Chechen commander leads Muhajireen Brigade in Syria


Abu-Omar-al-Chechen.jpg

Omar al Chechen and fighters from the Muhajireen Brigade.

A commander from the Russian Caucasus known as Omar al Chechen is a key leader in the Muhajireen Brigade, a jihadist group that fights alongside the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant against the regime of President Bashir al Assad. The Muhajireen Brigade, whose members include fighters from the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, has played a vital role in overrunning several major Syrian military installations over the past year.

Abu Omar "is an Emir of Mujahideen Brigade of Muhajirs, or migrants ... which also includes volunteers from the Caucasus Emirate," according to Kavkaz Center, a media arm of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Caucasus Emirate. Kavkaz Center posted a video of an appeal by Abu Omar on its English-language website on Feb. 7.

In the video, Abu Omar, sporting a red beard and what appears to be a North Face cap, is seen seated among 19 heavily armed jihadists, many of whom are masked. Two of the jihadists are seen holding al Qaeda in Iraq's flag. The Al Nusrah Front, with which the Muhajireen Brigade is closely allied, is al Qaeda in Iraq's affiliate in Syria, according to the US government [see LWJ report, US adds Al Nusrah Front, 2 leaders to terrorism list].

According to Kavkaz Center, the Muhajireen Brigade "is one of the most active units of Mujahideen fighting in Syria against the Alawite regime of Assad and Iranian mercenaries rafidites [those who reject Islam]."

"Chechen fighters," often described as fighters from the Caucasus and southern Russia, have been spotted on the Syrian battlefield for months. In October, a group of "Chechen emigrants" is known to have fought, along with an element from the Free Syrian Army unit, under the command of the Al Nusrah Front to take control of a key Syrian air defense and Scud missile base in Aleppo. The Long war Journal speculated at the time that the group included members of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate [see LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front commanded Free Syrian Army unit, 'Chechen emigrants,' in assault on Syrian air defense base].

The Muhajireen Group is known to have participated in two other major assaults against Syrian military bases since the October operation in Aleppo.

In mid-December, the Muhajireen Group teamed up with the Al Nusrah Front to overrun the Sheikh Suleiman base, or Base 111. Arab and Central Asian fighters are reported to have participated in the battle.

And last week, the Al Nusrah Front, together with the Tawhid Brigade and the Muhajireen Group, stormed the base of the Syrian military's 80th Regiment (or Brigade), which is situated near the main airport in Aleppo in eastern Syria.

Doku Umarov, the emir of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, has praised the "mujahideen" in Syria as well as the fighters from the Caucasus. In November, Umarov released a speech on the Kavkaz Center website that addressed the jihad in Syria.

"I appeal to the brothers, and I want to stress that we, the Mujahideen of the Caucasus, pray for you, make Dua [supplication to Allah], ask Allah to help you with His angels, that Allah helps you in every way,' he said.

In the speech, Umarov warned the Syrian jihadists not to "replace the regime of Bashar al-Assad, using Turkish, or Saudi, or Egyptian, or American, or English money, with another idol under the guise of democracy."

Umarov was added to the US's list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists in June 2010. The US added the Islamic Caucasus Emirate to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in May 2011.



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READER COMMENTS: "Chechen commander leads Muhajireen Brigade in Syria"

Posted by Nico at February 20, 2013 10:58 AM ET:

Well "mujahireen" is the jihadists code word for foreigners fighters.

Posted by Birbal Dhar at February 20, 2013 2:20 PM ET:

The Chechen community are generally found in large areas of the Arab world and Turkey. I believe there is probably more Chechens outside Chechnya than in Chechnya itself. In Turkey, there is a large ethnic Chechen community, whom many of them left the Chechen region, during the wars against Russia. It is no surprise that the islamic radical followers amongst the Chechen community would end up in Syria fighting against Assad's regime.

Posted by mike merlo at February 20, 2013 4:04 PM ET:

I wonder what the odds are of Abu Omar al Chechen being a double or triple "agent?"

Posted by vyom at February 21, 2013 12:35 AM ET:

Nico it's not "Mujahireen" it's "muhajireen" meaning migrants in simple terms. Indian muslims who went to Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947 are also known as "Muhajirs" which is a derogatory term by the way in Pakistan don't know about syria or arabs.

Posted by david at February 21, 2013 12:54 AM ET:

Big red up there is dead, video on liveleak.

Posted by Elypse at February 21, 2013 6:35 AM ET:

war is over for the guy in the middle:
http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=39f_1361378819

Posted by Bill Roggio at February 21, 2013 9:27 AM ET:

Elypse & David,

That is possible and I wouldn't be surprised, although it isn't 100% certain it is him (sure appears to be though). If true I expect we'll see a martyrdom statement sometime soon... Will certainly report on it if so.

Posted by mort at February 21, 2013 4:25 PM ET:

Was wondering what the odds are the you will make a Syrian 'mujahideen' list of groups and group leaders like you have done with the taliban? thanks.

Posted by blert at February 21, 2013 5:09 PM ET:

Big Red is still wearing the same watch in the LiveLeak video.

And, he's still breathing in that video, but in shock.

He's obviously in need of prompt medical care.

His crew is long on prayer and short on medics.

Posted by Henri at February 22, 2013 4:03 PM ET:

the guy from liveleak looks caucasian, but usually Kavkazcenter is quick to post a "martydoom" statement, my guess he is still alive, without dismissing the casualty rate of the mujaheed units.

Posted by Brandon Scott at March 4, 2013 6:54 AM ET:

Why is this not surprising...