Emil A. Souleimanov
Dr. Souleimanov is associate professor of Russian and East European Studies, Institute of International Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.
From its onset in 2011, the civil war in Syria has attracted foreign fighters from all over the world. Since around 2012, volunteers of North Caucasian origin, including Chechens, Dagestanis, Ingush and others have been at the forefront of international mujahedeen — a force of true believers of distinct backgrounds who have joined the war to advance what they consider to be the cause of Islam. When word spread of North Caucasians' participation in the civil war, some praised their performance in combat, while others pointed to their excessive use of violence against civilians, a practice that has alienated thousands of ordinary Syrians. Like other mujahedeen groups engaged in the war, North Caucasian jihadists have experienced internal splits that have led to bloody infighting. According to some estimates, the North Caucasus has contributed the second-largest group of foreign fighters, following non-Syrian Arabs — a disproportionately high number relative to their demographics. As a result, what these fighters do and where they go after Syria represents a major security concern. If allowed to return to their homeland, North Caucasian jihadists — a committed and experienced force of hundreds of fighters with extensive contacts with jihadists worldwide — may pose an enormous threat to Russia's internal security.
North Caucasian jihadists are part of an international force of mujahedeen numbering around 10,000 fighters.1 While there is no reliable statistical evidence, estimates based on the Syrian Revolution Martyr Database,2 where slain jihadists are registered according to their ethnicity and country of origin, suggest that jihadists from the Caucasus account for around 7 percent of all mujahedeen deaths. According to North Caucasian jihadists' own estimates, up to 1,000 of their number have been involved in the Syrian civil war.3 Though not as numerous as "martyrs" from the Arab world — particularly from the Maghreb, the Mashrek, and the Gulf countries — the ethnically diverse Caucasians represent a modest yet significant group of fighters. The number is remarkable considering their region's small demographic size; cultural, ethno-linguistic and geographical distance from the Middle East; and the territorial locus from which the majority originate.
The ethnic makeup of North Caucasian jihadists engaged in the Syria civil war deserves particular attention. Sources indicate that the majority have been Chechens and Dagestanis,4 demographically the strongest groups in the region. However, while Chechens are an ethnic group of up to 1.5 million people concentrated predominantly in the autonomous Russian republic of Chechnya, Dagestanis are a geographical category comprising dozens of small ethnic groups; they are twice as numerous as the Chechens. Nevertheless, given the fact that Dagestanis and Chechens together total less than five million, compared to hundreds of millions of Arabs, their proportion of the international mujahedeen force in Syria is extraordinary. Importantly, Dagestanis, Chechens and to some extent also the Ingush — another significant subgroup of North Caucasian jihadists ethno-linguistically close to the Chechens — all originate from the northeast Caucasus. This is a considerably more traditionalist part of the Russian Caucasus than the northwestern and northcentral areas, where Islam and jihadism-imbued resistance have been the strongest. The number of other North Caucasian fighters in the Syrian civil war, including Circassians, Kabardians, Karachays, and Balkars, is significantly lower. Jihadists operating in Syria who are of Sunni Azerbaijani background, as well as Central Asians, Tatars from the Crimean peninsula and Tatarstan, Bashkirs and other jihadists from across the former Soviet Union have also been associated with North Caucasians fighters.
The ethnic makeup of North Caucasian jihadists fighting in Syria indicates to a large extent their rationale for participating in this remote civil strife: a commitment to fighting the Russians, the quintessential "infidel," and their "apostate" allies around the world. Since the beginning of the 1990s, Chechnya has been a zone of vicious confrontation between the local insurgency, reliant upon popular support, and the Russian military and its local proxies. Chechnya's bid for independence has resulted in two bloody wars that have left thousands of Chechens dead and compelled thousands of others to seek refuge elsewhere. Though Moscow, assisted by a camp of pro-Moscow Chechens, has recently managed to stem the tide of the Chechen insurgency by dealing a number of painful blows to local insurgent groups, violence continues in the republic.
In the meantime, Dagestan, a neighboring republic on the shores of the Caspian Sea, has recently replaced Chechnya as the hotbed of the regional insurgency. As in Chechnya, violence deployed by local jihadist units has been directed both at members of local law enforcement agencies and regime officials loyal to Moscow and at locally stationed units of the Russian army and police. While insurgent activity in Chechnya has been extremely dangerous due to the nearly absolute control exercised by local pro-Moscow authorities, Dagestan has been a comparatively safe place for jihadist groups to thrive and expand.5 Over time, the increasing numbers of casualties from the ongoing insurgency and counterinsurgency have contributed to the radicalization of local fighters, boosting their jihadist ideology. Consequently, a new generation of committed jihadists has emerged from the North Caucasus since the mid-2000s. This has been paralleled by the establishment in 2007 of the Caucasus Emirate, a virtual theocracy claiming the multiethnic territories of the North Caucasus and formally commanding the jihadist groups operating in the area.6 Two fundamental motives have informed their decision: to fight the Russian enemy, its interests and its allies, wherever they may be; and to fight the enemies of Islam around the world.7
In fact, Chechen and Dagestani jihadist websites frequently quote individuals who have chosen to join what they widely refer to as the Syrian jihad. Apart from the omnipresent desire to join the "holy war" wherever it might be occurring, continuing to fight the Russians and Russian interests is the most frequently cited motive. Identified as both Moscow's key ally in the Middle East and a non-Sunni power that has inflicted enormous suffering on innocent Sunni civilians, the "infidel" Alawi regime in Syria is thus considered a legitimate target by North Caucasian jihadists. In addition, waging jihad in their homeland is too risky, due to the certainty of retribution by local and federal counterinsurgents — not only for the combatants themselves, but also for their relatives and supporters, a fact that holds particularly true in the case of fighters from Chechnya.
This fear of large-scale retribution, together with the commitment to fight the Russians and their allies, largely explains the overwhelming number of volunteers for the Syrian war from Chechen diaspora communities scattered around the world. Having lost their homeland as a consequence of Russian military engagement, joining anti-Assad forces fighting against Russia's regional ally has become a crucial incentive for this particular segment of North Caucasian jihadists, some of whom were born elsewhere and have never seen Chechnya. Many influential Chechen jihadists come from northern Georgia's Kist community, an ethnic subgroup of Chechens located in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. Anti-Russian and jihadist sentiments have since the mid-1990s been extremely strong among Kist Chechens, a tiny community of around 7,000. These feelings have been stoked by two subsequent wars in Chechnya, exposure to a mixture of jihadist ideology and nationalism emanating from Chechnya, and the presence in the Pankisi area of thousands of Chechen refugees, whose pain and suffering motivated many locals to volunteer in the Chechnya wars. Importantly, as indicated in statements by various Chechen and North Caucasian insurgent leaders, quoted below, the desire to establish ties with the global jihadist movement and use its support for the cause of North Caucasian jihad in the years to come has also played a motivating role.
The revolutionary appeal of Syrian jihad has been another strong impetus for volunteers to join the war fight. Indeed, waging a "holy war" in a community of committed fellow believers from the most diverse ethnic, racial and social backgrounds has been a powerful incentive for hundreds of North Caucasian jihadists, as well as for thousands of their comrades-in-arms from other parts of the Islamic world and Muslim communities in the West. The extent to which jihadist euphoria in the Syrian civil war was engendered by the feelings of solidarity, resolve and devotion to the cause among international mujahedeen and their supporters may only be compared to the Soviet-Afghani war of the 1980s.
WHERE DO THEY FIGHT?
Groups of North Caucasians began to arrive rather spontaneously in Syria around 2012, forming autonomous units scattered predominantly in northern Syria along the Turkish border. Most of these groups were soon incorporated into what came to be known as the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters, JMA), commanded by a charismatic Chechen from Georgia's Pankisi valley, Tarkan Batirashvili (nom de guerre, Abu Omar ash-Shishani). Omar Shishani, a former member of the Georgian military and a gifted strategist, soon came to be regarded as the most powerful North Caucasian amir (leader) in Syria and one of the most renowned jihadist leaders among the Syrian mujahedeen. In addition to Chechens and other North Caucasians, the group of mujahedeen led by Omar Shishani consisted of international fighters from the former Soviet Union as well as from a variety of Arab countries, Turkey, and Islamic communities in western Europe. Though it fought alongside ad-Dawlat al-Islamiyya fi'l-Iraq wa'sh-Sham (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIS), JMA retained its formal independence until the end of 2013, when Omar Shishani swore an oath to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. From then on, most of JMA's North Caucasian units effectively merged into ISIS, remaining under the command of Omar Shishani, the newly appointed leader of the northern branch of ISIS in Syria.
Another jihadist group comprising dozens of Chechens and other North Caucasians was Jaish al-Khilafah al-Islamiyya (Army of the Islamic Chaliphate, JKI), initially part of Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani's Jabhat an-Nusra li Ahl ash-Sham (Support Front for the People of the Levant, JN) before JKI merged into JMA in late 2013. Until his death in early 2014 during the fighting over the Aleppo Central Prison, this group was commanded by another ethnic Chechen from the Pankisi Gorge, Ruslan Machalikashvili, known as Amir Sayfullah or Sayfullah ash-Shishani. A Chechen refugee from Turkey with alleged ties to organized criminal groups of Chechen origin operating in the area, Sayfullah, a devoted Chechen patriot, lacked previous military experience. As he was fluent in Russian, Turkish, Arabic, and Chechen, he was revered by his fellow North Caucasian fighters more as a gifted rhetorician than a skillful fighter.
In addition to these factions, integrated now into the body of large international jihadist armies of thousands, other autonomous units comprising, among others, Chechens and other North Caucasians, have co-existed in Syria. Chief among them are Jund al-Sham (Soldiers of the Levant, JSh) and the remnants of the JMA after Omar Shishani's departure to ISIS. JSh is currently under the command of another ethnic Chechen from Georgia, Muslim Margoshvili, nom de guerre Muslim Abu Walid ash-Shishani, nicknamed Viking for his impressive blond mane. A former Soviet air force officer, he participated in Chechen insurgent units during the First Chechnya War (1994–96) and the early years of the Second Chechnya War (1999–2005). Having moved to Syria in 2012, he has acquired the reputation of a brave, restrained and disciplined fighter who has on various occasions called for humane treatment of the civilian population. Based in northwestern Syria, JSh, comprising a large contingent of Lebanese Sunnis and North Caucasians, has fought alongside JN most of the time, participating in, among other things, the successful siege of Alawi villages in the Latakya province in 2013 and in the storming of the Aleppo Central Prison in early 2014. Led by Salahuddin ash-Shishani, a Chechnya-born Chechen and Omar Shishani's former deputy, JMA has also been concentrated in Syria's northern provinces, fighting alongside local jihadist leaders and their soldiers, such as Nuraddin az-Zinki's Syrian brigades. While Salahuddin's units have sworn an oath to the Caucasus Emirate, a virtual theocracy in the North Caucasus established in 2007 with the aim of fighting a "holy war" against Russian "infidels" and local "apostates," Muslim Shishani has sought to remain completely independent from any group, even though his units have closely coordinated their activities with JMA.
In Syria, ISIS units manned by North Caucasians have been largely deployed in the northern parts of the country, where clashes have been the fiercest — Aleppo and Idlib provinces. Their strategic location close to the Turkish border has enabled North Caucasian units, as well as other foreign fighters, to acquire support in intelligence, manpower and matériel from the other side of the border. Having attained the reputation of fearless warriors, North Caucasians gained particular fame during the siege of Aleppo and the "heroic" capture of Menagh Air Base near Aleppo in August 2013.8 Nevertheless, excessive use of violence against noncombatant locals by ISIS-based Syrian Arab and foreign fighters in general — North Caucasians in particular — has outraged masses of ordinary Syrians, causing concern among the Free Syrian Army's secular leadership.9 The desire of ISIS-led North Caucasians to control some of the strategic areas along the Syrian-Turkish border has also led to episodic clashes with local Kurdish militia units, a politically neutral force of several thousand fighters eager to stand their ground against foreign attackers.10
THE NORTH CAUCASIAN SPLIT
Tensions began to run high among various factions of North Caucasian jihadists beginning in late summer 2013. The initial rupture occurred within the ranks of the JMA leadership when Omar Shishani expelled a group of predominantly Chechen fighters led by Sayfullah Shishani, allegedly for their "bad behavior." Given the fact that, at the time, Sayfullah was the second-in-command in JMA after Omar, who had appeared in multiple videos alongside the amir calling for North Caucasians to join the Syrian jihad, this split had a negative impact on the previously strong sense of unity among North Caucasians. It was soon revealed that the split was caused by Omar Shishani's desire to join the ranks of ISIS, pledging allegiance to its leader, Baghdadi — a move that Sayfullah and his associates strongly opposed. Against the backdrop of mounting inter-Arab tensions between Baghdadi-led ISIS and Jawlani-led JN that came to a head in mid-2013, Sayfullah most likely wished for the North Caucasian jihadists to remain independent from these major Arab-dominated groups and to stay away from their likely infighting. As a result of this split, Sayfullah joined the forces of North Caucasians grouped under the leadership of Muslim Shishani and Abu Musa Shishani, another prominent Chechen jihadist close to Muslim Shishani.
A bigger split occurred after Omar actually joined ISIS several months later, eventually pledging allegiance to Baghdadi. Some Chechens and North Caucasians unwilling to follow Omar Shishani then remained in JMA, now under the command of Salahuddin Shishani. The predominant reason behind these fighters' unwillingness to pledge allegiance to the ISIS leader, often quoted in jihadist sources supportive of the Caucasus Emirate, was their resolve to remain loyal to Dokka Umarov, the leader of their home jihadist group. It is not without interest, therefore, that in his initial call to Chechens and other North Caucasians in 2012, Umarov asked the jihadists to refrain from joining the Syrian war because of "some unresolved issues in the Caucasus," pointing to the ongoing jihad in the home region.11 Although Umarov later specifically reversed his approach in a move widely regarded as his acknowledgement of the attractiveness of the Syrian jihad for many North Caucasians, his lack of proper authority among them and his willingness not to oppose an increasingly popular endeavor deemed jihad, Umarov's initial appeal was echoed by a number of other North Caucasian jihadists. Salahuddin Shishani, himself an active participant in the Syrian jihad, went so far as to call on Chechens and other North Caucasians to carry out jihad in their home region rather than travel to Syria.12 Though rarely made publicly by jihadists, such statements show the strength of the North Caucasian exclusive self-identification that governs some of the jihadists both inside and outside Syria.
From the moment Omar Shishani made his oath to Baghdadi, most pro-Caucasus Emirate jihadist sources turned hostile, accusing him of being disloyal to the Caucasus Emirate and other offenses. In spite of his earlier stance, Amir Sayfullah soon changed his initial intention and pledged allegiance to Jawlani-led JN just months before his death, partly because of his desire to participate in well-publicized campaigns, partly because of materiel shortages faced by his minor group of dozens of fighters, and partly because of security concerns. Later, in an attempt to explain their oath to Baghdadi to their fellow fighters from the North Caucasus, Omar Shishani's close associate argued that this was done because of Baghdadi's desire to use all means to help his "Caucasian brothers" move to their native region to wage jihad there, a much-desired prospect for North Caucasian mujahedeen that was allegedly disapproved of by the JN leadership.13 If true, such a pledge may be interpreted as a commitment by the strongest jihadist leader currently on the ground, Baghdadi, to provide sufficient support to North Caucasian jihadists upon their return to their homeland to invigorate the now-weakened insurgency on Russia's southern border. Following Dokka Umarov's death in early 2014 and the appointment of Aliaskhab Kebedov (nom de guerre, Ali Abu Muhammad) as his successor in the Caucasus Emirate, Syria-based North Caucasian groups loyal to the Caucasus Emirate were quick to pledge allegiance to their new amir. Taken together, these events are a clear indication of North Caucasian jihadists' enduring ties to their homeland; this is a deviation from the premise of ummah-centered jihadist internationalism.
Since the new year, the relationship between JN and ISIS North Caucasian fighters has deteriorated dramatically, with North Caucasian fighters led by Muslim Shishani largely taking the side of JN, and thus accusing ISIS fighters, among other things, of severe mistreatment of local Syrians and of particularism. Interestingly, this deterioration has generally reflected the long-standing strategic and ideological split between the two major jihadist factions, of which JN, supported by the al-Qaeda leadership, has recently proven to be the strongest in Syria, while ISIS has won significant victories in the central and northern parts of Iraq. Accusing JN- and Caucasus Emirate-associated fighters of nationalism is incompatible with the notion of the ummah as a community of Muslim fellow believers indifferent to ethnicity, race and class. ISIS-based North Caucasian jihadists have launched a series of attacks on JN and the Caucasus Emirate, largely confined to the realm of social media. Some infighting is nevertheless likely to have taken place among warring parties, indicating the extent of their mutual antagonism. In turn, Caucasus Emirate-oriented North Caucasian fighters have routinely blamed ISIS-oriented jihadists for spreading fitna (a split among fellow Muslims), thus hinting at recent ISIS clashes with both JN units and Syrian brigades. Denunciations of ISIS by prominent Salafi intellectuals Sheikh Abu Basir al-Tartusi and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi are said to have had an immense impact on North Caucasian jihadists, some of whom have left ISIS to join JN.14
In the short term, the internal clashes among various factions of North Caucasian-manned units, closely followed by their sympathizers in various parts of the world with a significant North Caucasian population, will most likely reduce the appeal of the Syrian jihad for many would-be jihadists. Against this background, Mairbek Vatchagaev believes that the numbers of Chechen and other North Caucasian volunteers willing to participate in the Syrian civil war will most likely decline accordingly.15
SECURITY IMPLICATIONS FOR RUSSIA
Following an initial lack of interest, Russian authorities have grown increasingly concerned over the prospect of North Caucasian jihadists returning to their homeland after their adventures in the Syrian periphery.16 A number of factors are likely to affect the security situation in both the North Caucasus and Russia proper with regard to North Caucasian insurgents' anticipated return to their homeland from the Syrian frontlines. Despite Baghdadi's presumable pledge of support, it is essential to bear in mind that the North Caucasus is a region that is geographically, ethno-linguistically, and culturally distinct from the Middle East, in general, and the Arab world, in particular. In the recent past, certain groups of international mujahedeen from some Arab countries volunteered in the North Caucasus, participating in hostilities as part of the local insurgent groups, particularly during the First Chechnya War. Their distinct physical appearance, lack of knowledge of either Russian or the local languages, and the xenophobia of North Caucasians, in general, and Chechens, in particular, rendered them a rather isolated group, easily detectable by Russian counterinsurgents and their Chechen allies.17 Separated from the Middle East by the Caspian and Black Seas, as well by as the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range, the North Caucasus has been a rather hazardous destination for international jihadists. Communication between the North Caucasians and Middle Eastern jihadists has been impeded, and this is unlikely to change in the years to come, even given Middle Eastern jihadists' increased interest in the North Caucasian jihad. Importantly, despite its relatively vast territory and rugged terrain, the North Caucasus is an area inhabited by a mere six million Muslims among the native inhabitants, a demographically weak population that is relatively easy for federal and local authorities to control. With some notable exceptions, support for insurgent groups in the region has been rather half-hearted, confined largely to Dagestan and a number of other areas across the northeast Caucasus, while the densely "Russified" areas of the northwest Caucasus have been relatively immune to the jihadist appeal.
Last but not least, the North Caucasus is both ideologically and geographically isolated from the core of the Islamic world. Partially due to its late and superficial Islamicization and peripheral location, it has rarely been associated with the Muslim world. Although the Chechens' impressive victory over the Russian military in the First Chechnya War attracted the attention of influential jihadist leaders in the 1990s, with al-Qaeda's mastermind and Bin Ladin's deputy Al-Zawahiri referring to "the liberation of the [North] Caucasus" as a "hotbed of [global] jihad,"18 the focus soon returned to Afghanistan and Iraq and is now increasingly placed on Syria and Iraq. Unlike the North Caucasus, a distant and rather unknown area for many Muslims across the world, Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East have been widely considered the "core" areas of the Muslim world, from which most jihadist intellectuals, fighters and amirs originate and to which they are emotionally attached. Largely as a result of these factors, as Umarov put it in 2012, "No one provides support to the jihad in the Caucasus,"19 a nearly verbatim rendering of earlier statements by Shamil Basayev, another deceased Chechen insurgent leader of the early 2000s.
The high casualty rates of jihadists involved in the Syrian civil war are not the sole reason some North Caucasians would eventually fail to return to their homeland. Some prominent jihadists, whose identity is well-known far beyond the Syrian battlefields, may likely remain in the Middle East, aspiring to high-ranking positions in the global jihadist movement. Some North Caucasian jihadists have married local women and may choose to stay in the region — a pattern that has already been established with regard to hundreds of international mujahedeen engaged in the Syrian civil war. Others are obsessed with the salafi understanding of "holy war" as an individual duty that exceeds ethnic and regional divisions, and may be involved in furthering jihad in other areas of the Islamic world. Such a scenario has, for instance, involved hundreds of mujahedeen veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1990s and afterward. The targeting of insurgents' relatives, routinely employed by Russian authorities and their Chechen allies, may serve as another serious obstacle to their return, even for the most devout jihadists.
Still, serious security implications for Russian authorities are likely to develop unless they cope effectively with those mujahedeen who would, against all odds, seek to return to the North Caucasus from the Syrian battlefields. If successful, the return of mere dozens of them might help revitalize the North Caucasian insurgency, now bleeding and largely decapitated. In fact, following a series of liquidations of jihadist leaders on the eve of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, particularly of the experienced Chechen insurgents from the First and Second Chechen Wars, the regional insurgency lacks a new generation of strong and reputable leaders. Highly experienced, committed and respected for their recent past, the "Syrian" Caucasians may take on the lead of local insurgencies, establishing new jihadist groups across the region and posing a renewed threat to Russian authorities in both the North Caucasus and Russia proper. The "Syrian" Caucasians, having established extensive contacts with jihadists from various parts of the world, including Central Asians, Tatars, Bashkirs and others, may help forge transregional jihadist networks and alliances, which may pose immense threats to "infidel" and "aspostate" authorities in their respective countries.
1 Brian Michael Jenkins, The Dynamics of Syria‘s Civil War, A RAND Working Paper, January 1, 2014, accessed June 19, 2014, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE100/PE115/RAND…, p. 10. See also Olga Yazhgunovich, "Half of Syrian Rebels are Jihadists," Voice of Russia, September 18, 2013, accessed June 10, 2014, http://voiceofrussia.com/2013_09_18/Half-of-Syrian-rebels-jihadists-rep….
3 Author's personal interviews with North Caucasian veterans of the Syrian civil war, Oslo, March 2013, and New York, April 2014.
4 Emil Souleimanov, "North Caucasian Fighters Join Syrian Civil War," Central Asia and Caucasus Analyst, August 21, 2013; and Valery Dzutsev, "War in Syria Has Reverbations in the North Caucasus," Eurasia Daily Monitor 10, no. 170 (September 25, 2013).
5 For this reason, most Chechen volunteers in the Syrian civil war have stemmed not from Chechnya, but from various Chechen émigré communities in Turkey, Europe, the United States, and elsewhere. Georgia's ethnic Chechen community has also provided Chechen fighters deployed in Syria a significant share of commanders and fighters. On the countrary, most Dagestani jihadists in Syria have travelled to the Middle East directly from their homeland.
6 For a detailed anaysis of the Caucasus Emirate, see Emil Souleimanov, "The Caucasus Emirate: Genealogy of an Islamist Insurgency," Middle East Policy 18, no. 4 (2012).
7 Author's personal interviews with current and former jihadists from the North Caucasus, 2009-2013.
8 Damien McElroy, "Syria: Foreign Jihadists Behind the Rebel Capture of Aleppo Airport," Telegraph, August 7, 2013, accessed May 10, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10228171/Syr….
9 Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 15, 2014.
10 Joanna Paraszczuk, "Syria Spotlight: More Border-Region Clashes between ISIS, FSA, and Kurdish PGA," EA Worldview, October 5, 2013, accessed June 10, 2014, http://eaworldview.com/2013/10/syria-spotlight-border-region-clashes-is….
11 "Video obrashchenie amira Imarata Kavkaz Dokku abu Usmana k modzakhedam Sirii" [Video Statement of Dokka Abu Usman, the Amir of the Caucasus Emirate, to Syrian Mujahedeen], Kavkaz Centr, November 13, 2012, accessed May 19, 2014, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2012/11/13/94315.shtml.
12 Mairbek Vatchagaev, "Has the Number of Chechens Fighting in Syria Reached Its Peak?", Eurasia Daily Monitor 11, no. 14 (2014), accessed May 19, 2014, http://www.ecoi.net/local_link/268028/382435_en.html.
13 "Iman i kufr. Prodolzhenie" [Iman and Kufr. Continuation], Fisiria.info, accessed April 28, 2014, http://fisyria.info/?p=16.
14 Vatchagaev, op. cit.
16 Dmitry Shlapentokh, "Russia Fears Jihadists Returning Home," Central Asia and Caucasus, May 7, 2014, accessed May 30, 2014, http://www.cacianalyst.org/publications/analytical-articles/item/12970-….
17 Still, few Arab mujahedeen — for instance, Amir Khattab or Amir Tarkhan — made it quite high to the leadership of Chechen insurgency.
18 Ayman al-Zawahiri, Knights under the Prophet‘s Banner, excerpts in Asharq al-Awsat (London), December 2, 2001, as quoted in Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report, Near East South Asia, January 10, 2002.
19 Kavkaz Centr, op. cit.