by Gordon M. Hahn
On April 16th five residents of Russia’s Chechnya Republic and operatives of the global jihadi group, the Caucasus Emirate (CE), based in Russia’s North Caucasus, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to six years for participation in a terrorist group after being arrested in France last year in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and subsequent attacks (L’Orient la Jour, 16 April 2015, www.lorientlejour.com/article/920926/france-deux-a-six-ans-de-prison-pour-une-filiere-tchetchene-en-lien-avec-la-syrie.html).
None of them could be proven to be members of the Islamic State (IS), Al Qa`ida (AQ), or an affilate of one or the other or some other jihadi group besides the CE. Instead, they were proven to be acting in accordance with the ‘Chechen’ leaders who advocate “global jihad” and were accordingly charged with affiliation with the CE (L’Orient la Jour, 16 April 2015, www.lorientlejour.com/article/920926/france-deux-a-six-ans-de-prison-pour-une-filiere-tchetchene-en-lien-avec-la-syrie.html and Kavkaz tsentr, 17 April 2015, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2015/04/17/108741.shtml).
Two of the Chechens had traveled to Syria and joined a jamaat led by an amir named ‘Dzhambulat’. An unnamed 22-year old traveled to Syria, then Chechnya, then France and received six years. A second, one Hamzat Ilyasov, also traveled to Syria and then returned to France. A third, the 47-year old uncle of the two, Bai Ali Makhauri, sent funds to Dzhambulat and was sentenced to four years. Makhauri and Dzhambulat had fought in the North Caucasus together previously. Two others received terms of two years (L’Orient la Jour, 16 April 2015, www.lorientlejour.com/article/920926/france-deux-a-six-ans-de-prison-pour-une-filiere-tchetchene-en-lien-avec-la-syrie.html and Kavkaz tsentr, 17 April 2015, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2015/04/17/108741.shtml).
In February six other North Caucasians, identified as Chechens, were sentenced to prison in France for sending fighters to Syria after being arrested on sweeps following the Hebdo attacks. Four of them had received political refugee status, and four of them had been born in Grozny. All were charged with recruiting and fundraising for terrorist groups in Syria, and some had visited there already, according to French intelligence (Le Figaro, 13 February 2015, http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2015/02/13/97001-20150213FILWWW00183-djihad-six-tchetchenes-ecroues-a-paris.php). It was not clear from reports whether they had been recruiting for IS, AQ, Jabhat al-Nusrah (JaN) or one of the many Caucasus-led groups allied with JaN fighting in Syria.
In January, a series of arrests of jihadists was made in Austria. Among them was the arrest of a Chechen who traveled to Syria and received training at an IS camp and then went to Austria requesting political asylum. He was to organize attacks in Europe for IS (Oesterrich, 19 January 2015, http://www.oe24.at/oesterreich/chronik/niederoesterreich/Terror-Alarm-um-Jihadisten-Prozess/173208707).
In 2009, leading jihadi philosopher Abu Mohammed Asem al-Maqdisi endorsed the CE as a major global jihadi organization and urged Muslims to support it as the global jihadi revolutionary alliance’s “doorstep to Europe.” The CE has been increasingly active in Europe in recent years. The CE is deeply connected with JaN in Syria through its affiliate, the Caucasus Emirate in Sham (Syria) also called Jeish al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar (JMA) and other groups led by North Caucasians fighting alongside JaN. The CE has taken the side of AQ and JaN in their dispute with IS over the latter’s declaration of the Caliphate and ultimately for leadership of the global jihadi revolutionary alliance.
For the warning and detailed supporting evidence that this would be the direction of the then jihadizing and AQ-tied Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya (ChRI) would take, see my first book on the subject Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007). For evidence that this warning in Russia’s Islamic Threat book came to pass several years ago, see my second book on the subject The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014).
Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch; and Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor, MonTREP, Monterey, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics and wrote, edited and published the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report at CSIS from 2010-2013. Dr. Hahn has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and a Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute.