Azeri news outlets are reporting that 12 jihadists from Azerbaijan have been killed in Syria, according to From Chechnya to Syria, a website that provides “News & Analysis of Russian-speaking Foreign Fighters In Syria.”
The Azeri reports aren’t based only on rumors; individuals are named. One of them, Nijat Ashurli, “was [the] commander of one of the divisions of the group Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar,” a group also known as the Army of Emigrants and Supporters, or Muhajireen Army. This group is led by a Chechen and includes many fighters from the Caucasus and elsewhere in Russia.
Other Azeri jihadists mentioned in the reports fought alongside the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, the al Qaeda splinter group.
The presence of Azeri fighters on the Syrian battlefield should come as no surprise. Azeris have traveled to other theaters of jihad. Some have been spotted in the Afghan-Pakistan region over the past decade. For instance, in July 2011, a jihadist known as Ismail Azeri and a fighter from the Russian Republic of Dagestan known as Samil Dagestanli were killed after crossing a Turkish jihadist known as Abu Zarr. [See LWJ report, Turkish jihadist commander executed by the Taliban in Waziristan.]
And in June 2012, Pakistani officials identified an al Qaeda operative from Azerbaijan known as Aslanov Zaur as one of the six “foreigners” killed during clashes in the Kurram tribal agency that resulted in the deaths of 23 Pakistani troops and 60 terrorists. Zaur traveled through Iran to reach Pakistan on a visa issued by the Iranian consulate in Baku. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda operative killed during clashes in Kurram identified.]