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Re: RIAN:About 200 Russians Are Fighting for Syrian Rebels - FSB head

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  • mariuslab2002
    RFE/RL:How Many Chechens Are Fighting In Syria? Chechen fighter Abdallah Shishani, reportedly killed in Syria in January. Follow @RFERL June 19, 2013 It is
    Message 1 of 5 , Jul 1 8:43 PM
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      RFE/RL:How Many Chechens Are Fighting In Syria?


      Chechen fighter Abdallah Shishani, reportedly killed in Syria in January.

      Follow @RFERL

      June 19, 2013

      It is almost a year since the first reports surfaced that some Chechens, together with fighters from elsewhere in the Russian Federation, had joined the ranks of the armed opposition to Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad. Since then, Western journalists have met with some of those Chechen fighters, and video footage of them has been posted on YouTube. While their numbers remain unclear, it seems that by no means all of them traveled to Syria directly from Chechnya.

      There may, in fact, be as many as four separate categories of Chechens in Syria -- or even five, if an unconfirmed recent report that a detachment of the Chechen security forces is fighting in Aleppo on the side of Assad is indeed true.

      The first category are the battle-hardened veterans of the North Caucasus insurgency. It has been suggested, but not proven, that Qatar and Saudi Arabia financed the recruitment of those experienced former insurgents because "the Chechens are regarded as the best of the jihadist fighters."

      "The Guardian" profiled in September 2012 a brigade of fighters that included Chechens, together with fighters from Libya, Tajikistan, Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The author of that article described the Chechen fighters as "older, taller, and stronger" than their comrades in arms, many of whom clearly lacked any previous combat experience. He further noted that the Chechens "carried their weapons with confidence and distanced themselves from the rest, moving around in a tight-knit unit-within-a-unit," suggesting that many have been members of the North Caucasus insurgency.

      The second category is Kists -- members of Georgia's Chechen minority from the Pankisi Gorge close to the Georgian-Chechen border. Two of the Chechen commanders in Syria, Abu Omar al-Chechen (the commander of the brigade profiled by "The Guardian") and Saifullah, are reportedly from Pankisi.

      One of those fighters from Pankisi, who gave his name as Abu Hamza, told a Western journalist two months ago that he was motivated to travel to Syria and join the opposition by video footage on the Internet of Syrian government forces killing innocent women and children. The Georgian-Russian border is so tightly controlled that it is far easier for the Kists to travel to Syria than to enter Chechnya to join the North Caucasus insurgency.

      The third category is young Chechens from among the estimated 250,000 who left Chechnya since the beginning of the first war in 1994 and settled in Europe and elsewhere. Abu Hamza said most of the Chechens he encountered during the several months he spent in Syria were from this category.

      Pro-Moscow Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov has confirmed that young Chechens from Europe are fighting in Syria. He claims some of them, from low-income families, were attracted by the prospect of "violence and looting," while others were victims of a concerted effort by Western intelligence services to recruit fighters by means of jihadist websites. Last summer, Kadyrov had affirmed that if young Chechen refugees in Europe wanted to take up arms they would travel to the North Caucasus to join the insurgency.

      The fourth category is young Chechens from the Chechen Republic who either abandoned their studies at Middle Eastern universities to fight in Syria or managed to leave Chechnya with the explicit aim of joining the Syrian opposition forces.

      Kadyrov categorically denied last summer that any "Russian citizens from the Chechen Republic" were fighting in Syria. But over the past two months he has admitted on several occasions that Chechens from both Chechnya and the émigré community in Europe and Turkey had traveled to Syria to fight.

      On May 6, Kadyrov implied that the latter category far outnumber the former: he said "a few" Chechens from Chechnya were fighting in Syria, and that "hundreds" from Europe and Turkey had been killed. Two weeks later, however, Kadyrov said "just a few" Chechens from Europe had been killed in the fighting.

      The exodus of young men from Chechnya intent on fighting in Syria was discussed at a session of Chechnya's Economic and Social Security Council on June 6. The website Kavkaz-Uzel quoted an unnamed member of that body as saying 29 Chechens have left Chechnya for Syria, seven of whom have been killed. That source did not specify a time frame. He did say, however, that those who left were mostly aged between 25 and 30, which contradicts Kadyrov's repeated claims that the men in question are immature adolescents seduced by recruitment videos posted on the Internet.

      The true number of Chechens who have headed to Syria to fight may be even larger. Kavkaz-Uzel quoted a representative of a local NGO as saying he knows of some 30 who have left, while an unnamed cleric suggested the true figure could run into dozens, or even hundreds. Predictably, the Chechen authorities are reportedly exerting pressure on the parents of those young men to persuade them to return to Chechnya.

      Federal Security Service head Aleksandr Bortnikov told journalists earlier this month that some 200 militants from the Russian Federation are fighting on the side of the "terrorists" in Syria. He did not, unfortunately, give any indication how many are from which republic.

      Last fall, the insurgency website Kavkaz Center reported that there were 150 fighters from the "Caucasus Emirate" in Syria, divided into four brigades. One of those brigades is from Kabardino-Balkaria.
      ----------------------------------------------------------------------

      --- In chechnya-sl@yahoogroups.com, "mariuslab2002" <mariuslab@...> wrote:
      >
      > Chechen Leader Urges Youth Not to Fight in Syrian Conflict
      >
      > MOSCOW, June 18 (RIA Novosti) – Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader has launched an education campaign to persuade local youth not to take part in the Syrian conflict, according to an interview published on his government's official website.
      >
      > Ramzan Kadyrov, a one-time separatist-turned Kremlin loyalist, said he has ordered Chechen officials, clerics and public figures to "constantly educate the youth about the real nature of Syrian events, to prevent possible recruitment of young people for participation in the war."
      >
      > According to the interview, published Saturday, Kadyrov's government is also "educating" young Chechens about the role of "external forces" in Syria's civil war, which has already claimed more than 93,000 lives according to the latest UN figures.
      >
      > Kadyrov said "five or six" Chechens have already been killed in the conflict, but did not elaborate.
      >
      > He admitted several more Chechens remain among the predominantly Sunni insurgents fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which mostly consists of Alawites, a Shia sect that has dominated the religiously diverse Middle Eastern nation.
      >
      > While details have been hazy, Syria's motley anti-Assad forces do seem to include fighters from the former Soviet Union. Russia's Federal Security Service said in May that some 200 jihadists from Russia and other former Soviet republics are fighting in Syria on the rebels' side. A Russian-language website for those who want to join Syrian jihadists was launched in March and features videos and a mission statement about introducing Islamic sharia law in Syria.
      >
      > Kadyrov insisted that the Syrian war is not about jihad.
      > "There is no holy war in Syria," he said, according to a transcript of his interview published on his government's website. "There is a campaign – well-planned by external forces – to topple the [Assad] regime, destroy the country, eliminate its military."
      >
      > His comments echo Russian President Vladimir Putin's stance on the conflict. Moscow remains Assad's biggest political ally and continues to supply weapons to his military. Putin has repeatedly criticized the West for supporting the enemies of what he describes as Syria's "legitimate" government.
      >
      > -snip
      >
      > Updated to reference official website and include context on fighters from the former Soviet Union in Syria.
      > ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      > --- In chechnya-sl@yahoogroups.com, Norbert Strade <nost@> wrote:
      > >
      > > This Russian propaganda story appeared just like Ahmed Zakayev predicted it a few days earlier. Btw., the really, really reliable sources now report the arrest of "female Chechen snipers" in Qusayr, Syria. I'm sure they will be presented on TV and demonstrate that they speak Chechen ;). Or maybe they will simply vanish into thin air - a bad habit among ghosts - and reappear in Afghanistan, or some other place where people are used to see them.
      > >
      > > Norbert
      > >
      > >
      > > http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/syria-qusayr-battle%E2%80%99s-unofficial-story
      > >
      > > [snip]
      > >
      > > Al-Akhbar also learned that Hezbollah and government forces managed to capture around 1,000 fighters, including a number of female Chechen snipers and an Australian national, among others.
      > >
      > > [snip]
      > >
      > >
      > > On 07-06-2013 06:46, mariuslab2002 wrote:
      > > > About 200 Russians Are Fighting for Syrian Rebels - FSB head
      > > >
      > > > KAZAN, June 7 (RIA Novosti) – There are about 200 Russians currently fighting alongside rebels battling the Syrian regime, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Thursday.
      > > >
      > > > It is the first confirmation by Moscow that Russian-born Islamists are active in the Syrian civil war, and contradicts some earlier denials of their involvement by Russian officials.
      > > >
      > > > "There is great concern in Russia that there are about 200 militants from the Russian Federation fighting [in North Africa and Syria] on the side of the Caucasus Emirate [militant Islamic organization] under the flag of Al Qaeda and other affiliated structures," FSB head
      > > >
      > > > Alexander Bortnikov said at an international security conference.
      > > > Most Russians fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad are believed to come from the North Caucasus, which has a thriving jihadist movement – the legacy of a series of brutal separatist wars following the fall of the Soviet Union.
      > > >
      > > > The Kremlin is particular concerned about instability in the North Caucasus ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which could be fuelled by hardened fighters of Russian origin leaving Syria to go home. Sochi is a Russian Black Sea resort located in the vicinity of the volatile North Caucasus region.
      > > >
      > > > "This is a very serious threat for all states, for Russia and CIS countries and for European states and the American continent," said Bortnikov. "[But] the danger is that these terrorists will end up returning to the country from which they left."
      > > >
      > > > Russian officials have previously downplayed the role played by
      > > > Russian militants in Syria. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said last year that it was a "hoax" to suggest Chechens were among the Syrian rebels.
      > > >
      > > > But evidence of Russian involvement with the rebel movement has grown as Syria's bloody civil war continues.
      > > >
      > > > Russia's most wanted man, rebel leader Doku Umarov, who is also the head of the Al Qaeda-linked Caucasus Emirate, appeared in a video last year saying that those fighting against Damascus were in his prayers.
      > > > And a Russian-language website, Fisyria.com, was launched in March by a Syrian rebel group called Jaish al-Muhajireen wa Ansar ("Army of the Emigrants and Helpers").
      > > >
      > > > While Assad's government is dominated by Shia Muslims, the prevalent form of Islam in both the North Caucasus and amongst the Syrian rebels is Sunni Islam.
      > >
      >
    • Norbert Strade
      ... I don t know who reported this latest Pankisi story, but Abu Omar al-Chechen , who was interviewed by Reuters in Aleppo and then made it into The
      Message 2 of 5 , Jul 2 7:02 PM
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        On 02-07-2013 05:43, mariuslab2002 wrote:
        > RFE/RL:How Many Chechens Are Fighting In Syria?
        >
        > The second category is Kists -- members of Georgia's Chechen minority from the Pankisi Gorge close to the Georgian-Chechen border. Two of the Chechen commanders in Syria, Abu Omar al-Chechen (the commander of the brigade profiled by "The Guardian") and Saifullah, are reportedly from Pankisi.

        I don't know who "reported" this latest Pankisi story, but "Abu Omar al-Chechen", who was interviewed by Reuters in Aleppo and then made it into "The Guardian", was killed shortly after and identified by the Syrian authorities as a local man, son of a Syrian mother and a "Russian Kurdish" father. With other words, one of those Islamic fighters who are categorized as "Chechens", simply because they have a connection to the former Soviet Union. See also Mairbek Vatchagaev's appeal - http://chechen.org/archives/1589 .

        Norbert
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