Tag Archives: Idlib

Translation of Interview with HTS Uzbek jamaat Tawhid wal Jihad Amir Abu Saloh

The Russian-language broadly pro-HTS (actually it is officially independent) media group Golos Shama (“Voice of Sham”) published an interview on 29 January with the amir of the Uzbek (with some ethnic Uighur) HTS jamaat Tawhid wal Jihad, Abu Saloh. The interviewer, Faruq Shami, speaks in Russian and Abu Saloh’s answers in Uzbek are dubbed into Russian. It’s an interesting interview for that reason and because of Abu Saloh’s reaction to the situation in Idlib and Hama, and because of his background. I wrote an analysis for Jane’s and my translation of the interview has been sitting on my desk for two days, as events overtook me and I didn’t get a chance to post it. So here it is.

Some context: the interview takes place near the front as TwJ are preparing to go and fight — you can see a group of them in the background.

The interviewer asks Abu Saloh to comment on the “panic” by activists on the internet etc regarding the recent loss of territory in Idlib and elsewhere by HTS/other rebel groups (in particular he is referring to the loss of Abu Duhur air base on 21 January).

The main reason for the abandonment of certain lands and for the tactical withdrawal from certain areas by the Mujahideen of Sham are those [people] who have been considered throughout the history of Islam as a “cancerous tumor” for this Ummah and who have always been a dagger in the back of this Ummah – these are the Kharijites [he is of course referring to Islamic State — ed]. The Kharijites waited for such a moment when the Mujahideen were fighting on many fronts against the infidels. Using this situation, they despicably attacked the Mujahideen. This became a heavy burden for the Mujahideen and a heavy load. During the hostilities against the Kharijites, hundreds of Mujahideen were martyred. And praise be to Allah as many of the Kharijites were also killed. Having seized the moment, the infidels and kharijites jointly attacked the Mujahideen at the same time. As a result, the Mujahideen retreated from some settlements. One of the main reasons for the retreat of the Mujahideen, as I have said, is the advance of the Kharijites. And the second reason is that those areas from which the Mujahideen retreated are open areas. Because the heavy weapons of the infidels work well in open areas, the Mujahideen were compelled to withdraw from some settlements. But praise be to Allah, for the moment, the Mujahideen have realigned their ranks. And this is what Allah has ordained. As Allah said: “We alternate days of happiness and misfortune for people.” Sometimes the hand of infidels will prevail, and sometimes the hand of Muslims will defeat the infidels. And thus will continue the trial from Allah.

The interviewer asks Abu Saloh about the spirits of the fighters given the current situation.

Praise be to Allah, the military spirit of the Mujahideen is at a very high level i.e. how can it be otherwise, if the Mujahideen go to the battlefield, seeking only the contentment of Allah and seeking to attain His Paradise? It can not be otherwise. The fighting spirit of the Mujahideen is at a very high level, praise Allah. The ruler of Oman accepted Islam because of Amr ibn al-Asa […] and explaining the reasons for coming to Islam said: “I followed such a messenger who follows all that he himself calls.” He avoids all that he warns against. If he prevails then he will not be proud, that is, he will not consider people as lower than himself, and if he is stricken, he will not lose heart.” We are also those Mujahideen who followed this man. If we win, we will not consider people lower than ourselves. If we lose and lose some land, well, we will not lose morale. Because the Almighty said: “Tell me, do you really expect that you will lose anything but one of two good things?” One of these benefits is that we will achieve shahada. And the second, that Allah will, with our hands, destroy the infidels and this too is good. Therefore, in the minds of the Mujahideen, there is no such thing as a fall in spirit.

He then talks about the Astana talks etc.

All these words are a lie. And this is one of the sort of lies that is being thrown up against the Mujahideen. The fighting in the east of the province of Hama has been going on for 3 months already. During these 3 months, about 1,350 Assadite soldiers have been killed and this is confirmed even by the infidel media. But in reality, these figures are much higher than they say. If the Mujahideen gave away these lands, then so many infidel soldiers there would not have been destroyed. And among the Mujahideen there were martyrs too. And the fighting continues. But the words saying that the Mujahideen have given away – it’s true. They gave away, they will give away and they are giving away today. But not the land of Muslims, but their lives to their Lord, insha Allah.

Maps showing deployment of Dagestani-led and Uzbek jamaats in Idlib/Hama counteroffensive

I’ve been writing some detailed pieces about the deployments of various Russian and Uzbek-speaking jamaats with HTS and Ahrar al-Sham in the counteroffensive against Syrian government troops in Idlib/Hama, and in doing so I put together some maps, which I thought I’d share here.  I like seeing locations on a map as I write so I thought others might find them interesting. Continue reading Maps showing deployment of Dagestani-led and Uzbek jamaats in Idlib/Hama counteroffensive

A Russian-Speaking Mom Writes About Educating Her Kids in Idlib:

There was a lot of interest in the piece I translated here, about a North Caucasian woman’s view of making hijra to Syria along with her husband and others. So I thought I would also do a quick translation of the below piece, which was also written by a Russian-speaking woman in Syria, in which she talks about the issue of educating her children. A few points: Continue reading A Russian-Speaking Mom Writes About Educating Her Kids in Idlib:

Ajnad Al-Kavkaz Don’t Have Bay’ah To Caucasus Emirate

Chechen Islamist battalion Ajnad al-Kavkaz have said they don’t have a bay’ah (oath of allegiance) to the Caucasus Emirate, or to anyone. Continue reading Ajnad Al-Kavkaz Don’t Have Bay’ah To Caucasus Emirate

Abdul Hakim Shishani Of Ajnad Kavkaz Photographed With A Pigeon

Abdul Hakim Shishani (Rustam Azhiyev), the Emir of the Latakia-based group Ajnad Kavkaz (formerly known as Khalifat Battalion) has been photographed holding a pigeon. Bear with me, because there is a (fairly) serious point to be made here. Continue reading Abdul Hakim Shishani Of Ajnad Kavkaz Photographed With A Pigeon

Abdul-Hakim Shishani, Emir of Ajnad al-Kavkaz, Linked To Khattab

Veteran Chechen militant Abdul Hakim Shishani, the emir of the Latakia-based Ajnad al-Kavkaz (AK) faction (formerly known as the Khalifat Battalion or Khalifat Jamaat) has been linked to a member of a Chechen militant group who fought alongside Emir Khattab, the Saudi foreign fighter who fought in the first and second Chechen wars. Continue reading Abdul-Hakim Shishani, Emir of Ajnad al-Kavkaz, Linked To Khattab

UPDATE: Chechen Faction Ajnad Kavkaz Fights Alongside JAN In Idlib

UPDATE: After posting this on 30 March, I learned that Ajnad Kavkaz is the new name for the Khalifat Battalion, the Latakia-based Chechen faction led by Abdul Hakim Shishani. Rather than write a new post, I have updated below to reflect this new information.

Continue reading UPDATE: Chechen Faction Ajnad Kavkaz Fights Alongside JAN In Idlib

Umar Shishani – “Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar Joined ISIS After Al-Baghdadi Oath”

In a recent video, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham’s northern region, the ethnic Chechen Abu Umar al-Shishani, responds to criticisms that he left his Chechen jamaat, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar, when he swore allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

FiSyria, the Russian-language website that reports on developments connected with fighters from the North Caucasus in Syria, said that it had filmed a two-part video series with Umar and his associate Abu Jihad in the wake of many questions raised following Abu Umar’s announcement regarding the oath to Baghdadi.


Following Umar’s decision to swear allegiance to Baghdadi last month, and transfer his loyalties entirely to ISIS rather than to Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar (JMA), there was talk of a split among fighters from the North Caucasus in Syria, with some those who did not want to pledge allegiance to Baghdadi, either because they had already pledged to the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, Dokku Umarov, or because they believed they should remain independent, remaining with JMA or going elsewhere.

In this video, the first of two, Umar denies that there is any split among his former jamaat, but says that it moved in its entirety over to ISIS.

FiSyria describes Abu Jihad as ISIS’s new Emir of ad-Dana in Idlib Province. (It appears that Abu Jihad fought with ISIS previously, given that FiSyria has featured earlier videos with Abu Jihad, including this one from July in which he appears with an ISIS banner and explains that the fighting in Syria is the faithful versus the infidels.)

Umar describes the fighting in Syria in jihadi terms. He does not mention the local struggle of the Syrian people against the Assad regime. Instead, the fighting is part of the Islamic struggle to rid the world of infidel regimes who are humiliating the Muslims and holding them in servitude.

Umar, who is from the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia as are many of his fellow-fighters, has grown in importance and influence since he established the Kataib al-Muhajireen in Summer 2012. That group merged with two other groups, Jaish Muhammad and Kataeb Khattab, to form JMA in March. Since then, Umar was named the military commander of ISIS’s Northern operations in Syria. The decision to swear an oath to al-Baghdadi and move over completely to ISIS along with some of JMA will likely consolidate his power yet further. Umar’s main rival, his former second-in-command Seyfullakh whom he expelled from JMA in August on charges of takfir and fraud, and has said that the split with Umar was ideological because he and his followers did not want to become closer to ISIS. However, Seyfullakh has not emerged an an influential figure to rival Abu Umar following the split.

Below is a translation of some of the main points of the video, with FiSyria’s introduction.


Recently, after Abu Umar Al-Shishani swore an oath to Abu Bakr al-Bagadadi, our editors have received many questions in relation to these global changes. With the permission of Allah, we met with Umar and asked him to clarify some points, and asked him some questions. Abu Jihad, who has today become the Emir of the town of Ad Dana in the Province of Idlib, explains in detail about the structure and purpose of ISIS. The video is divided into two parts.

The video was shot on December 8, 2013

  • Abu Umar begins by greeting “all brothers and sisters whose hearts are concerned by the current situation” in which the Ummah has been humiliated, and who are helping with the jihad.
  • Umar says that the success of the jihad would be the establishment of Sharia Law — Allah’s law — and that the Ummah would then be able to live under Allah’s law. The laws of the infidels, which for a long time had been imposed on the Ummah, would be removed.
  • Umar talks about how the Mujahideen are waging jihad “fi sabil Allah”, i.e. on the path of Allah.
  • Abu Umar then goes on to say that he decided to make the video address because he had had a lot of questions, and he wanted to answer them. Abu Umar introduces Abu Jihad, the Emir of ad-Dana. He then goes on to give some details about himself: he is now the Emir of Northern Syria, and previously was the Emir of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar.
  • Abu Umar now answers the question of why he made an oath of allegiance to Al Baghdadi, and explains that there were some Mujahideen from the Caucasus Emirate who decided that they had already made an oath to Dokku Umarov (the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate).
  • “There are some brothers — a number of them — not many, about 17, actually, we don’t know the exact number — who chose not to give an oath to ISIS, and who left.”
  • “There are some who said that I wanted to give an oath to Baghdadi to leave Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar, but that is not correct.”
  • Almost all of the original group of ours, Kataib Muhajireen, about 80%, made the oath, and so we can say that we joined with ISIS


  • “I wanted to tell you about some new events that have happened here in the land of Sham. There have been a lot of rumors and untrue things flying around on the internet.”
  • Abu Jihad blames those who have not come to join the jihad but who have chosen to sow discord among the “brothers”.
  • “So we will try to explain some of the questions, so that people will know what is going on and so that they can’t say we don’t know and we are afraid that we don’t have any information, etc.”
  • Regarding JMA, I have known Emir Al Shishani for a while, who we named as Emir right from the start, from when we were 30 guys, then 50, then 60. (He is talking about Kataib al-Muhajireen — JP)
  • This jamaat gave its oath to al Baghdadi. Jaish went over to ISIS. So you cannot say that Umar left his jamaat. That’s just rumor. Why? Because it has no relation to the truth.
  • There was another group who joined us after Jaish was already formed and when it came time to make the oath, because they had already made an oath to Dokku, they left us.
  • Abu Jihad says that most of the other members of JMA made the oath, “A Caucasian group, after that a European group, after that an Arab group i.e,. all the jamaat with all its structure and members, went over to ISIS.”
  • “We are all part of the ISIS already” — there are no small groups who wanted to keep their own name or anything like that.
  • So the group that is calling itself Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar is not the same one as before.
  • So please don’t tell lies, that Umar left his jamaat, that is a lie.
  • The reason for the unification was so that everyone would be fighting under the same banner.)
  • Abu Jihad goes on to praise al Baghdadi, saying that he created a strong jamaat in Iraq that helped to kick out the American puppets and will do the same in Syria.