because on that territory hold sway multinational gangs of Islamist-fanatics.

“Of course, those who come to us, to the war, only prolong it,” opposition Sheikh Yasim Aubad surprisingly agrees (as you guessed, he started out by talking about the Soviet-Syrian friendship). “If Russia wants the war to finish now, it has to say firmly, ‘Bashar, please, goodbye’. One man — and it’s all because of him!”

“And the two armies, who are shooting each other, will make peace?”

“Bashar hasn’t got an army. Saddam in Iraq had an army of a million people. When the US took Baghdad, where did that army go? They changed to civvies and fled.”

HOW BOZIGIT DIED

Our interlocutors are not the highest links in the opposition hierarchy, they’re more like mid-ranking. But they are valuable in understanding the situation — they at least spend time in Syria. And they live very close by its border, and even travel in cars with Syrian plates. Our translator apologizes that her mother forbade her to have anything to do with Russians. And she tells us a long story about the crimes of the regime army, about the victims of airstrikes, about arrests and people being disappeared. And we have no reason not to believe her. But on the other hand, how can you not believe the residents of the Christian regions of Homs, who hug us like we are their relatives? Or refugees from the Christian holy town of Maaloula, who attest to the atrocities of the FSA? Or the video footage with the decapitation of Christian priests?

The war does not have a single truth, which would suit everyone. But death does not choose between the righteous and the sinners. We see the next in the line of the “jihad-hit”: 18-year-old Dagestani Bozigit Abullaev, wounded in the kidney, does slowly and painfully. He tries to mouth a prayer, but pain screws up his face with convulsions. His associates sit nearby, someone shouts in accented Russian, “What the heck, can’t you find a car?” Bozigit’s eyes roll back, he’s not breathing anymore.

He was less lucky than his fellow countryman who escaped the war.

From the interrogation of S.S.Ahmedov (a fighter who returned to Russia from Syria):

“I returned to the base, where I asked the Emir if I could quit the armed opposition and go home because of serious family circumstances. He gave his agreement and said that he was no longer responsible for my life.”

The international jihadi brigades are spread out practically across the entire north and northwest of Syria. Some bands are trying to unite, others are trying to do the opposite and split from the influential groups and set up their Islamic State in some separate, captured village. For 50 kilometers of track from the border to Aleppo, you can meet both staunch adherents of Sharia Law and mercenaries chasing after petrodollars, and professional kidnappers, and – naturally – fighters for Al Qaeda from the Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS, predominantly Arabs.

The problem is that even when you are in Syria, it’s impossible to get a real estimate of the forces. Even more fantastic are the shouts in Geneva offices by the representatives of the opposition about a mythical unified command.

But the FSA with its verbose political officers and generals, who don’t even control the nearest roads, are hardly suitable for this role…

THREE TOURISTS, THREE SAD GUYS

From the Turkey-Syria border, we return to Dagestan. Awaiting us there is a meeting with those for whom the jihad excursion ended in arrest. And with the harsh indictment: “participation in illegal armed formations”.

This journey — there and back again — has been undertaken by hundreds, if not thousands, of Russian citizens from the North Caucasian republics. These lads, born in the mid-1990s, are of various psychological types, but share a common faith. According to “jihad tourist” Shamil Ahmednabayev, he didn’t get to fight. He worked in refugee camps. And in general, he said he “came to Syria to help other Muslims”.

“I saw on the internet how kids and adults were dying and being killed.”

The conversation with the second “fighter” is rich with quotations from the Quran. He was enchanted with the Syrian jihad.

“That wasn’t what I wanted to see there,” said Zhabrail Saligulayev sullenly, glancing at his laceless sneakers. “They called everyone ‘brother’ but in reality it was those who paid who got to climb into politics. Fame at any cost. Did you hear how Banat chopped off the heads of three priests? They told him that day, don’t do that! And they told the priests, don’t be afraid. Abu Banat was like, yeah, yeah. He waited til the evening, when the elders had left, and he chopped off the heads. Fame.”

“He who promises to defend the faithless and kills him, will carry the banner of perfidy on the Day of Judgement,” we remind our interlocutor. “That’s what it says in the Quran?”

Our interlocutor nods sadly. He’s surprised that we know quotations from the Holy Book. But it will be our turn to be amazed when we meet with Omar Ibragimov.

He got to Syria via the standard route: Makhachkala – Istanbul – Hatay – Reyhanli. He wound up in a suburb of Aleppo, where he fell into an “international” brigade of fighters.

“There were lots of people from Europe, from Turkey, the Near East. I wound up in an Uzbek jamaat.”

“A large one?”

“120 people. Various ages. The older ones had all lived in Moscow. They got to Syria on Uzbeki passports. And if they wanted to go to Russia, they traveled about using internal passports. So nobody counted them as tourists.”

At some point in the conversation, Omar got carried away. He proudly related how there was mutual assistance between the jamaats. He bragged about a new order in the territories liberated by the opposition.

“All life there goes on according to the Quran. It’s forbidden to sell cigarettes, women go around completely covered up. If they uncover themselves, they are punished with beatings. Most people are happy with the Sharia Law. They say, “Allah help us.” They ask, where are you from. You say, from Dagestan! They don’t get it, so you explain that it’s next to Chechnya. They hug you, they say, you’re our guests.”

“How do they deal with captives? Do they execute them immediately?”

“Nah, it’s OK, they give them food. If a guy accepts Islam, then they let him go straight away. If he doesn’t, then of course he’s executed.”

P.S. Omar, of course, did not take into account that he would run into such serious problems when he returned home. He thought that it would be quite the opposite. Like the three Davudbegov brothers who returned home from Syria to Khasavyurt (in Dagestan) in October, and immediately started to wage jihad in their motherland. Within weeks, the brothers were eliminated by special forces — in Syria, they simply were not taught conspiracy. But in the domestic Wahhabist underground, there are specialists in that area too, who are prepared to coach any young ‘brothers’ with invaluable fighting experience.

Np one knows how many “tourists” have returned or will return from Syria and join the North Caucasus jamaats. Only those who enter the country via passport control can be counted. But after all, there is an indirect, contraband route between Azerbaijan and Georgia. According to the most modest calculations, there are about 1,000 fighters from the North Caucasus, Tatarstan and Bashkiria in Syria. The jihadists themselves say the “Russian presence” is around 4,000 fighters.

It’s hardly reassuring that this is not just our headache. According to the Western press, there are around 200 Australians, hundreds of Belgians, 50 Germans, 150 French citizens, 80 Dutch, and 40 Norwegians fighting in the Syrian opposition.

Jihad-tourism has hot tour packages all year round.

(Featured image: Omar Ibragimov, who allegedly fought in Syria. Credit Aleksander Kots, Dmitri Steshin, Komsomolskaya Pravda.)

Foreshadowing The JMA-ISIS Split: “Chechen Militants Want To Break Away From ISIS”

This post, from September 2013, foreshadows the split in Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar after Umar Shishani decided to swear allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in December 2013.

Fehim Taştekin, an analyst specializing in Turkish foreign policy and Caucasus, Middle East and EU affairs and founding editor of Agency Caucasus, explores why Chechen militants are fighting in Syria.

The original piece is in Turkish, but was translated into Russian for Kavkaz Press. This English translation is taken from the Russian version.

He claims that while the largest group of Chechen militants, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA), led by Umar Shishani, has cooperated with the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham, it has not sworn allegiance to ISIS and has been trying to find a way to break with ISIS for some time.

The piece goes some way to explain a recent video statement by the second-in-command of JMA, the Caucasian militant Seyfullakh, who announces that he has formed a new brigade independent of ISIS and Jabhat Al Nusra.

The report also explains one reason why Moscow is concerned about “foreign fighters” in Syria, and their connection to “Al Qaeda-linked groups”.

Tastekin begins by asking why Chechens — who for centuries have fought a single enemy, the Russians — are joining the “global jihad” and turning up on the battlefield in Syria, when it has been generally accepted that unlike groups such as ISIS, Chechen fighters are not motivated by a Salafist Jihadist ideology, but a Sufist ideology specific to the Caucasus [actually, this is a mistake on Tastevin’s part — Chechen militants with the Caucasus Emirate in the North Caucasus have long adopted a Salafist ideology and despise traditional Chechen Sufism].

So Tastekin asks why have some Chechen militants turned to global jihad and why are they fighting in Chechnya? There have also been reports of some Chechen militants among those killed in Afghanistan.

According to Tastekin, the new phenomenon of Chechen militants joining the jihad in Syria is related to changes in the Chechen resistance that occurred during the Second Chechen War in 1999.


The Caucasus Emirate, proclaimed in 2006 by Doku Umarov, initially transferred the war in Chechnya to other Caucasian republics. The struggle of Chechens turned into a multinational design, involving the participation of militants from different ethnic groups such as the Circassians, Karachays, Balkars, Ossetians, Nogais, Dargins, Lezgins, and Avars.

Eventually, the struggle left the borders of the Caucasus. Now this diversity is reflected on the Syrian front. Syria emerges as an important step in the integration of Caucasian militants into the global jihad.

Caucasian fighters in Syria soon found themselves at the forefront of the insurgency, with the Khattab Brigade formed by Umar Shishani [the brigade eventually formed into the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, or Army of Emigrants and Helpers].

According to Taştekin, Shishani is a Kist [an ethnic Chechen from the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia] and speaks a Vainakh language. The name of the Khattab Brigade comes from the Jordanian militant Emir Khattab — also known as Habib Abdul Rahman — who worked with Chechen mujahideen in the First and Second Chechen Wars after fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Khattab’s Salafist ideology had some influence on Caucasian militants fighting in Chechnya.

The Khattab Brigade, which later formed the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, fought in and around Aleppo with both the Free Syrian Army and ISIS but according to Taştekin avoided swearing any oath to ISIS leaders.

Most of the group’s fighters have origins in the Caucasus, though it is not known how many are Chechen diaspora who settled in Syria in the 19th century.

What attracts Caucasian militants to Syria? Tastekin says the main reason is a sense of solidarity with global jihad, including the idea of creating an Islamic State. However, there are some unique reasons why Chechen militants are coming to Syria to wage jihad:

One main factor attracting Caucasians to fight in Syria is Moscow’s support for Syria and the Assad regime.

For many Caucasians, therefore, the war in Syria is a continuation of the war in Chechnya.

Some of the fighters are wanted by Russian security forces back home in the Caucasus, and see Syria as an escape route from the police and the security services.

Yet others are Caucasian refugees who had a hard time in Turkey, and came to Syria, some of them with their families.

One Caucasian, “Mohammad”, who is close to Chechen militants in Syria said:

“There were those who lived illegally in Istanbul for around five years, and for them Syria was the best way out. Chechen refugees, and about 50 or 60 people of Circassian origin, all members of the Caucasus Emirate, went to Syria. They settled in the liberated areas of Syria with their families since they couldn’t go back to Istanbul. They also couldn’t return to the Caucasus. In Syria, they have no need of a passport or to pay any rent. Security officials also don’t pursue them.”

“Mohammad” said that while Umar Shishani does operate with ISIS, he is trying to move away from its leader, Baghdadi.

Why? “Mohammad” said that Umar Shishani believes that ISIS:

“have no respect for the language and culture. They enforce stringent rules for everything. In addition, they’ve looted factories. For example, they took a huge flour plant, delivered its equipment to Turkey and sold it…** The issue of declaring an Emirate has also led to protests in the ranks of the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar. All those who are fed up with the actions of ISIS join Umar Shishani . The number of militants in the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar is 1.5 – 1.7 thousand people. Those who leave Baghdadi don’t go over to the Free Syrian Army, as it is secular in nature and it has no ideology. And there are only a few Caucasians in Jabhat Al Nusra.”

** Taştekin claims that, in fact, it was Umar Shishani who sold the flour plant’s equipment.

Who Are Jaish al-Muhajireen wa Ansar?

One of the insurgent factions that suddenly grabbed the attention of mainstream media during the rebel capture of Menagh Airbase near Aleppo last week, was a previously little-discussed group called Jaish al-Muhajirin wal Ansar (JMA).

The rise of JMA is one of how the Syrian conflict has become linked to conflict in other parts of the world, in this case, Chechnya and the North Caucasus.

Syria is hardly the first conflict in to attract foreign Jihadi fighters. There were foreign fighters in Bosnia and Iraq, as well as Chechnya, and in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Formation of Jaish al-Muhajirin wa Ansar

A video posted on March 25, 2013 showed that JMA was formed earlier that month, when a unit of the Kataeb al-Muhajireen (Brigade of Emigrants) under the command of a man named Umar Shishani merged with several other brigades, including Kataeb Khattab and Jaish Muhammad.

In the ceremony, Umar Shishani is standing in the front row facing the camera as the group of fighters swear their allegiance to him. Next to Al Shishani is a man named as Emir Seyfullakh, Al Shishani’s second-in command and another Russian speaker.

The Kavkaz Center website, the mouthpiece of the Caucasus Emirate claims that says that JMA operates mostly in Aleppo and that it has volunteers from various areas, including the Caucasus.

Umar Shishani

There are several videos of Umar Shishani and Seyfullakh prior to the formation of JMA.

Umar Shishani says:

Dear brothers and sisters. We have not participated in this war, as we should have participated in it, and we have missed many opportunities. Now we have a real chance of establishing Sharia Law on this land. And from here we can spread out to other countries… We are doing as much as we can. With weapons in our hands…. First and foremost, we need money. Today, Jihad really depends on money. If we don’t get that sort of support, there won’t be the desired outcome.

A promotional video for the Brigade of Emigrants from early March features Seyfullakh and describes the brigade as consisting of fighters from the Caucasus, Crimea, Tatarstan and “other countries of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States, the initial for former Soviet republics after the fall of the Soviet Union].

A more recent video shows Umar Shishani and Seyfullakh together:

March 2013 — Handarat Air Defense Base, Aleppo

JMA’s first major operation was the capture of Handarat Base in Aleppo Province, north of Aleppo city.

Footage of the capture was uploaded on March 25 to a Russian-language YouTube channel associated with Kataeb Mujahir, Jaish’s predecessor and shows Seyfullakh talking about the capture of the base, taken the previous week .

Seyfullakh explains that the aim of the group, which he says has fighters from Syria, Iraq, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, is to establish Sharia law in the region. Seyfullakh points to the groups of men standing around and says that these are “all our brothers and they are all going to help”.

In a tour of the base, Seyfullakh points out various landmarks and sites of the battle:

JMA, Umar Shishani, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham

JMA and its predecessor groups have collaborated with other factions on the battlefield.

This video shows Jaish training with Islamist faction Jabhat al Nusra:

Jabhat Al Nusrah and Jaish Muhajirin Wa Anshar… by AbuSalima

Footage of the fighting for Menagh Airbase shows that JMA closely cooperated with ISIS.

ISIS leader in Iraq, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, appointed Al Shishani as ISIS’s commander in the northern region of Syria in May 2013. Al Baghdadi made the appointment after he traveled to Aleppo, following the rejection by Jabhat Al Nusra leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani of ISIS’s attempted merger.

Menagh Airbase

The earliest video evidence showing JMA taking part in the fight for the Menagh Airbase was posted in April. This promotional footage shows fighters from the faction bombing the airbase with a 130mm cannon.

More footage from April shows the faction attacking Menagh with homemade mortars:

The Kavkaz Center website reported on April 23 that Jaish had managed to “take control of” high ground and fortified positions overlooking the airbase and capture regime weapons during a raid on a regime armored division.

Jaish seized 20 Russian-made APCs and tanks, as well as a large quantity of weapons and ammunition, according to Kavkaz.

Footage dated May shows a captured weapons cache:

Footage from early July showing a JMA fighter attacking a tank with an anti-tank missile:

the end of the battle for Menagh, this video, again in Russian, showed a Jaish fighter explaining that the group has prepared a BMP vehicle to use as a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) in a suicide bomb attack. The speaker says, “Enshallah, today we will liberate the airport.”

Umar Shishani gives a statement after the capture of the airbase:

Just before and following the capture of the airbase, another ISIS fighter, Abu Jandal Al Masri is prominent in videos.

Abu Jandal gives a message to Bashar al-Assad:

Abu Jandal in the airbase after its capture:

It is Abu Jandal who is present in the “victory video” shot immediately after the capture of the base, an informal conference led by Free Syrian Army Commander Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi:

Beyond the Menagh Airbase offensive, there is also some evidence that JMA and ISIS have cooperated to train fighters:

The Lattakia Offensive

Jaish have been involved in the August 2013 offensive in Lattakia Province. Kavkaz Center reported on August 14 that fighters from the group —mostly men from the Caucasus region — were transferred fromAleppo to Lattakia and Homs:

JMA Beyond The Battlefield

Like other factions JMA has made promotional videos that show its activities away from the battlefield as well as its fighters’ military prowess. This video from June shows the group providing aid and assistance to civilians — presumably in Aleppo, though no location is given — and also involving children in their activities.

This video from June shows Jaish running a public advocacy event involving children, again, presumably somewhere in Aleppo Province:

Promotional images co-branded to both JMA and ISIS posted on Islamist forums in July show militants providing food aid to civilians in Idlib:

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