REPORT: An Anatomy of North Caucasus-Tied Jihadi Groups in Syria and Iraq

photo CE in Syria

by Gordon M. Hahn

Introduction

One of the reasons Russia has intervened in the Syrian revolutionary civil war is that jihadists from Russia and elsewhere in the former USSR play a key leadership role in a host of leading jihadi groups in Syria as well as in the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. Moreover, jihadi groups based in Russia’s North Caucasus and seeking to create networks across Russia maintain strong ties to these and other groups in Syria and Iraq. The distinction between jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq is somewhat artificial, since IS straddles the border between the two countries and maintains a powerful fighting force in both. What follows is an anatomy of the North Caucasus-related groups and key airs fighting in Syria and Iraq and the two jihadi organizations competing for control of the jihadi movement in Russia’s North Caucasus.

JIHADI GROUPS AND THEIR LEADERSHIPS IN RUSSIA’S NORTH CAUCASUS

The first purely jihadist organization formed in Russia’s North Caucasus was the Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate) or IK founded in October 2007. It is the partial successor organization to the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya (ChRI), which declared its secession from Russia in 1991 and fought two wars against post-Soviet Russia. By the mid-1990s it was being infiltrated by Al Qaida (AQ) and by the late 1990s there was a strong pro-jihadi wing inside the ChRI which started the second post-Soviet Chechen war in July 1999 by invading Dagestan and delaring an Islamist state there. After their defeat and Russia’s re-ccupation of Chechnya, the jihadi element began to dominate within the ChRI.

In 2007 the ChRI was dissolved by the jihadists and the Imarat Kavkaz was declared by amir ‘Abu Usman’ Doku Umarov.  It became purely jihadist in its goals (the caliphate), ideology (extreme fundamentalism, takfirism, and martyrdom), strategy (expanding jihad across Russia and networking abroad), and tactics (suicide bombings, etc.). It gradually increased its insurgency and terrorist capacity through 2011. Since its founding in October 2007, IK operatives have carried out 55 suicide bombings and nearly 3,000 attacks overall, peaking in 2010 and 2011 with 583 and 546 attacks, respectively.

In 2010 the IK was involved in its first foreign plot. In autumn of that year, a Shariah4Belgium-led plot was uncovered involving Chechens and Morrocans in Belgium and Germany planning attacks on NATO targets and raising money and recruits for the IK. In 2011, a cell tied to the IK’s Dagestan network, the Dagestan Vilaiyat (DV), was uncovered in the Czeck Republic planning an attck in an unidentified third country and raising funds and fighters for the IK. In 2012, the DV organized a large-scale, multi-pronged Mumbai-style plot to attack the May 2012 Eurovision music festival in Baku, Azerbaijan. The IK has inspired if not been operationally involved in several other foreign plots. These include: Lors Dukaev’s 2011 plot to blow up the offices of the Copenhagen newspaper that published the infamous Muhammad cartoons that sparked demonstrations across the Muslim world; the summer 2012 plot by two Chechen and one Turkish AQ operatives to attack targets on Gibraltar during the London Olympic Games and targets elsewhere in Europe later; and the April 2013 Boston Marathon attacks that killed four and wounded more than 200.

With the exodus or ‘hijra’ of mujahedin and potential recruits to Syria beginning in 2012, the IK’s capacity began to steadily decline, falling below 100 attacks last year. The damage done by the hijra was compounded by Russian security service successes, in particular the killing in rapid succession of the IK top amir – Umarov in September 2013, Ali Abu Mukhammad (born Aliaskhab Kebekov) in April 2015, and Abu Usman al-Gimravii (born Magomed Suleimanov) in August. Instability at the top has left the IK in bad straits, evidenced by the failure of a new amir to emerge for almost three months since Gimravii’s demise in early August. This is also a consequence of the mass defections to IS this past year discussed below. Thus, the top leadership of the IK and its four vilaiyats — from what is known after the mass exodus to Syria, IK amir deaths, and defections to IS — is as shown in the table below.

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Table 1. IMARAT KAVKAZ TOP STRUCTURE AND LEADERSHIP, as of 25 July 2015

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CENTRAL COMMAND

Amir – Amir: unknown – likely either ‘Abu Mukhammad’ Sayid Arakanskiy or Abu Dujan Mukhammad al-Gimirinskii. Predecessors: Abu Usman Gimravii ‘Gimrinskii’ (Magomed Suleimanov), May-August 2015; ‘Ali Abu Mukhammad ad-Dagistani’ – Amir of the CE and its Chechnya network ‘Nokchicho Vilaiyat’ (NV) killed 20 April 2015; ‘Abu Usman’ Doku Umarov – killed 8 September 2013.

Naib – unknown.

Qadi – unknown. Previous: ‘Ali Abu Mukhammad ad-Dagistani’ (born Aliaskhab Kebekov).

Military Amir – Unknown. Predecessors: ‘Khamzat’ Aslan Byutukaev (defected to Islamic State, June 2015); ‘Adam’ Jamalleil Mutaliev (GV amir, killed May 20, 2013,http://hunafa.com/?p=14948); ‘Magas’ Ali Taziyev (captured June 2010).

Riyadus-Salikhiin Martyrs Brigade – unknown. Predecessors: ‘Khamzat’ Aslan Byutukaev (defected to Islamic State, June 2015); ‘Abu Idris’ Shamil Basayev, 1999-2006.

Envoy to Arab Countries – Salim al-Kavkazi, (runs the CE’s official Arabic language http://www.i-qooqaz.com website, http://www.i-qooqaz.com/?page_id=196and http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/03/03/103405.shtml).

Editor of IK’s main website Kavkaz tsentr (www.kavkazcenter.com) – Ruslan (Muslim) Sinbagirov.

DAGESTAN VILAIYAT (DV)

CENTRAL COMMAND

DV Amir/Vali – Sayid ‘Abu Mukhamad’ Arakanskiy, May 2015 – present. Previous: ‘Abu Mukhammad’ Rustam Asildarov (defected to the Islamic State in June).

DV Amir’s Naib – unknown.

DV’s Shariah Court Qadi – unknown. Previous: Sheikh Muhammad Abu Usman Al-Gimravii (b. Magomed Suleimanov), also DV Mountain Sector’s amir.

DV Sectors

SHAMILKALA (MAKHACHKALA) SECTOR: Amir – unknown. Predecessors: Abu Mukhammad Agachaulskii (defected to IS).

MOUNTAIN SECTOR: Amir – ‘Abu Dujan Mukhammad al-Gimirinskii’, July 2015.

CENTRAL SECTOR: Amir – Umar Balakanskii? (defected IS?).

SOUTHERN SECTOR: Amir – Abu Yasir? (defected IS?).

NORTHERN SECTOR: Amir – Asadullah? (defected IS?)

Khasavyurt Jamaat: Amir – Islam? (defected IS?)

NOKCHICHO VILAIYAT (NV) (Chechnya): Amir – unknown. Predecessors: ‘Khamzat’ Aslan Byutukaev – (also CE Military Amir, NV amir and Amir of the Riyadus-Salikhiin Martyrs Brigade, defected to IS); late CE amir ‘Abu Usman’ Doku Umarov.

Naib – unknown.

Qadi – unknown.

Eastern Front Amir – unknown (Markhan defected to IS, May 2015).

Western Front Amir – Islam.

GALGAICHE VILAIYAT (GV) (Ingushetiya): Amir – Unknown. Predecessor: ‘Abdullah’ Artur Gatagazhev (killed 23 May 2014).

Malgobek Sector Amir – Abdur Rakhim (cited 6 April 2015).

UNITED VILAIYAT OF KABARDIYA, BALKARIYA, AND KARACHAI (OVKBK):

Amir – Salim (September 2014 – present, http://www.islamdin.com/video/1805-baygat.html).

Naib – unknown.

Qadi – unknown.

NORTHEAST SECTOR – Amir: Unknown.

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Just before he was killed IK amir Gimravii appointed a veteran of the jihad in Syria as his successor as the amir of the Mountain Sector of the IK’s Dagestan Vilaiyat (DV) Abu Dujan Mukhammad al-Gimrinskii. He will likely succed Gimravii as the IK’s amir if and when an announcement comes.

According to the brief biography provided by VDagestan.com, the DV’s official website, Gimrinskii studied “Shariah science” and Arabic in Syria in 2003 and graduated from the Shariah law institute ‘Tahzib va Taalim’ in 2007. Returning to Dagestan he engaged in proselytizing Islam and returned to northern Syria in 2013. There, he trained in the ‘Sheikh Suleiman’ training camp and fought in the ‘liberation’ of Maarat al-Artyk as well as in Kafa al-Harma, Hubbul va Zahra, Mayer and elsewhere. After acquiring “sufficient combat experience”, he returned to Dagestan to “continue jihad.” The announcement comes with two photographs, at least one of which shows Gimrinskii in Syria. The same photo also has one mujahedin in the background smudged out in order, apparently, to make him unidentifiable (http://vd.ag/muxiammad-abu-dudzhana-gimrinskij-amir-gs-vd.djihad). That a top leadership position has gone to a veteran of the Syrian jihad suggests the importance the Syrian jihad has for the IK.  The appointment put the IK a slightly better position to compete in terms of connections to and resources from the larger global jihadi revolutionary movement with the Islamic State’s affiliate in the North Caucasus, the Caucasus Vilaiyat of the Ilsamic State (Vilaiyat Kavkaz Islamskogo Gosudarstvo), formed in recent months. The remnants of the IK remain on the side of AQ, Jabhat al-Nusrah (JN), and other jihadi groups opposed to the Islamic State’s declaration of the Caliphate (https://gordonhahn.com/2015/03/10/the-islamic-state-al-qaida-tussle-over-the-caucasus-emirate-continues/). The IK’s tribulations are sure to be further compounded by the rise of a competitor on its territory – the Islamic State.

Kavkaz Vilaiyat Islamskogo Gosudarstvo

The Islamic State’s ‘Kavkaz Vilaiyat Islamskogo Gosudarstvo’ (The Caucasus Governate/Province of the Islamic State) or KVIG emerged from the IK this year, as groups of mujahedin first from Dagestan and then Chechnya and Ingushetiya defected to IS. The so-called ‘Caucasus Vilaiyat of the Islamic State’ (CVIS) emerged this year when some 70-80 percent of the IK’s amirs and mujahedin broke away and declared the Islamic loyalty oath or ‘bayat‘ to IS and its self-declared ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The bleeding to IS in the North Caucasus began in November 2014, a small DV cell or ‘jamaat’ from Aukhovskii village took the bayat to IS’s Baghdadi. On December 19, a more damaging defection occurred when the the amir of the IK’s largest network – its Dagestan network or the ‘Dagestan Vilaiyat’ (DV) – Abu Muhammad al-Kadarskii (born Rustam Asildarov) and the amir of a key DV sector covering Dagestan’s capitol, Makhachkala, issued an announcement that they had taken the Islamic loyalty oath or “bayat” to IS and Baghdadi (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/254364/). Days later, amir Markhan, the amir of the Eastern Front under the IK’s Chechnya network, the Nokchicho Vilaiyat (NV), followed suit. Since there are only two fronts under the NV, Markhan could have be taken half of the NV mujahedin with him already at that time (www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/12/25/107471.shtml). Overall the previous IK defectors must have ‘taken’ already hundreds of IK mujahedeen and thousands of potential recruits to IS, though it remains unclear whether they plan to go to the Levant. The DV and NV Eastern Front alone could comprise as much as 80 percent of the IK’s already dwindling forces. These defections were already a severe blow to the IK, which has seen its capacity diminish since 2011, following the surge in emigration to Syria since 2012.

On 15 June 2015 a videotape from amir of the IK’s declining Chechnya network, the Nokchichi Vilaiyat (NV), and the amir of the IK’s Ingushetiya network, the Galgaiche Vilaiyat (GV), was published on the NV’s ‘InfoChechen’ site. In the video NV amir ‘Khamzat’ Aslan Byutukaev and GV amir Abdurakhim declared the bayat to the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) and its ‘caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (http://infochechen.com/tribuna/310-podtverzhdaetsya-prisyaga-amirov-vilayata-nokhchicho-i-vilayata-g1alg1ajche-khalifu-abu-bakru-al-bagdadi.html). With NV amir Khamzat and GV amir Abdurakhim going to IS, the IK was left with a few DV and NV amirs and the weak OVKBK which has carried out only a handful of minor attacks in the last year or more and small remnants of the other three vilaiyats, which have not done much better, excluding the major NV attack in Grozny in December of last year. This nearly completed the process of the IK’s full integration into IS.

The IK’s full integration was completed in late June or early July. In early July videos and audios emerged documenting Asildarov’s loyalty oath the IS ‘caliph’ Abubakr al-Baghdadi and IS’s announcement of its incorporation of the KVIG into IS (https://gordonhahn.com/2015/07/03/the-caucasus-vilaiyat-of-the-islamic-state/).

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Table 2. Imarat Kavkaz Islamskogo Gosudarstvo’s (IKIG) Top Leadership*

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IKIG Amir – Abu Mukhamad Rustam Asildarov

Other Top Amirs

Dagestan Amir – Abu Mukhamad Rustam Asildarov or fomer IK DV Makhachkala Sector amir Sayid Agachaulskii.

Chechnya Amir – former IK Nokchicho/Chechnya amir Aslan ‘Khamzat’ Byutukaev or former IK NV Eastern Front amir Markhan.

Kabardino-Balkariya Amir – unknown. Previous: Yurii Bitsuyev (killed 22 November 2015), ‘Abdullah’ Robert Zankishiev (2014-10 November 2015, killed).

Ingushetiya Amir – Abdu Rakhim (Abdurrakhim).

Other Known Amirs and Cells

Aukhovskii Jamaat (Dagestan)

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*Many in Table 1 may now be amirs in the IKIG

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Thus, IS now has a direct affiliate in Russia’s North Caucasus. It consists of some 70-80 percent of the IK’s former amirs and kujahedin now with IS. DV amir Asikladarov’s defection was crucial in likely bringing all or almost all of the Dagestan network which comprised some 60-70 percent of the IK in recent years. It is likely that the VKIG mujahedin remain in the North Caucasus though we can expect perhaps some of them to travel to Iraq and Syria for training and to elsewhere in Russia and Eurasia to organize jamaats for carrying out terrorist attacks and perhaps insurgency groups in isolated landscapes of jihad.

VKIG groups and operatives are already active in Russia and Europe. Last week Russian security organs uncovered a 12-man cell plotting to carry out bombings – apparently suicide bombings – targeting Moscow transport, like the Moscow subway system, famously hit by two female Dagestani female suicide bombers of the wives of two top amirs in the IK’s DV in March 2010. Several of the jihadists in the new Moscow plot were said to been from Syria, most were from the North Caucasus, some were Chechens, and several were said to have trained in IS camps in Syria and come to Russia before Putin’s military intervention (www.mk.ru/incident/2015/10/12/podgotovka-terakta-v-moskve-diversanty-byli-dvoynymi-agentami.html and https://tvrain.ru/articles/mk_zhena_vladeltsa_kvartiry_gde_nashli_vzryvchatku_nazvala_kvartiranta_polkovnikom_gru-396160/).

Also last week, a reported IS recruiter and well-known propagandist from Dagestan, serving as the imam of a mosque in Berlin was arrested in Berlin on charges of recruiting personnel and buying combat equipment, such as night vision devices and telescopic sights, and weapons for transport to Syria and use by IS forces. He is a 30-year old Russian citizen named Gadzhimurad K. or Murat Atayev and was arrested on October 14th (www.dw.com/ru/%D0%B2-%D0%B1%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B5-%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BD-%D0%B8%D0%BC%D0%B0%D0%BC-%D0%B2%D1%8B%D1%85%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%B5%D1%86-%D0%B8%D0%B7-%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B8/a-18786043; http://ria.ru/world/20151015/1302589303.html; and www.berlin.de/polizei/polizeimeldungen/pressemitteilung.385921.php).

North Caucasus-Tied Jihadist Groups in Syria

In 2012 the CE’s founding amir, ‘Abu Usman’ Doku Umarov, dispatched and for some time financed an official emissary and several local amirs to make contact with the Syrian jihadists so North Caucasian fighters could go there, receive training, fighting experience, network with other global jihadists and then return to the Caucasus with new skills, connection, perhaops access to funding for the IK’s benefit. Those sent included Salahuddin al-Shishani, who was the IK’s emissary to Syrian jihadists and is now the amir of the group ‘Imarat Kavkaz in Sham (the Levant), and ‘Umar al-Shishani’ Tarkhan Batrishvili amir of IS’s Northern Front, among several others, some of whom have been killed.

They became the leaders of the army of foreign mujahedin, Jeish al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar (the Army of Emigrants and Partisan Helpers) or the JMA, aligned with Jabhat al-Nusra (JN). Salahiddin became the amir of the JMA as well as a sub-group within it, Imarat Kavkaz Shama (the Caucasus Emirate in the Levant) or IKSh, a name that was sometimes apllied to the JMA as well. A series of other groups, many of the led by mujahedin from the IK or the North Caucasus, also emered in Syria, and some of those amirs have been killed and their jamaats become defunct or folded into other groups. The list of groups with North Caucasus or former IK amirs or large numbers of North Caucasian or former IK fighters can be found in Table 3 below.

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Table 3. Groups Fighting in Syria with North Caucasus and/or Former IK Amirs and/or a Large Cohort of IK and/or North Caucasian Mujahedin

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~~Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA) – Amir: Saudi Mutgasim Billah al-Madani

             Military amir – a Dagestani as the group’s military amir

~~IKSh [Caucasus Emirate in Sham (Levant) or CESh] Amir Salahudin Shishani (Feizulla Margoshvili)

              Naib Abdur Rakhim al-Krymskii

~~ JS Jund al-Sham (Soldiers of Syria) – Amir: Muslim Margoshvili

              other amirs – Abu Turab, Abu Bakr, Abudullah Shishani and others

~~AK [Ajnad al-Kavkaz] – Amir: Abdul-Khakim Shishani (born Rustan Azhiev)

~~ Ansar al-Sham (AS) – Amir: Musa

SMALLER GROUPS in and around Idlib

~~ Tarkhan’s Jamaat (Chechens) – Tarkhan Gaziev (former IK NV Southeastern Front naib, just put on State’s terrorist list

~~ Dirr Al-Islam (Chechens)

~~ Katibat Ahrar (Syrian Circassian diaspora-dominated group) – Amir: al-Sharkas Shishani

~~Amir Al Bara Shishani’s group

~~Amir Muhannad al-Shishani’s group

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Until several months ago the JMA was still led by the IK’s envoy to Syria, Salahuddin al-Shishani, continued to be the air of the JMA and the Crimean Tatar from Crimea, Abdur Rakhim al-Krymkii, remained its amir. However, a dispute led to their expulsion from the JMA. They now have established their own organization, the Caucasus Emirate in Sham (Levant) as an independent jamaat. Most of the Chechens left the JMA with Salahuddin North Caucasian mujahedin remain in the JMA and other groups aligned with JN. The JMA is now led by a Saudi but his military amir is a Dagistani. The JMA recently took the loyalty oath to Jabhat al-Nusra amir al-Jolani, and it remains the largest unit of foreign mujahedin and retains a large number from the former USSR, including Tatars, Uzbeks, Tajiks, etc.

Jund al-Sham JS, led by the Muslim Margoshvili, has been an independent jamaat for several years. Margoshivili is an ethnic Chechen Kist from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, like Batirashvili, but lacks the severity of Tarkhan. Maroshvili attempted to go to Chechnya through Dagestan but could not get there, engaged in some fighting under the IK in Dagestan, and then left for Syria in 2012. Many of the Chechens left the JS in 2013 and joined Batirashvili in IS. Margoshvili has considerable charisma and has now survived more than three years of jihadi at main fronts in Syria. The JS operates in and around the city of Jisr al-Shughur in Idlib province.

Another key North Caucasus-tied group is Ajnad al-Kavkaz (AK), the amir of which is Abdul-Khakim Shishani (born Rustam Azhiyev). It operates in Latakia and Idlib provinces and is part of Ansar al-Sham (Partisans of the Levant) or AS, which includes other North Caucasus fighters. The AS was part of al-Jabhat al-Islamiyya al-Suriyya (Islamic Front of Syria) or JIS, then belonged to al-Jabhat al-Islamiyya or the Islamic Front, and is now part of Jaysh al-Fateh (Army of Conquerors) or JF. This demonstrates the constantly shifting sands of the Syrian jihad’s organizational landscape that the Russian, like the Syrians and other before them, will have to sort it. Another of the larger Chechen-led jamaats is amir Musa’s Ansar al-Sham (Partisans of the Levant) or AS, and it also operates in Idlib and Latakia.

There are several other small North Caucasus-tied jihadi groups fighting in and around Idlib. The most interesting in terms of looking at the networking and travels of IK mujahedin is Tarkhan’s Jamaat, which is led by amir ‘Mansur’ Tarkhan Gaziev and consists mostly of Chechens. Gaziev was a long-time member of first the ChRI and the IK and rose to the position of amir of the Southwestern Front of the IK’s Chechnya network, the Nokchicho Vilaiyat (NV). Gaziev also was a major player in the famous August 2010 split within the IK that saw Gaziev and several other top amirs of the IK’s Chechen NV reject then IK amir Umarov’s leadership and breakaway to form their own independent IK. Gaziev was named naib to the independent IK’s amir Hussein Gakayev (https://gordonhahn.com/2010/10/30/islam-islamism-and-politics-in-eurasia-report-28/). Gaziev recently was added to the U.S.State Depaertment’s list of international terrorists.

The JN and the groups discussed above fighting in and around the JN at the moment actually pose together a greater threat to the Assad regime than does IS. They carry out operations with other jihadi groups in and around Aleppo, Iblid, and even near Damascus. It is coincidence that Russian air strikes have been focused particularly on Idlib. These jihadist groups also carry out operations near Latakia, not far from which sits the Russian naval base and the small though growing contingent of Russian marines and military equipment now being sent to bolster Assad.

Other important IK operatives, such as former amir Umarov’s brothers, operate out of Turkey and reportedly help transport Caucasus Emirate fighters to and from non-IS groups Syria.

Caucasus Mujahedin In Iraq’s IS

When in 2012 then CE amir Umarov — poisoned to death by Russian intelligence in September 2013 — dispatched the group of amirs to Syria, some of them soon began to drift towards the extreme radical orientation of IS. The most infamous of these amirs is Tarkhan Batirashvili, nom de guerre Abu Umar al-Shishani. Batirashvili joined IS’s ranks in 2013 and became the amir of IS’s northern front, which carries out combat and terrorist operations in northern Iraq and Syria along the borders with Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. He is said to have led IS’s conquest of Anbar Province, which enabled amir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to declare the Islamic State or Caliphate. Some reports a while back indicated that Batirashvili may have been promoted be Islamic State’s overall military amir. Tarkhan’s older brother Tamaz, according to their father, has always been the leader of the two. He is reported to be running IS’s Syrian financial operations and to be extremely secretive even as as Islamic State leaders go. He is likely funneling the funds that finance his brother’s operations.

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Table 4. North Caucasus Amirs in IS (in Iraq mostly)

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Northern Front – Amir: Umar al-Shishani (Tarkhan Batirashvili)

                           Naib: Abu Jihad

Akhmed al-Shishani’s Jamaat – Amir: Akhmed (al-Shishani) Chatayev

Khatibat al-Aqsa – Amir: unknown

Media

Websites:

-Furat.info

-http://www.vaynah.org/

Journals/Magazines:

Istok (Issue No. 1 – https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/the-islamic-state-22istok-magazine-122.pdf

Furat Press (Issue No. 1 – https://archive.org/stream/furat.press.1#page/n1/mode/2up. Flip pages by changing number after letter ‘n’ in URL)

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Tarkhan has always expressed an intent to return to the Caucasus and continue jihad against Russia. Now, with IS’s VKIG there, Batirashvili need not to return in order to orchestrate IS operations there. Table 4’s list of IS Russian-language media, all created before Putin’s Syria intervention, indicates that IS has already been focused on expanding its jihad to Russia and Eurasia (https://gordonhahn.com/2015/06/03/jihadi-target-eurasia-the-islamic-states-new-russian-language-journals/).

Therefore, it can be expected that under the Batirashvilis’ influence, IS will devote some significant resources to building up the VKIG’s capacity to carry out operation not just in Russia’s North Caucasus but deep inside Russia. Saudi Arabian ulema have issued a fatwa calling for jihad against Russia, and both IS and AQ have called for attacks on Russia in retaliation for Moscow’s Syria intervention. In sum, we are likely to see in the very near future an uptick in the number of arrests of jihadis, jihadi attacks, and jihadi-relayed violent incidents in Russia and the former USSR, particularly in Azerbaijan and Central Asia.

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NOTE

For the history of the Caucasus jihadists’ interaction with jihadists in Syria and Iraq, see:

Gordon M. Hahn, The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (Jefferson, NC: Mcfarland Publishers, 2015)

https://gordonhahn.com/2014/04/01/the-caucasus-emirate-and-other-north-caucasus-mujahedin-in-syria-implications-for-russia-eurasia-and-the-global-jihadi-revolutionary-movement/

https://gordonhahn.com/2015/02/25/the-caucasus-emirate-in-the-levant-and-the-is-aq-fitna-complete-parts-1-and-2/

https://gordonhahn.com/2015/06/19/the-caucasus-emirate-of-the-islamic-state-the-ces-full-integration-into-is-is-almost-complete/

https://gordonhahn.com/2015/07/03/the-caucasus-vilaiyat-of-the-islamic-state/

https://gordonhahn.com/2015/04/20/changes-in-the-caucasus-emirates-leadership-and-structure-after-the-defections-to-the-islamic-state/

https://gordonhahn.com/2015/04/18/crimean-tatar-jma-naib-krymskii-slams-the-islamic-state/

https://gordonhahn.com/2015/04/14/jma-message-to-the-caucasus-emirates-chechnya-network/

https://gordonhahn.com/2015/07/09/former-jma-amir-seifullah-shishani-has-given-the-bayat-to-new-caucasus-emirate-amir-gimravii/

https://gordonhahn.com/2015/07/26/caucasus-emirate-amir-appoints-vet-of-jihad-in-syria-as-dagestan-mountain-sectors-amir/

https://gordonhahn.com/2015/08/07/between-al-nusra-and-isis-the-caucasus-emirate-in-sham-syria-survives/

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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.

5 thoughts on “REPORT: An Anatomy of North Caucasus-Tied Jihadi Groups in Syria and Iraq

  1. I have some questions concerning the current situation.

    1: I was struck by the utter non reaction by Israel, especially given the incredible hostility of the US media. This did lead me to believe that Russia has previously informed Israel of its plans, and likely emphasized that “Assad is too important to be left to the Iranians”. I would also believe that Israel vastly prefers a “Russian Client Syria” over an “Iranian client Syria”.

    This is of course speculation, but is there anything that would indicate that this is wrong?

    2: Have elements belonging to the Kavkaz Emirate at any point conducted attacks against Iranians in Iran? My admitly incomplete understanding was that Chechens were “Anti Russian Jihadists” but traditionally didnt gave much weight to the Sunni-Shia split. The appointment of Chechens to command positions of the incredibly anti Shia IS implies that this changed. Is there a timeframe for when this change happened?

    3: I generally found it odd that Jihadi influence over Chechenya (which was always there, but was much less pronounced then it is now) waxed after the Kasavyurt accords (de facto a Chechen victory). My guess is that post Kasavyurt Chechenya was a landlocked and pretty intensly demolished area, leading to widespread poverty and thus easy pickings for Saudi Saladi missionaries. The reason I am asking this is that I could easily see an upsurge in Jihadism associated with localized truces and continuing and intensifying economic poverty.

    Like

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About Gordon M. Hahn