Over the past weeks, as fighting raged in Manbij in Syria between IS and U.S.-backed fighters, a number of missives have emerged from the town and have been shared on Russian-speaking IS channels. A number of Russian-speaking fighters from a Russian-speaking battalion has been trapped in Manbij. Continue reading “ЗАПИСКИ ИЗ МИНБИДЖА” (Notes from Manbij) — A Poem
Since the announcement of Umar Shishani’s death on 13 July, there has been a process of mythologizing of Umar on Russian-language IS channels and other social media channels. This has been carried out both by “official” channels but also by regular posters on Telegram chats and Facebook. I’ve written about this in a piece for IHS Janes if you have access to that. Some of the mythologizing has taken the form of storytelling about Umar, which serve to emphasize some of his traits — in particular that he was a humble man who deeply loved his fellow North Caucasian IS fighters, who in turn loved him back. Here is the Story Of How Umar Shishani Went Hungry So The Brothers Could Eat’, plus some photos of Young Umar & Umar’s House.
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.
For the past few months, we have been tracking Voenkorr, one of the most prolific Russian-speaking Islamic State members who is also involved in IS’s Russian-language media group run by Abu Jihad. Here is some very interesting information about his background and radicalization, which ultimately led to his joining IS. Continue reading Meet Alibek, Ethnic Karachay Close To Abu Jihad Who Helps Run Furat Media
New photos have emerged of Salakhuddin Shishani (formerly Amir of JMA/Imarat Kavkaz in Syria and now Amir of Jaish Usro), and a Chechen named Naib in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia right before the 2012 Lopota Gorge Incident. There are also photos of Akhmad Chatayev with Naib in Pankisi at the same time. Chatayev was the senior representative of Imarat Kavkaz at the time. Continue reading Photos of Salakhuddin Shishani & Akhmad Chatayev In Pankisi Before Lopota Gorge Incident
I had wondered what had happened to Abu Musa Shishani, the Amir of Ansar a-Sham, a Syrian jamaat in Latakia.
I have recently learned that he is alive, still fighting, still the amir of Ansar a-Sham and has good relations with other North Caucasian groups in Latakia province. He just hates being photographed.
Abu Musa Shishani is also the cousin of Salakhuddin Shishani, but he had lived in Ingushetia.
Trusted sources who knew Rustam Gelayev, the son of Chechen commander Ruslan Gelayev, well (and who were also acquainted with Ruslan), have confirmed that Rustam was killed in Syria in August 2012 and have given more details about the early days of the North Caucasian involvement in the Syrian civil war, which show that Imarat Kavkaz was involved in the conflict, in a sense, from very early on. It also gives clues to the struggles within IK, including between its Chechen and Kabardinian elements. Continue reading 1st Imarat Kavkaz Amir in Syria Fought Alongside Gelayev In Chechnya, Died Fighting Alongside Ahrar
North Caucasian fighters in Syria have commented on social media about Umar Shishani, with interesting reactions to comments by other fighters that Umar was not a good military commander. While the debate over Umar has been incredibly polarized, with anti-IS North Caucasians slamming him and IS mythologizing him (and reports in the Western press doing the same, more on that below), here we have some context from North Caucasians who experienced the conflict first hand. I have translated the comments below. Continue reading North Caucasian Fighters: Umar Shishani Was Brave, Honest & Talented Even If He Made Mistakes
The Chechen-led group Ajnad al-Kavkaz have issued a statement in Turkish on their website that condemns the 28 June 2016 terrorist bombing at Ataturk Airport. (Updated 9 July: the group has issued a longer statement in Russian setting out their position on the attack in Istanbul and on the 5 July bombing in Medina).
Continue reading UPDATED: Ajnad al-Kavkaz Issue Statement Condemning Istanbul Terror Attacks
You know those days when you wake up and plan to write about Tajiks in IS, but then a totally unknown group of Tatars from Kazan appear and make a video address? Yeah, I know. Continue reading Meet The Tatar & Ural Katiba Al-Mahdi, in Syria via Kazan