The Russian-language news site Kavkazskii Uzel, which focuses on events and issues in the North Caucasus, has spoken with several Chechens in Syria’s insurgency. Continue reading Chechen Hajj Pilgrims Claim They Were Drafted In Saudi Arabia To Fight In Syria
The pledge of allegiance by some members of the Chechen faction Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar (JMA) to the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has highlighted a story which may be even more significant: the culmination of a months-long dispute between JMA’s then-leader, Umar Shishani, and his former second-in-command, the Chechen fighter known as Sayfullakh. Continue reading The Dispute Between Umar Shishani & His Deputy, Seyfullakh Shishani
The head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, has fired the director of Chechnya’s Federal Migration Service, Asu Dudurkaev, accusing him of having a daughter in Syria with connections to “Wahhabist” insurgents.
Kadyrov made the announcement on his Instagram page, which the Chechen leader uses to make communications about various policy and governmental matters.
The Chechen leader wrote:
Salam aleikum, my friends!
Tonight I met with the staff of the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation in the Chechen Republic.
Appeals about poor performance management have been received from residents of the Republic. Citizens argue that employees are often rude, tactlessness, procrastinate, and delay paperwork. Previously, we brought these questions to the attention of the head of the FMS, Asu Dudurkaev, and asked him to restore order. But an audit showed that nothing has changed for the better.
In private conversations, citizens said that all the red tape in the work of FMS staff is connected with a desire to force citizens to make payments.
Moreover, Dudurkaev, as the leader of one of the most important structures, has no moral right to speak with subordinates about morality and patriotism and religion. His own daughter is in the ranks of the Wahhabis and bandits, who are shedding the blood of civilians, and blowing up Islamic shrines in Syria.
We offered to help him in getting his daughter to return, but he stated that this issue will be resolved. And the daughter is still there with the bandits.
For these and other reasons, we have concluded that it is impossible to trust Dudurkaev further in this post.
He has been asked to write a letter of resignation to his superiors, which will be done. Order will be restored to the FMS!
ITAR TASS quotes the prominent political analyst Abdullah Istamulov as saying on the matter, “It’s a very sad event. Asu Dudurkaev left, admitting that he could not resolve the situation with his daughter. Woe for any father who raises a child who does not live up to his expectations. We knew the situation, knew that she should be resolved, and assumed that it would end this way.”
The FiSyria website reports that members of the Chechen-led faction, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar have sworn allegiance to Abu Bakr al–Baghdadi, the leader of the ISIS. Continue reading Umar Shishani & Allies Swear Allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
FiSyria, a Russian-language pro-jihad website that reports on Islamist factions in Syria — particularly where Russian-speaking fighters are involved — has posted an interview with Abdul Khalim al-Shishani, a representative of the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham’s Sharia Committee in Aleppo.
Al-Shishani describes ISIS’s recent expulsion of a local “warlord”, Khalid Hayani, the leader of the Martyrs of Badr Brigade.
Who is Khalid Hayani?
Syrian activist Edward Dark described the situation regarding Hayani in a recent article for Al Monitor:
Khaled Saraj, better known as Khaled Hayani, is a notorious rebel warlord operating in and around Aleppo. He’s a native of the town of Hayan — hence, his nickname — just a few kilometers on the Gaziantep highway north of Aleppo. He was largely unknown from his impoverished background right up until the armed conflict erupted in Aleppo province. Soon after, he formed his own militia, the Martyrs of Badr, and through various unsavory activities quickly amassed a small fortune, all in the name of the revolution and fighting against the Syrian regime.
Dark describes some of Hayani’s more notorious activities, including the extensive looting of factories and warehouses in the industrial zone of Liramoun on Aleppo’s northern outskirts, and the storming and subsequent mass looting of the Sheikh Maksud neighborhood.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the people of Aleppo are more than happy to see him go, even if it is at the hands of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS). The group has already dispatched with another notorious warlord, Hasan Jazara, captured in the Sakhur neighborhood along with some of his men as ISIS swept into several areas of Aleppo late last month. He has reportedly been sentenced to death for his crimes. His execution was to be held Oct. 31, but there has been no confirmation that it was carried out.
ISIS, for its part, has been playing a clever and slick media campaign, claiming that it is purging the rebel fighters of traitors, collaborators and criminals. After taking over the border town of Azaz, destroying the rebel faction Asefet el Shamal [Northern Storm Brigade] for allegedly collaborating with US and German intelligence, ISIS has now set its sights on other strategic areas in Aleppo, rooting out rival militias it accuses of criminal activity.
Interview With Abdul Khalim al-Shishani, member of the Sharia Committee in Aleppo
Fi Syria: We need details, as far as that is possible , to explain the conflict between the Mujahideen of ISIS and the Brigade of Khalid Hayani, which is related to the Free Syrian Army…
Abdul: The history of Hayani’s brigade is as follows. He got in with a small group of anti-Government forces, and at the beginning of the Syrian revolution he showed some diligence. He had some early victories and successes, and he was apparently intoxicated by them. Gradually, he stopped caring about the overall reasons why he came to fight and he began to gather around him a force, like a mafia, to enrich himself at the expense of the local population.
From the very start of the Sharia Council, there have been many reports and complaints from the public about this Hayani and his gang. If we could have gotten from the Sharia responsibility for individual members of the group, like Khalid Hayani and his most notorious commanders, then it would have been with an open armed confrontation with a group of up to a thousand people. And also take into account the fact that up to 200 of those guys held certain parts of a common front [against Assad’s forces]. And we were afraid that Hayani could have removed them from there …
FiSyria: And members of the front would have been exposed?
Abdul: Yes. And the enemy could have used that against us. They set up their posts all over the place, not to protect the population but to loot it.
They did not pass over a single car, so they could take bribes from its driver. They took fruit, if any of the Bedouins drove sheep, the sheep were taken. Truckers were usually stripped, stripped bare as they call it. If someone refused to pay, his car was confiscated and he’d be imprisoned. They had, as we found out, a small jail on almost every base.
If they got information that such-and-such guy was from a rich family, then they stuck him in their jail.
FiSyria: So they would take him hostage with the aim of getting a ransom?
Abdul: Yes, and he would be held in custody until his relatives from Aleppo handed over the money. We got complaints like that many times. But like I said before, we didn’t take any definitive action in this regard, because we considered that it wasn’t yet the time for internal squabbles. We thought, let’s finish with the main taghut, then let’s deal with cleaning up the internal ranks.
And we told people who came to us with complaints, that for the time being we were forced to leave him [Hayani]….
And people told us, how are you the assistants of the Sharia, when you punish the weak and spare the strong? And it was hard for us to hear these fair criticisms.
When we brought offenders before the Sharia court, they would usually say to us, “I broke one of the regulations, I committed a sin, and you are immediately bringing me before the law.” Khalid Hayani and his gang have not kept a single one of the laws of Allah…and they did not understand any of our reasonings or arguments that it was not yet possible and so on.
Fi Syria: The people needed fairness.
Abdul: That’s it, fairness. The situation reached the stage that Mujahideen began disappearing without a trace from their positions.
Fi Syria: From local ansars [local battalions]?
Abdul: No, not only them — also the Muhajirs [immigrants, i.e. foreign fighters].
Fi Syria: For what end? What do you make of it?
Abdul: As we understood it, it happened when a Mujahid had information that was important for them. More recently they started picking fights with our brothers who passed through their posts. We got the impression that this is what happened…
Fi Syria: Targeted provocations?
Abdul: Exactly, I can’t say otherwise. Our patience was misinterpreted by them, as a result they wound up with what they’d been looking for. The last provocation, that led to this action, was particularly brazen. One of our brothers, Sheikh Abu Ja’afar, went through one of their posts with several guys, to the Sharia House. They started picking a fight with them at the post, demanding that they show passports and ID cards and whatnot, knowing full well that the Muhajirs don’t have any passports.
Sheikh Abu Ja’afar, with his usual politeness, started to explain that they were foreign fighters, that they don’t carry passports, that they are going to the Sharia Committee. After several exchanges they let them go, but afterwards a pickup with a machine gun started to follow after the brothers.
When Sheikh Abu Ja’afar stopped his car, they jumped out of the pickup, surrounded the brothers, and took their weapons. Then Abu Ja’afar called our brothers on a walkie talkie and managed to say that a Hayani post had surrounded them and were trying to kidnap them. The brothers showed efficiency and within 5 minutes they reached the post, surrounded these impious ones, took their weapons, and arrested them.
Right then, we heard gunshots from a second post nearby….It seemed that the Hayanis were shooting at our car and injured three brothers, two seriously and one lightly. In a moment, our guys surrounded that post. Part of them were able to run for it, but we disarmed and took hostages of most of those at the post.
Fi Syria: Did you capture those who fired at our guys?
Abdul: Honestly, I can’t tell you, but I was told that those who ran for it, didn’t get far — our ansars know where they live.
Fi Syria: They say that right from the start of the conflict, Hayani sent negotiators. Who represented him?
Abdul: Abu Jastin came, he seems to be [Hayani’s] military Emir.
Fi Syria: Was there a third party?
Abdul: Yes, the third party was one representative of Jabhat al-Nusra, and there were more from other battalions. We immediately set out the condition that all those who shot at our brothers would be handed over, and that there could not be any other negotiations. We also demanded that all those about whom the public had made complaints to the Sharia Committee also be handed over.
However, our guys overheard on the walkie-talkie that Hayani, with his usual arrogance, told his subordinates that he wouldn’t hand anyone over, and that he’d “annihilate” anyone who opposed him.
A short while later, after considering the circumstances and understanding that our Mujahideen were determined, he had to come off his high horse, and he started to delay the negotiations.
Our boys understood that they were playing for time til nightfall, and they gave orders to surround their bases and homes.
Fi Syria: Yeah, I remember that momemt. Umar, who til then had always tended to a peaceful resolution of conflicts with partners, took a harsh position, he gave the order to attack their bases and homes.
Abdul: I have to say, either from confusion or because our Mujahideen practically surrounded their main bases in a short time, they didn’t show resistance. Our guys captured about 200 people, many fled, leaving behind all the stuff they’d looted from the population.
In nearly every house that these criminals occupied, there was equipment facilities for prisoners. On the main bases there were actual prisons, where they kept the hostages that they’s taken for ransoms.
In short, this was a real gang of robbers. The Arabs call these guys “kuta turuk”, literally “cutters of the road”.
You could suspect that, if a wealthy family travelled near one of their posts, then they’d drag him into jail. They even took women. In their jail there was a young family: a man, a woman and a 5-month-old baby. They were being held there until their relatives came up with a ransom.
We found a large number of documents that were taken from people. We found an entire database of information with the names of their grasses and stool-pigeons, and details of people living in a particular area. Who they are, what they do for a living, where they work, property and so on.
When we liberated their main prison and set the prisoners free, we found marks of torture not just on the prisoners but also on their subordinates. And it was obvious then why these subordinates weren’t exactly eager to defend Hayani and his cronies. They were kept in that work out of fear, and also because of the money that they were paid.
There’s another such incident — we liberated our brother Abu Umar at-Tunisi [Abu Umar the Tunisian] from their jail. The main events started around 4 p.m., but Abu Umar and another guy from ISIS, plus a car, had been captured at 1 p.m..
The prisoners were kept in appalling conditions. They had 2×2 cells. They practically didn’t feed them, they wouldn’t let them, they weren’t allowed out to go pee, and they had to pee right in the cell. Many of those liberated were at the end of their tether and really weak.
Those villians, they lived in houses, dripping in luxuries. We’ve the houses and villas of Assad’s generals and ministers, but in comparison with the houses of Hayani and his cronies, well, you could say they lived modestly!
What didn’t they have? Rare decorative fish, expensive horses, camels, cars, pedigree dogs, the rarest carpets, furniture, jewelry, antiques, weapons and all that stuff.
In one of the houses we found a radio, through which you can connect direct to Assad’s military command. We also found documents, which said that they’d had contacts and negotiations with Assad’s leaders, behind the backs of the Mujahideen.
All of these documents we’re now studying.
Fi Syria: What happened in the end with the captives, their property and such?
Abdul: Our guys are making enquiries, getting in contact with the relatives. Inshallah, they will be returned to their families. All the property that was seized, is in the Sharia Committee. The previous owners are already being declared. Inshallah, it will all be done fairly and the property will be returned to the suffering people.
Fi Syria: And where is Khalid Hayani and his inner circle? Is anything known?
Abdul: They fled. There are rumors that they fled to Turkey. Others say they’re hiding in one of the Kurdish villages that opposes us. There isn’t any concrete information as yet.
Fi Syria have also published a Russian-subtitled ISIS promotional video showing one of the men allegedly kidnapped by Khalid Hayani. The blue-shirted man, identified as one of the men kidnapped by Hayani and his gang, tells the interviewer about his kidnapping and alleges that Hayani tortured the prisoners. The alleged detainee says he personally witnessed two deaths.
The man accuses Hayani and his men of drinking wine and taking “narcotics pills”. At the end of the video, the man says that the prisoners knew ISIS had come when they heard the words “Allahu Akbar”, before leading the prisoners in the cell in a “Takbir”. Judging from the man’s clean shirt and his relative good state compared to the emaciated, pale and dirty-clothed prisoners in the cell, we suspect that he might not be a prisoner but is answering questions as part of a propaganda video.
Translation of Russian Subtitles
November 13, 2013
These captives are innocent people who were kidnapped by the sinner Khalid Hayani (Amir of the Shuhada Badr Brigade).
He kidnapped them, so that a video could be shot, demanding money, he made some provocations.
(To Prisoner) What did Khalid Hayani want from you?
(Prisoner) He demanded that I made a video. (Pointing) From that one he demanded 200 thousand, and from (him) over there, a million. From everyone something different.
(To Prisoner) Where are you from?
(Prisoner) From Deir Khafa.
(To Prisoner) Where were you, when you were abducted?
(Prisoner) I was in the Sakin Shabab area of Ashrafiyeh [in Aleppo]. They took me and my wife, they wanted us to make a video recording (so that relatives would pay money).
(To Prisoner) Where’s your wife right now?
(Prisoner) They let her go, so she could take the video.
(To Prisoner) What other information is there about that dog, Khalid Hayani?
(Prisoner) No, no, no.
(To Prisoner) How did he deal with the detainees?
(Prisoner) One of them was burned with a flame and of these criminals beat him. At the same time they were beating him, they spoke the words of the infidels…
(To Prisoner) Did they drink wine or anything?
(Prisoner) They did everything! They drank wine, took narcotic pills. Everything, everything.
(To Prisoner) Do you know the number of women prisoners?
(Prisoner) No, I don’t know.
(To Prisoner) They say there were five…
(Prisoner) No, no, I don’t know, every day they brought women.
(To Prisoner) You mean you don’t know how many exactly there were?
(Prisoner) No, I don’t.
(To Prisoner) What types of punishment did they dole out?
(Prisoner) They tied the arms and then suspended (people), they used electric currents, they beat (people), burned with flames.
(To Prisoner) Is it true that some of the prisoners died?
(Prisoner) Yes, two died in front of my very eyes.
(To Prisoner) Did they die from the blows?
(To Prisoner) Do you know where they took the bodies?
(Prisoner) I heard they threw them in some well.
(To Prisoner) Do you know where it is?
Voice Over: Here are the prisoners, who were captured by that Khalid Hayani and his group of criminals. Praise be to Allah, ISIS came to their defense and to return their rights…
(Prisoner) They entered my house and didn’t leave anything there, they looted it totally.
(To Prisoner) What’s your opinion of ISIS?
(Prisoner) It’s who liberated us, may Allah preserve them from anything bad. I ask Allah to raise the banner of La Illah Ila Allah. We were here and we heard only the words of the infidels. When we heard the words “Allahu Akbar”, then we understood that ISIS had come.
Voice over: Yallah, Takbir!
(Prisoners) Allahu Akbar!
Russian-language pro-jihadi site FiSyria, which reports on North Caucasian fighters in Syria, has published an interview with Umar Shishani, the ethnic Chechen leader of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar.
Shishani, who is also the military commander for ISIS in northern Syria, was reported killed by Kurdish sources following clashes with Kurdish fighters and Free Syrian Army insurgents along the Syria-Turkey border region. However, jihadi sources were fast to dispel the rumor, publishing photographs of Shishani.
The interview focusses on the clashes between ISIS and the Kurdish fighters. (NB FiSyria, like other jihadi sources, refers to the Kurdish faction as the Turkish PKK, while Kurdish sources say that the Syrian YPG is the group involved in the clashes.)
I have translated the interview, which offers insights into the incidents between ISIS/ Jaish Al Muhajireen Wal Ansar not only regarding the clashes with the Kurds in Atma, but also regarding the recent incidents between ISIS and the Free Syrian Army in the border town of Azaz in Aleppo Province.
A FiSyria correspondent interviewed Amir Umar as a result of the cross-border military confrontation in the region of the village of Atma between Mujahideen from ISIS and the PKK ( Kurdistan Workers Party ) .
There’s been a lot of talk about the battles against the Kurds near Atma. Typically, each big event gives rise to rumors, speculation, sometimes blatant misinformation. There is talk of a truce between ISIS and the PKK, and some have even listed its points. I would like to clarify, when was the armistice signed, and what points did it include?
Umar: So far, there has been no truce. Therefore, there can’t be any points. There is an agreement on a provisional cease-fire. And there’s a big difference between a temporary cease-fire and a truce.
Yes, there is a difference between these concepts. And how did this conflict start? What was the reason?
Some time ago, Kurdish fighters took over the hilltop near Atma and started to fire at the road. Mujahideen from ISIS responded quickly to protect the Sunni population. The Kurds were driven from the hilltops, having suffered losses. Three Kurdish militants were killed. On our side, there were no losses.
Unfortunately, this encounter of ours wasn’t given enough emphasis, and serious bases weren’t established in these places. As a result, for three days PKK fighters moved freely on these positions and thoroughly occupied the commanding hilltops. And we ”ve already had to storm the entrenched enemy.
Is there any information about the reason why the Kurdish Communists showed aggression?
Captured Kurdish militants claim that they had to gain a foothold in the hilltops, as they have been warned that Mujahideen from ISIS were preparing to attack their village. They claim that they were alerted by a senior member of the Free Syrian Army.
Did they name names?
Umar: Yes they did. But, naturally, we can not yet reveal it, relying solely on the testimony of prisoners. There needs to be an investigation under Sharia Law.
What combat troops participated in the assault on Kurdish positions, and what are the losses on both sides?
As well as our Mujahideen, units from Ahrar Sham, Jabhat Al Nusra, and Liwa Dawood. Altogether our losses were 15 martyrs, not counting the wounded. Of these, 9 martyrs were from the Jaish Al Muhajireen wal Ansar.
As for the Kurdish parties, we can not give a completely accurate figure. After the assault, we found three dead women on the Kurdish positions. On one of them a notebook was found, that listed the names of those killed and wounded. From this data, there were 85 of killed. It is unclear who the woman was, whether she was a commander, or responsible for the medical care of militants.
Yes, these figures are roughly consistent with our data. One of our Mujahideen, a Kurd by origin, told us that he got in touch with a relative of the village, and he cited a figure of about 90 killed.
So it’s not a rumor that there are Kurdish women in the military units of the PKK?
No, they’re not rumors. The PKK has imposed a rigid system on the Kurdish population. A policy that could be called a “policy of War Communism.” The Communists keep a record of every farm belonging to each family and impose various taxes on people. In addition, each family must supply young men and women to the PKK military forces. If a family has 4 daughters, one has to go serve in their army. If they don’t comply then the house and property of the family are torched.
That’s the Mafiosi-Communist system for you.
Is the military conflict in Atma is not the only incident with PKK militants?
Yes, this is not the first encounter. There are other cases. For example, when there was a conflict between ISIS and the invasion of the FSA’s Northern Storm Brigade in Azaz, PKK militants shot our Mujahideen in the back from their checkpoint when they went out on the offensive.
About a month ago there was a clash in Hasaka [Province] between our ISIS and fighters from the PKK on the Iraqi border. By the way, there were 7 women among the captives then.
Yes, apparently the global infidels will try to use any organization that doesn’t profess the Islamic faith against the Mujahideen…
The website FiSyria, a Russian-language pro-jihad website that publishes material related to the involvement of North Caucasian fighters in the Syria conflict, has published an interview with a member of the Sharia Committee of the Chechen-led faction Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar (JMA). Continue reading Chechen Fighter Explains Battle for Hearts & Minds
What is the relationship between Chechen jihadists and ISIS?
A video message posted earlier this week of jihadi leader Abu Umar Shishani, a Kist or ethnic Chechen from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, sheds light on that question. It sheds light on his roles in two Islamist factions in Syria, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar and ISIS, and on tensions between the two groups.
The FiSyria.com website which published the video, said the footage was made following a meeting in Idlib between the Emirs of the Mujahideen of the Islamic State of Iraq Ash Sham (ISIS).
At the meeting, the Emirs discussed issues of military tactics and Jihad strategy. FiSyria said that at the Idlib meeting, the Emirs also planned additional military operations throughout the territory of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Ash Sham [Syria]”.
Before returning to Aleppo, Umar Shishani sent a brief video message from atop a tank in Idlib, reporting on the progress of the Mujahideen in the north of Syria and laying out a plan for future military operations.
The pro-Caucasus Emirate website Kavkaz Center, adds further detail. It names Abu Umar as both the Emir of ISIS’s northern forces and the leader of a separate group of mainly-Chechen fighters, Jaish Al-Muhajireen wal Ansar (JMA).
Kavkaz Center says that JMA is made up of units with fighters from the “Caucasus Emirate” [Chechnya and the Caucasus region], Ukraine, Crimea, Russia, and Europe as well as Arab and Asian countries. In addition to JMA’s involvement in Aleppo, the group is fighting battles in other areas, such as Hama and Latakia Provinces.
Some Mujahideen from the Caucasus Emirate are also deployed in Hama and Latakia Province, according to Kavkaz Center.
Umar has cooperated with ISIS during the battle for Menagh Airbase in Aleppo — and now he has been rewarded with the responsibility of leading operations in northern Syria — but so far the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar have not formally sworn allegiance to the faction.
Indeed, tensions in the relationship with ISIS have led to divisions and splits in Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar.
Abu Umar’s video message comes after his former second-in-command, the Chechen fighter Seyfullakh Shishani, split from JMA and formed a new group, Mujahideen of the Caucasus and Syria (Mujahideen Kavkaz wa Ash-Sham).
Trying to re-establish his authority, Umar, who is a poor orator and speaks in heavily-accented Russian, repeats several times that he and other foreign fighters have come to Syria to wage Jihad. He declares that the fighters have had many successes, “As you can see, we are sitting on this tank and we have many modern weapons.”
Umar then hands over to another Russian-speaking insurgent on the tank, Abu Jihad, who greets Jihadists in Syria and all those who are not able to join them:
I want to remind [you] that this endeavor, this jihad, is not a personal endeavor, it is an endeavor of the Ummah [Muslim community], it is a question of the Ummah. And therefore, nobody has the right today to sit doing nothing, with folded arms. Everyone must do the work that is within his power… if you can’t help physically, then help with words, if you can’t help with words, then help with property.
Abu Jihad than talks about the successes of the group, and repeats that the fighters will continue to strive for more successes, because this is “all for the Ummah”.
“The Jihad will continue,” he say, calling on others to do their part.
Abu Jihad urges unity, saying that talk of “eternal schisms and dissolutions” have no influence over Jihad. When everyone stands together, he says, then no force can defeat them.
Today, he adds, the enemies of Allah and religion have united together despite their differences, and in spite of their hatred for each other, their different languages, and different skin colors.
“They have all united together against us, against our goal. So how can we, Muslims, slaves of Allah, Mujahideen, not unite for our common goal?” he says.
The fighter calls on Muslims, whether in Syria or anywhere else, to unite and not to listen to detractors.
“Everyone must act as he is able,” he says.
On August 24, the Russian-language FiSyria, the “official website for Mujahideen fighting in Syria” published an interview with a man named as Salahuddin, the Emir of the Zubayr Company.
The exchange offers insights into the ideology of Russian-speaking fighters from the Caucasus, their treatment, and the benefits they receive for taking part in the jihad in Syria.
Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim [In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate]. In our e-mail, we’ve got a lot of questions [for you]. It would be good to clarify some organizational issues, the procedure and conditions for young Muslims being accepted into the ranks of the Mujahideen for jihad. Could you clarify these issues?
I not only can, but want to clarify these issues. Because there are people who come and do not quite understand where they have come. There’s a war here, there is jihad. And this war dictates to all of us a certain order, a Nizam. And it can’t be “I want this” or “I do not want that.” You can do that at home with your wife or your neighbors.
Perhaps this lack of understanding can be explained by the fact that someone has not internally prepared himself for jihad as he should have?
Of course, intention and preparation are of considerable importance. Most importantly, he must break with his old, familiar life.
Right from the very start, every person who comes to [wage] jihad, can choose a group that he wants to join. Then he has to hand over his papers to the Emir of the base. And this should not be a cause for concern, this Amanat [entrusting to safekeeping] is strictly maintained.
This is followed by an obligatory stint of muaskara (military training), which lasts 30 to 45 days.
Military training for everyone, without exception?
No. There are exceptions. For example, for those Mujahideen for whom this is not their first year in the jihad and who have military experience. And for those who have professional military training.
Then, for a period of four months they are not allowed to travel outside Syria. Only after this period can someone leave for personal or family reasons. And I’ll say right now that, yes, there are exceptions here too. They are considered by the leaders on an individual basis.
Then after 6 months of being here, the Mujahid can bring your family. But housing has to worry about himself.
Is there financial support for family members?
Yes. Certain funds, both monetary and food, are allocated from the Baitulmal [treasury fund].
If a muhajid stays with the jihad for a year, he is permitted to marry. And moreover, the management takes over the expenses for that endeavor.
What else would you like to add?
That’s all for now…. That’s all I can say. As you know, in any military jamaat [group, assembly] there are things that you can say and there are positions that are generally not talked about.
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.