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:
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
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
Chechens in the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham are circulating a written tale of a young man from the Caucasus who wages jihad in Syria, and who is “tempted” by the Caucasus Emirate. Continue reading “The Devil’s Tricks”: ISIS Chechens Slam Caucasus Emirate In “Jihadi Tale”
Uzbek jamaats (groups of fighters) are among those foreign fighters cooperating to fight alongside Syrian insurgent factions Ahrar a-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra and Liwa al-Tawhid in Balleramoun on the northern periphery of Aleppo city, according to a Chechen fighter taking part in the battles. Continue reading Syria: Uzbeks Fight With Ahrar a-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid To Take Balleramoun, Aleppo
Following our report of Chechen faction Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA) taking part in an offensive against regime forces in Balleramoun, north of Aleppo city, this video footage of the attack has emerged:
Chechen and Russian language is heard in the video.
JMA are loyal to the Caucasus Emirate, and are fighting alongside Sayfullakh’s jamaat from Jabhat al-Nusra as well as other insurgent groups.
The new emir of the Caucasus Emirate, Ali Abu-Muhammad (Aliaskhab Kebekov), believes that jihad in the North Caucasus is a greater priority than jihad in Syria, except in cases where North Caucasian jihadis cannot get to the North Caucasus.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p>1. Kebekov thinks jihad in the North Caucasus is priority over Syria for the North Caucasians unless: <a href=”https://twitter.com/search?q=%23North_Caucasus&src=hash”>#North_Caucasus</a></p>— Murad Batal Shishani (@muradbatal) <a href=”https://twitter.com/muradbatal/statuses/446007822653063168″>March 18, 2014</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p>2. They can’t join ICE & want to go Syria for training and learn skills. <a href=”https://twitter.com/search?q=%23North_Caucasus&src=hash”>#North_Caucasus</a></p>— Murad Batal Shishani (@muradbatal) <a href=”https://twitter.com/muradbatal/statuses/446007913392644098″>March 18, 2014</a></blockquote>
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On jihadi ideology:
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p>5. Kebekov considers (among others) al-Maqdisi, Abu Qatada and Elwan as trusted scholars <a href=”https://twitter.com/search?q=%23North_Caucasus&src=hash”>#North_Caucasus</a> end!</p>— Murad Batal Shishani (@muradbatal) <a href=”https://twitter.com/muradbatal/statuses/446008266448207872″>March 18, 2014</a></blockquote>
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North Caucasus news site Kavkazskii Uzel has published a biography of Kebekov:
Born on January 1, 1972 in the village of Teletl in the then-Dagestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, now the Shamil district of Dagestan ).
He is an Avar by nationality.
He served in the Caucasus Emirate with the rank of Qadi (judge of the Supreme Sharia Court) in the “Vileyat Dagestan, then held the same position for the whole organization. Included in Russia’s list of terrorists and extremists .
In April 2012, a decision of the Soviet District Court of the Republic of Dagestan in Makhachkala recognized as extremist a statement by Kebekova posted on the Internet on the Gurabo website. In his speech, Kebekov urged the Republic’s population to wage jihad, to disobey the current government, and make armed resistance to it .
On April 26, 2012 A. Kebekov was wanted on charges of organizing or participating in illegal armed groups (Article 208 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
According to operational data, it was Aliaskhab Kebekov who ordered the murder of the most authoritative sheikh of the Republic Said-Afandi Chirkey.
On January 16, 2014 an audio was posted on YouTube with the voice of Ali Abu – Muhammad which talked of the death of the leader of the Caucasus Emirate, Doku Umarov , and that Abu Muhammad himself was offered to lead the Emirate. Kebekov offered himself for the post of leader of the organization of the brother of Aslambek (presumably this referred to Aslambek Vadalov ) .
On March 18, 2014 , it was reported that Ali Abu Muhammad was elected the new head of the organization by a decision of the organization’s provincial emirs. On the same day the leadership of the Caucasus Emirate officially announced the death of Umarov.
In the latest sign of increasing tensions and divisions between Chechen fighters in Syria, the Chechen-led faction Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA) has issued a video clarification regarding the infighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham and insurgent groups. Continue reading Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar Slam “ISIS Defector” Videos
The following is a brief guide to Chechen and North Caucasian factions and fighters in the Syrian conflict — it is part of a longer report being prepared by Joanna Paraszczuk with in-depth analysis on each faction, their history, main fighters, locations, alliances, and battles.
A quick visual aid to understanding the main Chechen factions in Syria:
1. CHECHEN FIGHTERS IN THE ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND AS-SHAM
1.1 UMAR SHISHANI
ISIS’s northern branch is led by Amir Umar Shishani, an ethnic Chechen from the village of Jokolo in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia.
Umar was first identified by a member of a Chechen internet forum in March 2013, who recalled that he had fought in the Georgian army, or had worked for a security company, but that he had later been convicted of gun running and spent some time in prison.
In November he was identified as Tarkan Batirashvili in two reports, one by the Wall Street Journal and one by BBC Arabic, after a middleman brokered a deal allowing reporters to talk to a a Georgian defense ministry official about him. That official backed up the earlier forum report, saying that Umar did national service in the Georgian armed forces in 2006-2007, joined the army in 2008 and was discharged in 2010; he was later arrested for gun-running.
Umar traveled to Syria from Turkey and in September 2012 was fighting in Aleppo. He set up home in Haritan in Aleppo province in a villa appropriated from a local businessman.
Umar formed his own faction, which later merged with another faction to become Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA). This faction reportedly contained 3,000 fighters from the North Caucasus, Ukraine, Crimea and Arab states.
In August, Umar was fighting with ISIS although he was not formally a part of that group until he pledged allegiance to its leader, al-Baghdadi, in December, taking a group of his men with him.
1.2 ABU JIHAD SHISHANI
Abu Jihad Shishani is an ethnic Chechen who spent some time in Egypt before coming to Syria, where he studied alongside Salafi clerics. He speaks fluent Arabic as well as Russian.
Abu Jihad became close to Umar Shishani after the capture of Menagh Airbase in August, when Umar was promoted to ISIS’s military amir of the northern region. Abu Jihad began to appear in videos alongside Umar, usually acting as his spokesperson (Umar is a poor public speaker).
Most recently, Abu Jihad made several videos explaining various events including the fighting between ISIS and insurgent factions.
2. CHECHENS IN JABHAT AL-NUSRA
The major Chechen faction fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra is Jaish Khilafa al-Islamiyya, which until earlier this month was led by ethnic Chechen Sayfullakh Shishani, until his death during the storming of the Aleppo Central Prison.
Sayfullakh is thought to have fought in Chechnya at some point before coming to Syria sometime in late 2012. He has been identified as Ruslan Machalikashvili, an ethnic Chechen most likely from the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia.
Sayfullakh lived in Turkey as part of the Chechen refugee community for a number of years before coming to Syria. He has been pictured in Istanbul at pro-Chechen rallies. He had a criminal lifestyle, likely connected with organized crime, before becoming radicalized, and traveling to Syria to “wage jihad”
Until August, Sayfullakh was a close associate of Umar Shishani in Aleppo province; however the latter expelled Sayfullakh from JMA accusing him of fitna. Sayfullakh created his own jamaat with Amir Muslim Abu Walid Shishani.
In December Sayfullakh pledged allegiance to Jabhat al-Nusra after taking part in the capture of the Kindi barracks with that faction.
Sayfullakh was noted for his lengthy, loud rants on camera and for his penchant for threatening Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (who was very pleased to learn of Sayfullakh’s death).
3. INDEPENDENT FACTIONS
3A. AMIR MUSLIM ABU WALID SHISHANI (“THE VIKING”)
Amir Muslim Abu Walid Shishani (Muslim Margoshvili) leads the autonomous, mostly Chechen brigade Jundu Sham. He is an ethnic Chechen/ Kist from Akhmeta in Georgia (15 kilometers from Umar’s village, Jokolo).
In Syria, he has fought mostly in Latakia where he gained the nickname “Sopka” after he captured Alawite hill villages (Sopka is Russian for “hilltop”).
Amir Muslim has previous fighting experience. He fought with the Soviet Air Defense Forces in Mongolia and after the USSR collapsed he returned to Chechnya and fought with the insurgency in the North Caucasus including with Arab foreign fighters; he maintains links with sources of funding in the Arab world.
He came to Syria in 2012 and formed Jundu Sham. He most recently fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra in the storming of the Aleppo Central Prison.
Amir Muslim has criticized the lack of organization of some foreign fighters, saying that they are hostile to local populations and are inexperienced, leading to unnecessary deaths.
3B. SALAHUDDIN SHISHANI
Salahuddin Shishani is an ethnic Chechen who took over as Amir of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar in December after Umar Shishani swore allegiance to ISIS leader al-Baghdadi.
Salahuddin and his followers have pledged allegiance to the leader of the Caucasus Emirate, Dokku Umarov, and identify themselves as Caucasus Emirate fighters.
Salahuddin has refused to join in the fighting between ISIS and insurgent factions. The group has joined forces with other insurgents, namely Nuraddin az-Zinki, but have created controversy by accusing a Free Syrian Army brigade, Shuhada Badr, of “takfir”.
Salahuddin is mainly fighting regime forces in Aleppo, and most recently has been in Hraytan.
3C. JAMA’AT SABIRI
This is a group of predominantly Uzbek fighters until recently led by Abdullah al-Tashkenti, until his death during the storming of Aleppo Central Prison.
The group has previously fought alongside other Chechen factions including Umar Shishani and has claimed to run training camps in Syria.
3D. KHALIFAT JAMATT (AMIR ABDUL-HAKIM SHISHANI)
The small Khalifat jamaat has taken part in fighting against the regime. Its leader, Abdul Hakim Shishani, previously fought in Chechnya until an injury prevented him from returning.
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!