REPORT: The Caucasus Emirate in the Levant and the IS-AQ Fitna, Parts 1-2

The_Caucasus_Emirate

By Gordon M. Hahn

Introduction

The de-territorialization that followed from the globalization of the Caucasus Emirate (CE) mujahedin since its formation in October 2007 is now complete. The CE is now fully integrated into the global jihadi revolutionary alliance. Since late 2011 to early 2012, thousands of CE mujahedin and Caucasus jihadists inspired by them have undertaken a jihadi ‘hijra’ or emigration to fight for the most extremist jihadi organizations in Syria and Iraq. Moreover, CE-tied mujahedin have taken leadership positions in the Islamic State (IS) and numerous other jihadi groups fighting in the Levant, and the CE remains in contact with them and many of their groups. Yet some still insist that “the North Caucasus resistance remains a separate movement that has not developed solidarity networks with the Middle Eastern radicals.”[1]

The hijra of CE mujahedin and other Islamists from the North Caucasus – the CE’s recruitment pool – is degrading and potentially could reduce to nil, or nearly so, the CE jihad in the North Caucasus. At the same time, the Caucasus jihadi hijra is strengthening the jihadi forces in the Levant and elsewhere, as CE amirs in particular are playing leading roles in the Islamic State in al-Sham (ISIS), Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups in the Levant.

All this is forcing the CE’s new amir, Sheikh Ali Abu Mukhammad al-Dagistani (born Aliskhab Alibultatovich Kebekov), to devote considerable part of his efforts to the hijra issue and the potential effect on the CE that dissent (fitna) and divisions among the mujahedin in the Levant might have. Thus, the CE is not only playing a key role on the main global jihadi front now located in the Levant but it is also playing a growing role in the global jihadi revolutionary alliance’s internal politics.

The CE and North Caucasus in the Levant

The CE’s ranks as well as the pool of potential recruits who could replenish them are being drained by the hijra to Syria. Many hundreds of, even several thousand North Caucasian mujahedin and hundreds of other muhajirin have consolidated around several groups under the leadership of group of ethnic Chechen amirs from the Caucasus writ large – from Chechens from Chechnya and the ethnic Chechen Kist sub-ethnos centered in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge. In late 2011 or early 2012 late CE amir ‘Abu Usman’ Doku Umarov dispatched to Syria and financed the activity of four key amirs – Tarkhan Batirashvili (jihadi nom de guerre ‘Abu Umar al-Shishani’ or Abu Umar the Chechen), Murad Margoshvili (Muslim, sometimes Abu Walid, Shishani), Ruslan Machaliashvili (Seifullah al-Shishani), and Umarov’s personal envoy to the region’s mujahedin Salahuddin al-Shishani (birth name unknown), according to the aforementioned Batirashvili.[2] At least, Batirashvili and especially Margoshvili had a previous history with the CE. Margoshvili appears in a photograph with the infamous Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya jihadist ‘Abu Idris’ Shamil Basaev, who was killed by Russian forces in Ingushetiya in July 2006. Other jamaats and Islamists went separately to Syria with an unclear connection to the CE.

By early 2012, this ‘Chechen jamaat’ of some 40 fighters was being led by Batirashvili and was reportedly fighting in and around Aleppo under the Al Qa`ida-tied ‘Jabhat al-Nusrah’ (JaN or the Al Nusrah for short).[3] It included mujahedin from Chechnya, Dagestan, and a group called ‘Kataib al-Muhajirin KBK’ (the Emigres Brigade from Kabardiya, Balkariya, and Karachai) from the CE’s ‘United Vilaiyat of Kabardiya, Balkariya and Karachai’ (by its Russian language acronym known as the OVKBK) that is responsible for CE operations in Russia’s North Caucasus republics of Kabardino-Balkariya and Karachaevo-Cherkessiya.[4] There are representatives of various Tatar communities from Russia and Eurasia also fighting alongside the CE jihadists in Syria, including Tatarstanis, Crimean Tatars, and even some Volga Tatars from Russia’s republic of Mordovia.[5]

Batirashvili’s and the CE’s venture in Syria was not immediately successful and at times hung by a thread. In September 2012, Batirashvili’s still small brigade of still mostly Chechen mujahedin fighting under the Al-Nusrah Front engaged Syrian troops in the university district of Aleppo, where North Caucasus jihadists have fought numerous times for more than two years under various AQ affiliates. In two days of fighting Batirashvili lost ten of his forty fighters.[6] Several more days of such attrition at the hands of Assad’s well-equipped forces would have reduced the remains of the ‘Chechen Jamaat’ to merely the latest list of jihadi martyrs. Soon, however, fortunes improved; new units joined, and the ranks grew.

By late 2012, the CE mujahedin and a large portion of the other foreign mujahedin fighting in Syria joined together in a united formation of foreign fighters under AQ affiliate, Al-Nusrah. Initially, it took its name from the abovementioned OVKBK jamaat in Syria and called itself the ‘Kataib al-Muhajirin’ or KaM with Batirashvili serving as its amir. On 7 February 2013, the CE’s main website posted a one of the first videos of Batirashvili, Machaliashvili, and 20 well-armed, often masked KaM mujahedin from various parts of the world, as indicated by their dress.  The introductory text to the video notes that KaM is one of the “most active units of Mujahideen fighting in Syria against the Alawite regime of Assad and Iranian mercenaries” and includes “volunteers from the Caucasus Emirate.” Flanked by his naibs or deputy commanders, Machaliashvili and another Chechen Abu Musa, and boasting his long red beard, Batirashvili explains the KaM’s goal is to fight jihad and establish Shariah law “on this land.”  Noting the importance of financing, he also appealed for financial support for the mujahedin.[7]

In March 2013, Batirashvili received the bayat or loyalty oath from two Syrian rebel units, ‘Kataib Khattab’ and ‘Jeish Muhammad’, and they joined the KaM. According to a late March posting on the CE’s main website, Kavkaz tsentr, ‘Jeish Mukhammad’ and ‘Kataib Khattab’ together included some 600 fighters.[8] The renamed KaM, now titled ‘Jeish Muhajirin va Ansar’ (JMA) or the Army of Emigrants and Helpers, now numbered more than a thousand militants.[9]

AQ’S FITNA IN SYRIA AND THE JMA SPLIT

Increasing tensions and the eventual fighting between AQ’s two key allies in Syria – JaN and the ISIS – in 2013 resonated among the foreign mujahedin within the JMA, including those from the Caucasus. Many in the JMA, in particular amir Batirashvili, began to drift towards the then AQ-affiliated group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (Syria) or ISIS, recently denounced by AQ amir Zayman al-Zawahiri for its radical excesses. In summer 2013 Batirashvili was appointed military amir of the ISIS’s northern front. In October 2013, Batirashvili and part of the JMA officially switched allegiance from al-Nusrah to ISIS, taking the lifetime bayat to ISIS amir its amir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whom the JMA announcement praised as a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.[10] On November 21, the JMA issued a statement on its official website, FISyria.com, announcing that Batirashvili and the JMA had taken the ‘bayat’ or loyalty oath to ISIS amir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was subsequently confirmed that they were waiting for CE amir Umarov’s “consent to the oath.”[11] However, unknown at the time, Umarov had already died in August from poisoning organized by Russian intelligence, and the approval never came. This issue would be left to Umarov’s successor as discussed below. By early 2014, there were reports of Batirashvili’s promotion ISIS’s central command as its top military amir.[12]

Batirashvili’s deepening involvement in ISIS, along with personality conflicts, power competition, and conflicts over the distribution of resources precipitated splits among the North Caucasus amirs and jamaats and within the JMA even before Batirashvili’s final turn to the ISIS in autumn 2013. In late July or early August 2013, Machaliashvili and his ‘Jaish al-Khalifatu Islamiya’ (Army of the Islamic Caliphate) or JKhI and Margoshvili’s ‘Jund Sham’ (The Soldiers of Sham) or JS broke from the JMA and formed their own united jamaat, named after Machaliashvili’s ‘Jaish al-Khalifatu Islamiya’ or JKhI. In late August 2013 amirs Machaliashvili and Margoshvili met on the outskirts of Latakiya and agreed on unspecified cooperation between JKhI and JSh.[13] Two months later in a 31 October 2013 video Machaliashvili, Margoshvili and Abu Musaab announced what looked to be a full merger of the JKhI and JS. [14] Seifullah Machaliashvili retained leadership of the new JKhI as amir, Machaliashvili and the JKhI then took the bayat to JaN amir Abu Muhammad al-Jolani in December.[15] Thus, the JKhI began to communicate through the Russian-language page of JaN’s website, Usudu Sham.

On 14 January 2014 Machaliashvili was killed during a siege of Aleppo’s central prison which freed thousands of prisoners and was carried out by JaN and the jihadi group Ahrar Sham.[16] Nusrah’s amir Jolani wrote a brief tribute eulogizing Machaliashvili, noting that they had fought closely together in Guta and elsewhere and that “the Caucasus always will give birth to new heroes, and they will restore the former influence of the Umma.”[17] A videotape from Seifullah’s unidentified Russian-speaking, North Caucasian-appearing successor as amir was posted on the CE’s main website on 26 February 2014. The JKhI is now called the “Jamaat of Seifullah Shishani,” and in August 2014 a new amir replaced Machaliashvili’s immediate successor, who was killed.[18] The new amir is not, however, a Chechen or North Caucasian, but rather he appears to be an Afghani or Pakistani given his jihadi nom de guerre, Mohammed Khorosani.[19] Meanwhile, Margoshvili and the JS appear to have delayed or rejected unification with the JaN, and they maintain an autonomous status but in close alliance with the JKhI and al-Nusrah.

Batirashvili soon accused his former naib, ‘Seifullah’ Machaliashvili, of sowing fitna or dissent within the JMA. In an 8 December 2013 video, Batirashvili and his naib Abu Jihad addressed the split in relatively vague terms. Batirashvili rejected the charge apparently made by Machaliashvili, Margoshvili, and perhaps others in the JMA that he had abandoned the JMA. He noted that 80 percent of the JMA took the bayat to Baghdadi and most of those who did not were the abovementioned CE mujahedin who were waiting amir Umarov’s approval. For his part Abu Jihad addresses what he terms “lies being spread” by “infidels” who seek to sow fitna.[20]

Thus, by late 2013 the leadership of four groups – including the notorious ISIS, its JMA, the JKhI, and JS – had ties to the CE and the North Caucasus, the original seed for which was planted by Doku Umarov’s dispatch of amirs to Syria in 2012. Yet more Chechen-led formations and transformations of Caucasus, other foreign, and Syrian mujahedin would emerge in the course of 2014. Indeed, the rise of IS and the key role of Chechens and others from the CE and the North Caucasus and of Chechen Kists like Batirashvili from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge are expanding the IS network and its recruiting pool of fighters into Georgia’s Pankisi.[21]

By far the most important CE-tied leader in the Levant is Batirashvili. Indeed, as IS military amir he would emerge as on the world’s leading jihadists. Aside from his ex officio position as military amir near the IS’s apex, Batirashvili would mastermind the IS’s sweep through Anbar province in Iraq in summer 2014. Among his ‘triumphs’ was the slaughter of 300-500 Iraqi troops using chemical gas near Saqlawiyah in September. The CE-tied mujahed has proven to be not only ruthless but an indispensable strategist and tactician, forging the IS’s expansion deep into Iraq and thereby paving the way for IS amir Abubakr al-Baghdadi to declare the IS caliphate and himself as its caliph.[22]

Batirashvili also reportedly has been commanding IS’s autumn 2014 siege of Kobani in the Kurdish north of Iraq on Turkey’s border. All this underscores the leading military role already being played by CE-tied amirs after the first wave of its jihadi emigrants.

The Second Wave of CE-Tied Group Formation in the Levant

The IS’s declaration of the caliphate, the splits among the Caucasus mujahedin sparked by Batirashvili’s rise within the IS, and the arrival of more Caucasus mujahedin to the region has to the formation of other muhajirin groups led by Chechens. This second wave of muhajirin jamaat formation has produced at least two additional groups and the transformation of one of the CE’s affiliates.

Regarding the latter, the late CE Umarov’s envoy to the Syrian mujahedin, Salahuddin al-Shishani, who first joined Batirashvili in shifting to the ISIS, would soon form an autonomous group in response to the growing divisions among the mujahedin in Syria and the JMA split. By July 2013 Salahuddin was leading a group calling itself ‘Az Zubair’ under the non-ISIS JMA. As part of the JMA split, Salahuddin and at least 200 JMA mujahedin had followed Batirashvili taking the bayat for life to ISIS amir Baghdadi in December 2013.[23] However, Salahuddin left the ISIS in 2014 taking with him an unknown number of JMA fighters. Salahuddin began calling his group the ‘Caucasus Emirate in Shama’ (Imarat Kavkaz v Shame or IKS) but then reverted to ‘Jeish Muhajirin va Ansar’ (JMA), taking advantage of Batirashvili’s statement that those who left him after he became ISIS military amir have the right to use the JMA name as long as they do not spread lies that Batirashvili abandoned them.[24] The IKS might still exist as a separate jamaat within the new JMA. In turn, the JMA and perhaps the IKS appears to include the original JMA’s Crimean Tatar brigade or at least its amir, Abdul-Karim Krymskii, who continues as Salahuddin’s first naib in the new JMA (IKS).[25]

The Chechen Al Bara al-Shishani leads a new, fourth major Caucasus-tied group, Jamaat Ahadun Ahad (JAA), formed in spring or early summer 2014. The JAA appears to operate autonomously in Syria but often fights alongside JaN. It consists of some 250-300 fighters and includes six sub-jamaats; four of which are ‘Chechen’, which could mean primarily or entirely Chechen or North Caucasian, and two are Syrian, mostly populated by Syrian Turkmens from Reef and Latakiya, where it is based and tends to operate. The JAA reportedly also includes some Turks, Arabs, Europeans, and former Taliban. Indeed, according to the ‘tweet’ of one self-proclaimed mujahed, Amir Al-Bara Shishani reportedly has fought under the command of Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan.[26] Indeed, in an official statement released by JAA (in English, Arabic and Turkish), the group states that they are run by a Shura’a Council consisting of mujahideen with “great pasts in the lands of jihad in Chechnya and Afghanistan.”[27] Its social media and foreign recruitment activities are conducted in English, Turkish, Arabic and Russian.[28] Like the CE, the JAA states it is neutral in regards to the Syrian jihad’s infighting or ‘fitna’ driven by the competition for leadership between ISIS and JaN. The JAA maintains close ties and often joins Margoshvili’s JS in combat, but it remains unclear whether or not Jamaat Ahadun Ahad shares any sort of relation with the Caucasus Emirate.[29]

The JAA might include two Latakiya-based, North Caucasus-oriented jamaats previously thought to be independent: the Khalifat Jamaat (KhJ) and Tarkhan’s Jamaat (TJ). The KhJ is led by amir Abdul Halim Shishani, who, like Margoshvili, is reported to have been fighting in Chechnya even before the October 2007 formation of the CE under the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya and was wounded in August 2007.[30] The so-called “Tarkhan’s Jamaat” is of particular interest because at least originally it consisted of mujahedin from the jamaat of an important CE amir Tarkhan Gaziyev. Gaziyev had fought in the pre-CE radical Chechen separatist entity, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya (ChRI), the CE’s predecessor organization. When the CE was founded in 2007, Gaziyev was the commander of the ChRI’s southwestern front group of forces and retained that position in the CE’s Chechen Republic network called the Nokchicho (Chechnya) Vilaiyat (NV). In August 2010 the CE experienced its own ‘fitna’, when Gaziyev and a group of high-powered CE NV amirs and most of the rest of the NV’s amirs broke with the CE because of Umarov’s retraction of a decision to resign and to appoint in his place one of the NV amirs as CE amir.[31] Gaziyev even was appointed the deputy, the naib, of the amir of the independent NV (INV). Tarkhan Jamaat amir Zumso (Shishani) was appointed an amir of a sector on the INV’s Western Front. Before the CE NV split he had been a sector amir in the CE NV’s Southeastern Front.[32] In July 2011 the INV amirs returned to the CE fold, but Gaziyev was not present at the announcement and appears then to have ensconced to Syria with his jamaat, including Zumso.[33]

Another Chechen-led group based in Syria around Latakia is Ansar a-Sham (AS). Its military amir and likely overall amir has been identified as one Abu Musa al-Shishani. An Abu Musa al-Shishani was closely allied with Batirashvili, Machaliashvili, and Margoshvili back in 2012-13. There are competing versions of who might have founded the group, including the Syrian London-based Sheikh Abu Basir al-Tartusi and a local Latakian named Abu Omar, according to an AS naib named Abu Muhammad. Although there are videos of Tartusi with members of the group, he denies founding the group, saying he works with many jihadi groups. Abu Omar, a local Salafi baker who fought in Afghanistan and is well-known in Latakia for his resistance to the Assad regime, seems the better bet, though he probably has ties to Tartusi. Tartusi also has longstanding ties to the CE and intervened (as did global jihadi philosopher Abu Muhammad Asem al-Maqdisi) in a political rift between late CE amir Doku Umarov and the bulk of the amirs of the CE’s Chechen NV in 2010.[34] It is suspected that Abu Omar provides funding and guidance to AS, which remains overwhelmingly Syrian despite Abu Musa al-Shishani’s leadership.[35] In September 2014, the US State Department placed the JMA as well as the JS’s Margoshvili on its list of international terrorist organizations and ordered any discovered property or finances of theirs to be seized or frozen.[36]

Another CE-tied group seemed to emerge in autumn 2014. Jamaat Jund al- Kavkaz (JJK) consists of 32 mujahedin, the majority of which are from Circassian ethnic groups, including Abkhazians and Cherkess. Its amir was described as a Chechen, one “Abd al-Hakim ash-Shishani,” likely the same Abdul-Khalim of Jamaat Khalifat (JK) described above, since he is also described and leading a Caucasus group that the report calls, Jamaat al-Khilafa al-Kawkaziya (JKK or the Caliphate Group of the Caucasus), which is likely Abdul-Khalim’s ‘Jamaat Khalifat’ or JK. According to the report, amir Abd al-Hakim ash-Shishani (Abdul-Khalim Shishani) has taken the bayat to the CE, but the JJK’s members do not hail from the Caucasus but rather from the sizable Circassian diaspora in Syria’s Golan Heights and Jordan. The JKK’s activities are characterized as “jihad is in Latakia and the Golan Heights.”[37]

Thus as of early 2014 there were at least six and perhaps as many as eight significantly large jihadi groups, which included many more smaller groups, fighting in Syria with Chechens and North Caucasians in top leadership positions: the ISIS with Batirashvili as its military amir, Margoshvili’s Jund al-Sham, Salahuddin’s JMA (IKS), Al Bara’s JAA, and AS. In terms of

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Table. Groups Predominantly Chechen or North Caucasian in Membership or with Chechen or North Caucasian Amirs in Syria and Iraq, September 2014.

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IRAQ AND SYRIA                                                                       AMIRS

Islamic State (IS, former ISIS)      Military amir ‘Umar al-Shishani’ Tarkhan Batirashvili

Al Aqsa Jamaat (AAJ)               ‘Umar al-Shishani’ Tarkhan Batirashvili

Naib: Abu Jihad al-Shishani (ethnic Karachai)

IS’s North Caucasus (CE-tied?) Jamaats:*

Abu Kamil Jamaat (No. Caucasian)              Amir: unknown

Jamaat Sabri (Dagestani)                               Amir: unknown

Jamaat Adama (Chechen)                             Amir: Adam

Jamaat Akhmada (Chechen)                         Amir: Akhmad

SYRIA-BASED GROUPS                                              AMIRS

Jeish Muhajirun va Ansar (JMA)/

Caucasus Emirate in Sham (Syria)**       Salahuddin al-Shishani

Jund (Junud) al-Sham (JS)                      ‘Muslim Shishani’ Murad Margoshvili

Jamaat Ahadun Ahad (JAA)                     Al Bara al-Shishani

JAA Sub-Groups:

Chechen muhajirin group 1                       Al Bara al-Shishani (also JAA amir)

Chechen muhajirin group 2                       Abdul-Hakim Shishani (Khalifat Jamaat’s amir?)*

Chechen muhajirin group 3                       Abu Ubayda Shishani

Chechen muhajirin group 4                       Zumso Shishani (amir Tarkhan’s Jamaat?)*

Syrian ansar group 1                                  Abu Samir al-Ansari (not from Caucasus)

Syrian ansar group 2                                  Abu Umar al-Ansari (not from Caucasus)

Ansar a-Sham (AS)                                  Abu Musa al-Shishani

Tarkhan (Gaziyev) Jamaat***                 Zumso Shishani

Jamaat Khalifat (JK)***                            Abdul-Hakim Shishani

Jamaat Jund al- Kavkaz (JJK)               Abdul-Hakim al-Shishani

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* Joann Paraszcuk, “What Are the ‘Chechen’ Jamaats in the Islamic State?,” Chechens in Syria, 11 October 2014, http://www.chechensinsyria.com/?p=22687.

** The mujahedin refer to this group interchangeably as the JMA and the Caucasus Emirate in Shama. It is part of Jabhat Ansar a-Din coalition and includes North Caucasus, Eurasian, other foreign jamaats, including pre-dominantly Saudi ‘Katibat al-Khadra’.

***The Khalifat and Tarkhan Jamaats might still be operating independently. In which case, the four JAA Chechen-led jamaats would not include these two jamaats and their amirs. See Husan Mustafa, “Guest Post: The 4 Chechen brigades in Jamaat Ahadun Ahad,” Chechens in Syria, 16 August 2014, http://www.chechensinsyria.com/?p=22380.

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overall numbers as of the Caucasus hijra’s second wave, Russian FSB Chairman Alexander Bortnikov reported on 20 February 2015 that there were 1,700 Russian citizens fighting in Iraq alone.[38] The overwhelming majority of these are North Caucasians. Adding in those fighting in Syria, we can estimate some 3,000 Russian citizens fighting on the global jihad’s Levant front; some 2,500 of which hail from the North Caucasus as of early 2015.

The CE and the Jihadi Fitna in the Levant

The diverging allegiances of the CE-tied groups in the Levant resulting from the JaN/IS split and conflict required the CE leadership address the issue, since it touches on the unity of the CE’s ranks both at home in Russia and abroad in the Levant, Yemen and AfPak. Thus, after late CE amir Umarov’s successor was settled upon, Dagistani moved immediately to address it. In Dagistani’s first video statement after announcing that Umarov had been killed and he was succeeding him as the CE amir, he addressed the problems presented by the exodus of CE mujahedin and other Caucasus and Russian Muslims to the Syrian jihad and the dissension among the Syrian mujahedin.[39] That this was the first issue he would address as amir underscored its importance for the fate of the CE’s jihad in Russia.

In late June Dagistani issued another statement on the divisions or dissension (fitna) within the jihadi movement in a video ‘CE Amir Ali Abu Muhammad: The CE’s Position in Connection with the Dissension in Shama’.[40] In his remarks amir Dagistani repeats points he made in an earlier video lecture about the conflicting and inconclusive positions in sacred texts about mujahedin leaving their homeland to fight jihad elsewhere. Thus, at the time under his predecessor as CE amir ‘Abu Usman’ or Dokku Umarov, if some mujahedin wanted to go to Syria, then the CE leadership did not stand in their way. Saying that it became known to an unidentified “us” that Umarov or ‘Abu Usman’ had issued an “ukaz” (Russian for ‘decree’) ordering the establishment of a CE jamaat in Syria (which became eventually the Caucasus Emirate in Sham), for which again an unidentified “we” did not see the need. It is likely that the ‘we’ included Dagistani as well as others in the CE’s Dagestan network, the Dagestan Vilaiyat (DV), since Dagistani operated in Dagestan and emerged out of the CE’s DV spearhead in becoming the CE’s qadi in 2010 and then its amir this year.[41]

Dagistani then laid out the CE’s position on the fitna or dissent among the mujahedin in Sham, and the reaction of its figthers there to the fitna. Dagistani noted that the CE mujahedin sent to Syria were supposed to join the “very oldest jamaats,” gain battle experience, and return home bringing their know-how back to the CE’s “benefit.” Also, according to Dagistani, they were not supposed to make videos or declarations, apparently meaning the CE leadership wanted to keep this operation secret from the “infidels.” Instead, as he notes, the CE mujahedin declared their own jamaat ‘Kataib Muhajirin va Ansar’. The Russians found out about it and began to track down mujahedin returning to the Caucasus from Syria, spoiling the hoped for advantage the CE wanted when it sent them. He says that after the KMA began fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN), and then got itself caught between the two flames of the JaN and ISIS. He adds that the JaN affirms that the Caucasus mujahedin are “the most bold and militant and always in the first ranks and listen to their amir and respect each other.”[42]

Dagistani then describes the emergence of the dissension among the mujahedin, as he understands it. He notes that initially there was a single jihadist “jamaat” (group or organization), the JaN, and there were no divisions or dissension. However, competition grew between the JaN’s then and present amir Abu Mohammed al-Jolani and Abubakr al-Baghdadi, who formed ISIS, Al Qa`ida (AQ) amir Ayman al-Zawahiri asked them not to declare themselves ‘AQ in Shama’ because this would provoke attacks by the Western infidel. Baghdadi went ahead and did so in founding ISIS and demanded that Jolani give the bayat (Islamic loyalty oath to an amir) to him. Instead, Jolani gave his bayat to Zawahiri, and the JaN and ISIS came to loggerheads, including occasional armed clashes. Both Jolani and Baghdadi then sent letters to Zawahiri asking him to resolve the dispute by backing one or the other as AQ’s project in the Levant. Zawahiri ruled that Baghdadi was “mistaken” for founding the ISIS without informing AQ and that Jolani was as well for declaring the bayat to Zawahiri and declaring itself AQ’s affiliate in the Levant. He ordered Baghdadi and the ISIS to limit its activity to Iraq and Jolani and the JaN to concentrate on “Sham” (the Levant). Dagistani also notes that concerns arose and spread among the mujahedin as to why Zawahiri was making decisions on the organization of the jihad in accordance with the borders and states created by the infidel.[43]

From the point of Shariah it was a correct decision, according to Dagistani, and Baghdadi and Jolani had agreed Zawahiri should decide. However, after the decision was announced, ISIS rejected the AQ leadership’s decision. As a result the fitna did not end, and blood-letting between jihadi groups began. Zawahiri, JaN’s Jolani, and other ‘scholars’ demanded that an independent Shariah court be established to decide the issue and that Baghdadi and Jolani sit down at the negotiating table and resolve their differences. ISIS refused to do this, declared it was preparing to declare the caliphate with Baghdad as its caliph and would have its own Shariah court for others to submit to. The caliphate was declared, JaN naturally refused to comply, and the controversy continues to this day, Dagistani laments.[44]

He emphasizes that the CE follows the debate, infighting, and jihad in Shama and prays that Allah would reveal the truth and the fitna will be overcome. He also asks the opposing sides to negotiate and submit to the “leadership of the jihad,” perhaps presumed by the CE to be Zawahiri or a special Shariah court that might issue a ruling on the issue. Finally, according to Dagistani, Allah revealed the truth and “ISIS removed the mask from its face” in issuing a fatwa asserting its own ‘manhaj’ (Islamic form of methodology for reaching the truth) and claiming that fighting separately from ISIS other groups including, according to Dagistani, “Zawahir and the jihad’s leadership,” were violating Shariah law. In particular, ISIS charged that Zawahiri and AQ were committing takfir by aligning themselves ‘with democracy.’ Dagistani explicitly rejects ISIS’s charges as well as its manhaj as “not ours” in the video and adds that ISIS then came out from under subordination to AQ, “if it ever was so subordinated.” Dagistani states that the CE’s position and its “brothers” – by which he means CE fighters in Syria – of which he and the CE “remain proud,” was to stand aside and not take sides in this dispute, though clearly his words reveal criticism of ISIS and none for JaN, Zawahiri, and AQ or the “jihad’s leadership.” Thus, Dagistani announces that the CE calls upon its fighters in Syria to maintain the neutral position they have staked out together and direct its energies to fighting the ‘infidel,’ Assad and his facilitators and declare Shariah law on the territory they take control of. He also states that other jihadi groups should not be allowed onto those lands without permission. Thus, Dagistani is calling on groups like CE mujahed Salahudin’s JMA and perhaps even CEL to stake out its own territory. He does this as a temporary measure, noting there are many battalions (kitaib) in ‘Sham’ and they each control their own territory and so the CE’s groups should do the same until such time as there is a unification of jihadi forces when the CE will also then take steps to support unity.[45]

Dagistani then addresses the fact that ISIS’s (the caliphate’s) military amir is none other than Tarkhan Batirashvili (Umar al-Shishani), whom late CE amir Umarov sent to Syria to fight and initially financed, according to Batirashvili himself. He says that “this brother” was appointed “amir” (it is unclear whether this means amir of the first known group under Batirashvili – the KaM or its successor, the JMA) by the CE’s representative abroad – most likely referring to CE in Sham amir Salahudin, who first held and seems to still hold that position. Batirashvili, Dagistani states, was able to attract “very many mujahedin and achieved many great successes on the field of battle by Allah’s blessing.” However, when the ISIS-JaN fitna began he “disobeyed” the CE’s order to remain neutral and sided with ISIS (with which by that time he had risen to the position of amir of ISIS’s northern front). Dagistani states that the CE considered him “mistaken” but did not condemn him. However, Batirashvili began to engage in propaganda and draw other CE mujahedin in Syria to ISIS, and the CE could “let him speak in the name of the CE amir,” implying that Batirashvili did so. Dagistani says the CE rains “dissatisfied” with Batirashvili but hopes he will see the truth and return to the JMA. Dagistani explains his unwillingness not to cut all ties to Batirashvili by reminding mujahedin of the latter’s “sincerity” and “skill” and noting that his return to the right path would make him even more formidable. He also claims that Batirashvili cannot adequately explain his position in either Russian or Arabic and that those who lack sufficient Islamic knowledge and experience in the jihad and the Levant only complicate a political resolution by engaging in politics. For all these reasons, Dagistani urges Batirashvili to stay out of politics and let the “jihad’s leadership” deal with such issues and calls on all CE fighters in the Levant to refrain from following Batirashvili until such time that he abandons the fitna.[46]

Dagistani also discusses Batirashvili’s close associate Abu Jihad, who was Batirashvili’s naib or the qadi for the ISIS’s northern front when Batirashvili was its amir and appears to be Batirashvili’s naib as well as a amir of an IS jamaat they run. Dagistani says that the CE does not know him, that he has no relationship to the CE, and that therefore he has no right to speak in its name. In closing he states that the CE “is part of the global jihad,” “does not want to be left on the sidelines,” therefore lays out is position, and follows all jihadi statements and activity in Sham. He also issues a soft warning that if ISIS does not stop sowing fitna among the mujahedin, then “it will be very difficult for them to stand before Allah on Judgment Day.”[47] The CE’s subunits – such as its Chechnya-based network, the NV, in July 2014 – also publish video messages calling on the mujahedin in the Levant to cease the infighting and reunify the jihad.[48]

Thus, the CE has staked out its own firm position on the most burning issue confronting the global jihadi revolutionary movement. The fact that Dagistani refers to the ‘jihad’s leadership’ in close connection with Zawahiri and AQ several times in the video suggests that he considers them to be that leadership. The CE remains clearly nonplussed by the fitna among the Levant’s mujahedin and still hopes to remain neutral and help restore unity to the global jihadi revolutionary movement it rightly sees itself as a part of. However, the prominence of Batirashvili within the IS exacerbates the CE’s problems in attempting to hold on to personnel. Now, not only are mujahedin leaving the Caucasus for the Levant and elsewhere to fight jihad, but there are strong contenders for the position of the ‘jihad’s leadership’ within the Caucasus, such as Batirashvili, potentially emerging from the Levant. This could add political and theo-ideological distance to the geographical distance already lying between the CE and its fighters and former fighters in Sham.

Subsequent to Dagistani’s appeal, one of the CE’s leading patrons and perhaps the leading global jihadi philosopher, Sheikh Abu Muhammad Asem al-Maqdisi, spearheaded an effort that would involve the CE amir to rein in IS, support AQ in its dispute with IS, and encourage a rapprochement between the groups towards reunifying the global jihadi revolutionary movement’s forces in the Levant. In August the CE published a videotaped statement from the influential jihadi philosopher, Sheikh Maqdisi, who was released from a Jordanian prison in early 2014 but re-arrested in October and has had a close relationship with the CE going back to at least 2007. Beginning with an expression of his condolences regarding the death of CE amir Dokku Umarov, acknowledged by the CE in March, Maqdisi congratulated Sheikh Dagistani for succeeding Umarov and urged the CE mujahedin to support and obey their new amir and prevent any potential schism within their ranks, offering to do anything he might be able to do to assist the CE’s jihad in Russia. He also thanked Dagistani for sending “a portion of the best mujahedin” in the CE to Syria, despite the “difficulties” of waging jihad in the Caucasus, especially at a time when the expanse of the jihad has grown and therefore contributions to the Caucasus jihad are reduced. Maqdisi especially thanked the CE amirs and mujahedin in Syria for setting an “example” by their “moderate position” and “lack of radicalism and excess” of the kind that “has emerged” within the jihad in reference to IS. Maqdisi had recently explicitly refused to support the IS’s declaration of the caliphate and in recent years has emphasized the need for targeted terrorism as opposed to the IS’s arbitrary, mass terrorism. He also notes that after he heard about these moderate CE mujahedin he met with them, and they told him about themselves and apparently their moderate, centrist position in relation to the fitna. It remains unclear which CE amirs fighting in Syria met with Maqdisi and whether they traveled to Jordan or he traveled to Syria.[49] Maqdisi was clearly reaching out to his CE client group in order to lobby its support against the IS extremists and for overcoming the jihad’s fitna.

CE scholars responded. Later in the same month, the DV’s shariah court qadi, Abu Usman al-Gimrivii (born Magomed Suleimanov), who also is the amir of the DV’s Mountain Sector, issued an audio lecture on the dangers of fitna for the jihad and noted the need to rely on the opinion of scholars like Maqdisi, AQ amir Zawahiri, sheikh Abu Katad Philistini, all of whom he mentions by name along with several others. He argues that mujahedin need to listen to the opinions of such scholars and “remain in place” until the scholars have spoken before deciding on which groups in Syria to support.[50] Thus, the CE leadership is holding back before declaring itself in alliance with any single jihadi organization in Syria. In the bargain, they may be glad that it provides some justification for encouraging CE mujahedin to remain at home rather than heading south to fight in the Levant.

Shortly after Maqdisi’s appeals, Dagistani issued his own to Islamic scholars like Maqdisi requesting a decision on the AQ-IS conflict. In doing so, he tilted in favor of AQ by noting that he makes sure he never to miss any of the writings and statements issued by Zawahiri and Maqdisi and learns much from Hani as-Sibai, a jihadi philosopher close to Maqdisi.[51]  In response to Dagistani’s appeal to the scholars, Sibai hailed Sheikh Dagistani and his CE mujahedin in his sermon marking the end of Ramadan and lamented that the Caucasus mujahedin had been forgotten by the umma.[52]

Throughout 2014 into early autumn, CE published numerous articles casting some doubt on the ISIS’s tactics and IS’s declaration of the caliphate. Among them were missives from leading jihadists like Maqdisi criticizing the “illness of fanaticism” and by implication IS,[53] praising the relative tactical moderation ostensibly deployed by the CE and many non-IS jihadi groups in the Levant, and urging a rapprochement among all jihadi groups. All of these statements were posted on the CE’s main website, Kavkaz tsentr.[54] Maqdisi emphasized avoiding attacks against Muslim civilians or on targets where crowds of them might congregate and cautioned against using istishkhad or suicide operations, except against the most “necessary” of targets.[55] Earlier in the summer, CE amir Dagistani rejected the use of female suicide bombers in general and the use of istishkhad operations by males against civilians.[56] In autumn there followed a joint appeal issued by Maqdisi, Dagistani, Sibai, and a group of other prominent jihadi scholars including Abu Katada Falistiny, Umar al-Haddushi, Abdul Vafa al-Tunisi, Dr. Abdullah al-Muhaisin, and Dr. Tarik Abdul Halim calling for moderate terrorism and insurgent tactics and the reunification of the mujahedin in Iraq and Syria.[57] Several of them had already issued fatwas supporting AQ and Zawahiri against IS and Baghdadi and calling for unity.[58]

Subsequently, as Batirashvili commanded IS’s siege of Kobani, JMA amir Salahuddin al-Shishani led a peace delegation from JaN, AS, and other groups to IS representatives in Raqqa. However, IS rejected the peace proposal saying the amirs represented by Salahuddin were “apostates and infidels.”[59] So now the CE and its emigres – especially figures like Dagistani, Batirashvili, and Salahuddin – are playing a leading role in the global jihad’s internal politics. At the same time, CE’s involvement in global jihadi politics could be having a divisive political blowback effect back home. In November 2014 it appears that the DV’s Aukhovskii Jamaat or part thereof and its amir Suleiman declared the bayat to Baghdadi and IS.[60] 

Conclusion: The Jihadi CE’s Political and Military Extra-Territorialization (Globalization)

Not only are the CE and its emigres playing a leading military role on the main front of the global jihad in the Levant, but they are playing a leading political role at the center of global jihadi politics and efforts to fashion a rapprochement between AQ and IS. In addition to CE groups in Syria and Iraq, CE-tied cells have emerged in AfPak and Yemen. In AfPak a group calling itself the ‘Caucasus Emirate in Horosan’ declared itself in 2014, and in March its amir Abdullah sent a video greeting to his former comrades in the Caucasus.[61] By 2014, reports from the Yemeni front where AQ in the Arabian Peninsula leads the jihad showed an influx of fighters from the North Caucasus and Central Asia coming from Syria. In May Yemeni security forces killed their second Chechen amir in just a few weeks. Abu Islam al-Shishani (Abu Islam the Chechen) was fighting for AQAP and was described as a “top AQ commander.” Yemeni security agencies said that there is a growing role being played by CE fighters in AQAP, which is recruiting aggressively in Chechnya and Dagestan as well as in Central Asia’s Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Some of these mujahedin from Russian-speaking Eurasian communities are arriving from Iraq and Syria, they also reported.[62] A Dagestan mujahed was killed a week later in a counter-terrorist operation against suspected AQ militants in the province of Shabwa in southern Yemen.[63] The first top field commander from the North Caucasus killed in Yemen during May 2014 was Abu Muslim al-Uzbeki, who apparently was an ethnic Uzbek perhaps from an émigré family in Russia or a native of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, or Kyrgyzstan who arrived in Yemen in 2011. Abu Muslim was said to lead a group of North Caucasus fighters under AQAP fighting in southern.[64]

In Europe, CE cells have been discovered planning attacks and recruiting in Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic in recent years, Chechen and other North Caucasian diasporas are now mixing with other diasporas with Islamist and jihadist elements. This combustive mix exploded into massive violence on the streets of Hamburg, Germany on October 7th. In two separate clashes, some 800 IS and Kurdish supporters fought with machetes, baseball bats, metal bars wounding tens, and dozens of ‘Chechens’ (likely Chechens and other North Caucasians) also battled Kurdish Yazidis, the non-Muslim minority persecuted by IS in Iraq, in Celle, Germany. It cannot be excluded that the IS and Caucasus elements’ efforts were coordinated by IS operatives in Germany. [65]

Recently, a CE Chechen jihadist named Amaev Khavazi was arrested in Athens after entering Greece from Turkey in a boat along with 45 refugees. His wife acknowledges that he fought with the CE’s predecessor organization, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya, and the CE from 2000 to 2012 but was fighting for Chechen independence and not for religious reasons or the establishment of the Caucasus Emirate or a caliphate of any kind.[66] However, the CE was founded in 2007 and from the start declared its goal was to establish an Islamist emirate across the Caucasus and elsewhere in Eurasia and allied itself with the global jihad’s goal of establishing the caliphate. He could not have but known of the CE’s ideology and goals after fighting in its network for at least five years. Furthermore, Khavazi’s wife also claims he never went to Syria or Iraq to fight but also says that in the CE he fought in the jamaat of Tarkhan Gaziyev, who was a leading amir in the CE’s Chechnya-based NV network.[67] However, as noted above at least some among Gaziyev’s jamaat left to fight in Syria and is allied with the non-IS jihadi forces there. Thus, it is very possible that Khavazi was attempting to infiltrate Europe in order to carry out attacks there.

The CE and other North Caucasus mujahedin have not forgotten about the CE’s jihad in their homeland. In July 2013 CE amir Umarov’s then envoy to the Syrian mujahedin, Salahuddin, encouraged mujahedin from Russia to stay in the North Caucasus and “prepare for the so-called Olympic Games in Sochi.”[68] In autumn 2013 JS amir Margoshvili also insisted that he and his men had not abandoned the CE and intend to return home at some point.[69] As recently as September 2014, Margoshvili appealed to CE amir Dagistani in a videotaped interview not to think that the CE and other mujahedin fighting in Syria have forgotten about the CE jihad in the Caucasus and promised that they are doing and will do everything possible to assist the CE and “unite with it.”[70] Even Batirashvili promised that after victory in Shama, the CE and North Caucasian mujahedin in Syria “will come to (Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov) stronger and better prepared” and “will continue to battle with America and other enemies who continue to suck the blood of Muslims.”[71] Indeed, some CE and North Caucasus fighters are returning, and Russian security and North Caucasus police forces on occasion arrest them.[72]

Nevertheless, the CE remains at risk of incapacitation and displaced de-territorialization similar to that as suffered by other groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. On the other hand, its displaced muhjirun are more likely to be involved in any international operations carried out by ISIS, AQ, or other jihadi groups fighting in the Levant.  In sum, the CE is now more deeply embedded in the global jihadi Islamist and jihadist revolutionary movements than ever before and has networks through which it and/or its allies can rely on to wreak havoc from Germany to Waziristan back to Russia.

_____________________

Footnotes

[1] Mairbek Vatchagaev, “The North Caucasus Insurgency: One Year Without Doku Umarov,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, September 12, 2014 — Volume 11, Issue 160, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=42827&cHash=99798297faa9a0bff1163b1281d18e84#.VELm_vnF-uw.

[2] “Interv’yu s Abu Umarom Ash Shishani,” Beladusham.com, www.beladusham.com/0392.html, accessed 12 December 2013. For more on these figures’ biographies see my unpublished report Gordon M. Hahn, The Caucasus Emirate and Other North Caucasus Mujahedin in Syria, April 2014.

[3] Abdul-Ahad, “Syria: the foreign fighters joining the war against Bashar al-Assad” and Bill Roggio, “Al Nusrah Front claims suicide attack at hospital, joint operation with Chechen fighters,” Long War Journal, 23 November 2012, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/11/al_nusrah_front_clai_8.php.

[4] “Pryzyv is Shama,” Islamdin.com, 18 October 2012, 02:25, www.islamdin.com/video/1415–q-q-.html and “Dzhama’at ‘Katibatu Mudzhakhirin KBK,” Islamdin.com, 00:51, 20 October 2012, www.islamdin.com/video/1416–q-q-.html.

[5] On Tatars from Mordovia fighting in Syria, see Stolica-s.su, http://stolica-s.su/new/node/1716.

[6] Abdul-Ahad, “Syria: the foreign fighters joining the war against Bashar al-Assad.”[7] “Syria. Appeal of Emir of Brigade of Emigrants Abu Omar al-Chechen,” Kavkaz tsentr, 7 February 2013, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2013/02/07/17333.shtml.

[8] “Siriya: K brigade ‘Kataib Mukhadzhirin’ prisoedinilis’ dva siriiskikh podrazdeleniya,” Kavkaz tsentr, 22 March 2013, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2013/03/22/96932.shtml.

[9] “Siriya: Prisyaga siriiskikh modzhakhedov Amiru Armii mukhadzhirov i ansarov Umaru Shishani,” Kavkaz tsentr, 26 March 2013, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2013/03/26/97014.shtml.

[10] “Umar al-Shishani prisyagnul Abu Bakru al-Bagdadi,” FISyria, http://fisyria.com/?p=1586.

[11] “Umar ash-Shishani i Abu Dzhikhad o poslednykh sobytiyakh v Sirii, Chast’ pervaya: Umar ash-Shishani i Abu dzhikhad o poslednykh izmeneniyakh v dzhamaate, 5 safar 1435g. po khidzhre (8 December 2013g.)” and “Umar al-Shishani prisyagnul Abu Bakru al-Bagdadi.”

[12] “Operatsiya ‘Fatikh’,” FISyria.com, 7 December 2013, http://fisyria.com/?p=1630.

[13] “Vstrecha amirov i mudzhakhedov,” Usudu Sham, August 2013, usudusham.com/2013/08/встеча-амиров-и-муджахедов/.

[14] “Ob’edinenie i obyasnenie po povod raznoglasii,” YouTube, 31 October 2013, Youtube.com/watch?v=ZsB8CMT8RIo&feature=youtu.be.

[15] See the announcement in “Dzheish Khilafa Al-Islamiya ob’yadenilas s Dzhabkhat an-Nusra,” Usudu Sham, December 2013, http://usudusham.com/2013/12/джейш-хилафа-ал-исламия-обьядинилса-с-дж/.

[16] “V khode shturma vzyata tsentral’naya tyurma Aleppo, tysyachi zalozhnikov osvobozhdeny,” Kavkaz tsentr, 6 February 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/02/06/103071.shtml. The battle for the prison is covered in a 46 minue videotape at the end of which Machaliashvili is killed by artillery or mortar fire. See “Poslednii boi amira Seifullakh Shishani (Video),” Kavkaz tsentr, 14 February 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/02/14/103170.shtml.

[17] “Amir ‘Dzhabkhat an-Nura’ Abu Mukhammad al’-Dzhavlani ob amire Sefullakh Shishani,” Kavkaz tsentr, 10 February 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/02/10/103115.shtml.

[18] “Siriya: Obrashchenie novogo Amira Dzhamaata Seifullakh Shishani (VIDEO),” Kavkaz tsentr, 26 February 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/02/26/103343.shtml.

[19] “SIRIYA. Dzhamaat Saifullakh Shishani o naznachenii novogo Amira VIDEO,” Kavkaz tsentr, 27 August 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/08/27/106011.shtml.

[20] “Umar ash-Shishani i Abu Dzhikhad o poslednykh sobytiyakh v Sirii, Chast’ pervaya: Umar ash-Shishani i Abu dzhikhad o poslednykh izmeneniyakh v dzhamaata,” FISyrai.com, 11 December 2013, http://fisyria.com/?p=1644 (or https://archive.org/download/Doulya1/doulya1.mp4) and “Umar al-Shishani prisyagnul Abu Bakru al-Bagdadi.”

[21] Michael Winfrey, “Islamic State Grooms Chechen Fighters Against Putin,” Bloomberg, 9 October 2014, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-08/how-islamic-state-grooms-chechen-fighters-against-putin.html.

[22]  Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, “The Islamic State’s Anbar Offensive and Abu Umar al-Shishani,” War on the Rocks, 9 October 2014, http://warontherocks.com/2014/10/the-islamic-states-anbar-offensive-and-abu-umar-al-shishani/.

[23] “Obrashchenie Amira Salakhuddina Shishani po itogam soveshchanie komandnogo sostava modzhakhedov Dzheish Mukhadzhirin va Ansar,” You Tube, 25 December 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roWTooT_Lf4, last accessed 24 March 2014.

[24] “Umar ash-Shishani i Abu Dzhikhad o poslednykh sobytiyakh v Sirii, Chast’ pervaya: Umar ash-Shishani i Abu dzhikhad o poslednykh izmeneniyakh v dzhamaata,” FISyrai.com, 11 December 2013, http://fisyria.com/?p=1644 (or https://archive.org/download/Doulya1/doulya1.mp4) and “Umar al-Shishani prisyagnul Abu Bakru al-Bagdadi.” Indeed, Salahuddin claimed both group names in a March 2014 video, with the title of the video using the JMA nomenclature and showing Salahuddin and five other mujahedin sitting behind an ‘Imarat Kavkaz’ banner written in the Latin alphabet. See, for example, “Obrashchenie mudzhakhedov ‘Jeish Muhadzhirin va Ansar’ v svyazi s fitnoi v Shame (Video),” Kavkaz tsentr, 4 March 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/03/04/103419.shtml, last accessed 12 March 2014.

[25] The second naib is one ‘Matasim.’ All three leaders appeared in both the December 2103 and March 2014 videos. See “Obrashchenie Amira Salakhuddina Shishani po itogam soveshchanie komandnogo sostava modzhakhedov Dzheish Mukhadzhirin va Ansar” and “Obrashchenie mudzhekhedov ‘Jeish Muhadzhirin va Ansar’ v svyazi s fitnoi v Shame (Video),” respectively.

[26] Joanna Paraszczuk, “Guest Post: Muhajireen Battalion – Jamaat Ahadun Ahad,” Chechens in Syria, 6 August 2014, http://www.chechensinsyria.com/?p=22304 and Husan Mustafa, “Guest Post: The 4 Chechen brigades in Jamaat Ahadun Ahad,” Chechens in Syria, 16 August 2014, www.chechensinsyria.com/?p=22380.

[27] Abu Fulan al Muhajirun, Jamaat Ahadun, 10 August 2014, http://justpaste.it/jamaatahadun.

[28] JAA issued videos in 2014 that was subsequently removed from You Tube because of their terrorist content. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=06DbwqSWN6A and

www.youtube.com/channel/UCMbc0EfQAXNQexgSojqoOFQ.

[29] Joanna Paraszczuk, “Guest Post: Muhajireen Battalion – Jamaat Ahadun Ahad,” Chechens in Syria, 6 August 2014, http://www.chechensinsyria.com/?p=22304 and Husan Mustafa, “Guest Post: The 4 Chechen brigades in Jamaat Ahadun Ahad,” Chechens in Syria, 16 August 2014, http://www.chechensinsyria.com/?p=22380.

[30] Joanna Paraszczuk, “Abdul Hakim Shishani, Emir of Khalifat Jamaat, Fought in Chechnya,” Chechens in Syria, 3 October 2014, www.chechensinsyria.com/?p=22637.

[31] “Ichkeria Info Video: Zayavlenie modzhakhedov Ichkerii ot 10 avgusta 2010,” You Tube, accessed 15 August 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyUX4zf8tAQ&feature=player_embedded.

[32] “Obrashchenie rukovodstva Vilaiyata Nokhchicho,” Daymohk.net, 7 October 2010, 3:22, http://www.daymohk.net/cgi-bin/orsi3/index.cgi?id=39953;section=1#39953.

[33] Gaziyev appears in neither of the relavant videos. See “Obrashchenie amira Imarata Kavkaz Dokku Abu Usmana, amira Khusseina, i amira Aslambeka, Shabaan 1432 (July 2011)” at “Raznoglasiya mezhdu chechenskimi modzhakhedami preodoleny,” Guraba.net, 25 Jult 2011, 10:48, www.guraba.info/2011-02-27-17-44-07/20-vajnoe/1129-2011-07-25-07-54-43.html and “V Chechne zavershilos’ Shariatskoe razbiratel’stvo: Fitna preodolena, Shabaan 1432 g.kh. (July 2011 g.m.),” You Tube, 24 July 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VkRcpfchSU8#at=11, last accessed on 10 August 2011.

[34] Gordon M. Hahn, The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishers, 2014), pp. 61-62, 138, 289(fn46), 290(fn47,48), and 301(fn125).

[35] Tam Hussein, “The Ansar al-Sham Battalions,” Carnegie Endowment, 24 March 2014, http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=55066.

[36] “Designations of Foreign Terrorist Fighters,” U.S. Department of State, 24 September 2014, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/09/232067.htm.

[37] Aymenn Jawad al-Taminin, “Jamaat Jund al_Qavqaz: A Caucasus Emirate Group in Latakiya,” Syria Comment, 23 November 2014, http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/jamaat-jund-al-qawqaz-caucasus-emirate-group-latakia/ and www.aymennjawad.org/15698/jamaat-jund-al-qawqaz-a-caucasus-emirate-group-in.

[38] “V ryadakh boevikov v Irake voyuyut okolo 1700 rossiyan,” Ekho Moskvy, 20 February 2015, http://echo.msk.ru/news/1496782-echo.html and “Around 1,700 Russian citizens fight alongside militants in Iraq — Russian security chief,” TASS, 20 February 2015, http://tass.ru/en/world/778834.

[39] “Amir IK Ali Abu Mukhammad: Poslanie s sovetom mudzhakhidam Shama VIDEO,” Kavkaz tsentr, 20 March 2014, www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/03/20/103638.shtml. Dagistani also addressed the Syrian issue in a May 2014 interview. See “Inter’vyu Amira Imarata Kavkaz Sheikha Ali Abu Mukhammada,” VDagestan.com, 22 May 2014, http://vdagestan.com/interyu-amira-imarata-kavkaz-shejxa-ali-abu-muxammada-video.djihad.

[40] “Amir IK Ali Abu Mukhammad: Pozitsiya Imarata Kavkaz v svyazi s fitnoi v Shame,” Izlesene.com, 23 June 2014, www.izlesene.com/video/ke-emiri-ali-ebu-muhammed-samdaki-fitne-ile-ilgili-ke-durusu/7581733?utm_source=player&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=player_clicktag_izlesene_embed.

[41] “Amir IK Ali Abu Mukhammad: Pozitsiya Imarata Kavkaz v svyazi s fitnoi v Shame.”

[42] “Amir IK Ali Abu Mukhammad: Pozitsiya Imarata Kavkaz v svyazi s fitnoi v Shame.”

[43] “Amir IK Ali Abu Mukhammad: Pozitsiya Imarata Kavkaz v svyazi s fitnoi v Shame.”

[44] “Amir IK Ali Abu Mukhammad: Pozitsiya Imarata Kavkaz v svyazi s fitnoi v Shame.”

[45] “Amir IK Ali Abu Mukhammad: Pozitsiya Imarata Kavkaz v svyazi s fitnoi v Shame.”

[46] “Amir IK Ali Abu Mukhammad: Pozitsiya Imarata Kavkaz v svyazi s fitnoi v Shame.”

[47] “Amir IK Ali Abu Mukhammad: Pozitsiya Imarata Kavkaz v svyazi s fitnoi v Shame.”

[48] The NV mujahedin close their appeal with an Arabic-language prayer for blessings to all the jihadi fronts in turn, from Afghanistan to Sham to the Caucasus. See “Mudzhakhedy Vilayata Nokhchicho: ‘Obrashchenie k mukhadzhedam Shama’,” Checheninfo.com, 28 July 2014, http://checheninfo.com/?p=286.

[49] “Obrashchenie sheikh Abu Mukhammada al-Makdisi k mudzhakhidam Imarat Kavkaz. Video,” Vdagestan.com, 5 August 2014 http://vdagestan.com/obrashhenie-shejxa-abu-muxammada-al-makdisi-k-mudzhaxidam-imarata-kavkaz-video.djihad

[50] “Amir gornogo sektora i Kadi DV Sheikh Abu Usman – Predosterezhenie ot fitny,” VDagestan.com, 29 August 2014, http://vdagestan.com/amir-gornogo-sektora-i-kadij-vd-shejx-abu-usman-predosterezhenie-ot-fitny.djihad

[51] “Obrashchenie Amira Islamskogo Imarata Kavkaz Sheikha Ali Abu Mukhammada k uchonym Ummy,” Kavkaz tsentr, 25 September 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/09/25/106356.shtml.

[52] “Sheikh Khani as-Sibai. Kratkoe obraschenie k Amiru IK Alu Abu Mukhammadu VIDEO,” Kavkaz tsentr, 17 October 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/10/17/106608.shtml and “Sheikh Hani As-Sibai. Otryvok iz prazdnichnoi khutba ‘id al’-adkha 1435,” YouTube, 17 October 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htK-taU_lzI.

[53] “Sheikh al-Makdis: Poslanie k iskrennim brat’yam, kotoryie otpravilis’ na dzhikhad v Sirii,” Kavkaz tsentr, 20 September 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/09/20/106300.shtml.

[54] “Pochemu Sheikh Al-Makdisi nastaivaet na naimenovanii Islamskogo Gosudarstva v Irake i Shame ‘organizatsiei Daulya’ ili ‘dzhamaatom Daulya’,” Al-Isnad, 4 October 2014, http://alisnad.com/?p=1833; “Kratkoe izlozhenie diskusii po povodu probozglasheniya khalifata Chast’ 1 i 2,” Kavkaz tsentr, 20 September 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/09/20/106298.shtml; “Kratkoe izlozhenie diskusii po povodu probozglasheniya khalifata Chast’ 3 i 4,” Kavkaz tsentr, 20 September 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/09/20/106299.shtml.

[55] “Sheikh al-Makdis: Poslanie k iskrennim brat’yam, kotoryie otpravilis’ na dzhikhad v Sirii.”

[56] “Interv’yu Amira Imarata Kavkaz Sheikha Ali Abu Mukhammada (VIDEO)-Chast’ 2,” VDagestan.com, 29 June 2014, http://vdagestan.com/interyu-amira-imarata-kavkaz-shejxa-ali-abu-muxammada-video-chast-2.djihad.

[57] “IMARAT KAVKAZ. Amir IK Ali Abu Mukhammad podderzhal prizyv alimov Dzhikhada o vnutrennim peremirii v Sirii i Irake,” Kavkaz tsentr, 1 October 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/10/01/106426.shtml.

[58] For example, Sibai and Dr. Talik Abdul Halim issued such a joint fatwa in April 2014. See Hani as-Sibai and Tarik Abdu-l’-Halim, “Zayavlenie o neprichastnosti i otdelenii,” Al-Isnad.com, 13 April 2014, http://alisnad.com/?p=1536.

[59] “Amir Dzheish al’-Mukhadzhirin val’ Ansar Salakhuddin Shishani vtretilsya s rukovodstvom IG v Rake s primirencheskoi missiei,” Akhbar Sham, 12 November 2014, http://akhbarsham.info/2014/11/12/material_83/.

[60] “Baiat Amira Aukhovskogo Dzhamaata Suleimana Khalifu Abu Bakr,” YouTube, 21 November 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lC91Uy8fEQ0#t=12.

[61] “Obrashchenie Amira mudzhakhidov Imarata Kavkaz v Horosane Abdullakha k mudzhakhidam Kavkaza i musul’manam Rossii,” Kavkaz tsentr, 20 March 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/03/20/103616.shtml.

[62] “Yemen report ‘growing’ Chechen presence in Al Qaida insurgency,” World Tribune, 5 May 2014, http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/05/05/yemen-reports-growing-chechen-element-al-qaida/.

[63] “Deadly al-Qaeda Gun Battle near Yemeni Presidential palace,” Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 2014, www.smh.com.au/world/deadly-alqaeda-gun-battle-near-yemeni-presidential-palace-20140510-zr8og.html.

[64] “Yemen report ‘growing’ Chechen presence in Al Qaida insurgency.”

[65] Soeren Kern, “Holy War Erupts in Hamburg,” Gatestone Institute, 15 October 2014, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4780/hamburg-holy-war.

[66] Yiannis Souliotis, “Chechen arrested in Athens resists order for deportation to Russia,” Ekathimerini.com, 16 October 2014, http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite6_1_16/10/2014_543799.

[67] Souliotis, “Chechen arrested in Athens resists order for deportation to Russia.”

[68] “Obrashchenie mudzhakhidov Sirii k musul’manam Imarata Kavkaz,” YouTube.com, 31 July 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoZDxCw5bvk and http://eaworldview.com/2013/09/syria-video-chechen-fighter-wage-jihad-against-sochi-olympics-not-here

[69] “Ob’edinenie i obyasnenie po povod raznoglasii,” YouTube, 31 October 2013, Youtube.com/watch?v=ZsB8CMT8RIo&feature=youtu.be.

[70] “Jund Ash Sham – Intervyu Muslima Shishani na temu Kavkaz,” You Tube, 14 September 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abc48NCZ8TI.

[71] “Interv’yu s Abu Umarom Ash Shishani,” Beladusham.com, http://www.beladusham.com/0392.html, accessed 10 December 2013.

[72] For example, see “V Krasnodare arestovan boevik proshedshii podgotovke v lagere terroristov v Sirii,” Itar-Tass, 25 March 2014, http://itar-tass.com/proisshestviya/1073094.

3 thoughts on “REPORT: The Caucasus Emirate in the Levant and the IS-AQ Fitna, Parts 1-2

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About Gordon M. Hahn