A popular Saudi cleric who is closely tied to al Qaeda and its official branch in Syria praised the “lions” from the Islamic Caucasus Emirate who are battling Syrian government forces in a city near Aleppo.
Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini, the Saudi cleric and a rising star in the jihadist world, lauded the fighters from the Islamic Caucasus Emirate in a short, 1:42 video clip that was uploaded on YouTube by Akhbar Sham three days ago. Akhbar Sham is a Russian-language website that supports the Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters, or Muhajireen Army), a group of foreign fighters led by commanders from the Caucasus.
Muhaysini praised the members from the Caucasus Emirate for their fighting against Syrian government forces in Shaykh Najjar, an industrial city just outside of Aleppo, according to a translation of the video by Oren Adaki and Boris Zilberman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“These are the omens of victory and they are the hordes of Muslims launched to the battle of Shaykh Najjar in response to the call of Allah, most high, ‘I will make you victorious in my religion, and victory is upon you,'” Muhaysini said.
“And [the] Emirate of the Caucasus sends men, lions, from their own sons – at their forefront is Sheikh Salahuddin, Sheikh Abdallah Pashtuna, and others from the soldiers of Salahuddin. They have come to meet the demand of aiding the weak men, women, and children.”
Sheikh Salahuddin is likely Salahuddin al Shishani, a Chechen who is the emir of the Muhajireen Army. Although Sheikh Abdallah Pashtuna has not been identified, his name indicates he may be a Pashtun from Afghanistan or Pakistan, or a fighter from the Caucasus who operated in the Afghan-Pakistan region.
Muhaysini also referenced Ibn Khattab and said that the fighters from the Caucasus are “returning the good deed” of Arabs who waged jihadi in Chechnya against the Russians. Khattab was a Saudi who led al Qaeda’s International Islamic Brigade in Chechnya before he was assassinated by Russian forces in 2002.
“May Allah bless our brothers from the Caucasus, they are returning the good deed presented to them by their brother, Sheikh Khattab, the esteemed leader and those with him. And this is the power of faith. We ask that Allah accept the jihad from everyone and their assistance to Allah’s religion,” he said.
Muhaysini, a Saudi cleric who moved to Syria in 2013 and has more than 290,000 followers on Twitter, has publicly supported the position of al Qaeda, the Al Nusrah Front, and the Islamic Front in their dispute with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. When he launched an initiative in January to reconcile the groups by creating a sharia court to settle differences, Muhaysini cited al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri. Muhaysini’s initiative dovetailed with a message by Zawahiri calling for reconciliation.
In February, after the ISIS rejected his plan, Muhaysini called on ISIS fighters and leaders to defect and join the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic Front. [See LWJ reports, Popular Saudi cleric endorses Islamic Front, calls for cooperation with al Qaeda; Saudi cleric’s reconciliation initiative for jihadists draws wide support, then a rejection; and Pro-al Qaeda Saudi cleric calls on ISIS members to defect.]
Recently, Muhaysini has been touring the battlefield. Just days ago, a video in which Muhaysini appeared after fighting in Latakia was published on the Internet. In the video, Muhaysini is seen embracing a Chechen military commander known as Abu Tarab al Shishani. The video features Muslim al Shishani, the leader of a group of fighters in the Al Nusrah Front, as well as a leader of Ahrar al Sham known as Abu al Hassan. [See LWJ report, Chechen al Qaeda commander, popular Saudi cleric, and an Ahrar al Sham leader spotted on front lines in Latakia.]