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:
The Emir of the Chechen-led faction Ajnad al-Kavkaz, Abdul-Hakim Shishani has made a video address calling on North Caucasians to unite. Continue reading Abdul-Hakim Shishani Calls On North Caucasians To Unite
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 (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
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: 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
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.
ABU UMAR AL-SHISHANI AND ABU JIHAD DISCUSS RECENT CHANGES IN THE JAMAAT
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.
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.