Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria involved in new Idlib offensive

Video released by Junud al Sham mentioning “Katibat Turkistani,” another name for the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria

The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) is participating in a newly launched rebel offensive at Jisr al Shughur in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib. The TIP is operating alongside the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and a slew of other rebel and jihadist groups in the offensive.

These groups are operating under the “Battle of Victory” coalition, which is modeled after the Jaysh al Fateh coalition that took over Idlib city last month. Fighting alongside Al Nusrah and the TIP in the “Battle of Victory” coalition is Ahrar al Sham, Ansar Sham, Jaysh al Islam, Jabhat Ansar al Din (which includes the Chechen-led group Jaysh al Muhajireen wal Ansar, the Moroccan-led group Harakat Sham al Islam, and the Syrian group Harakat Fajr al Sham al Islamiyya), Junud al Sham, and many others. Several of these groups are within al Qaeda’s network, including Ahrar al Sham, Jabhat Ansar al Din, and Junud al Sham.

This new coalition is assaulting the Assad regime near Jisr al Shughur and Al Mastoumah in Idlib, as well as the Al Ghab plain in Hama, and in Latakia province. (For more on these offensives, see LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front, allies launch new offensives against Syrian regime)

In a newly released video by Junud al Sham, the group mentions a “Katibat Turkistani,” or “Turkistani Battalion.” This name is what the TIP fights under in Syria. Several jihadist Twitter accounts have confirmed that “Turkistanis” are fighting in Jisr al Shughur. The TIP has long operated in Syria alongside the Al Nusrah Front in Idlib. In May of last year, one of its fighters, identified as Dadullah al Turkistani, detonated himself as part of a coordinated assault with Al Nusrah in the northwestern province. The TIP, through its media outlet Islam Awazi, has identified several of its fighters killed fighting alongside Al Nusrah in Syria.

The Turkistan Islamic Party also operates in China as well as Central and South Asia and is thought to have scores of fighters in Pakistan’s tribal areas and in Afghanistan. Its fighters have been killed by Coalition forces in Afghanistan and by US drone strikes in Pakistan. Several TIP senior leaders have also been appointed to top positions in al Qaeda’s network in Pakistan. For example, Abdul Shakoor Turkistani, the former emir of TIP, was also appointed by al Qaeda to lead its forces in Pakistan’s tribal provinces. (For more on this, see LWJ report, Turkistan Islamic Party leader thought killed in US drone strike.)

Junud al Sham is a group predominately comprised of fighters from the North Caucasus and is allied to Al Nusrah Front and other al Qaeda-allied groups. The group is led by Muslim Shishani, or Murad Margoshvili, an ethnic Chechen from Georgia. He has fought in the Caucasus under Ibn Khattab, a Saudi who led al Qaeda’s International Islamic Brigade in Chechnya. Muslim has been in Syria since 2012, according to From Chechnya to Syria, a website that tracks Russian-speaking jihadists in Syria. Muslim was designated by the US as a foreign terrorist in Sept, 2014.

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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  • m3fd2002 says:

    I get the feeling that the Turk’s hands are all over this offensive. They might be trying to carve out their own theater of influence. No solid proof. Just a hunch. Any thoughts or data from anyone?

    • mike merlo says:

      @ m3fd2002

      good call. That’s been the “Turks” intention(s) since the get go. Just like the Iranians looking to expand their “foot print,” the Russians their ‘influence,’ & everybody else who feels they have a vested interest in the final outcome the “Turks” have been dealing from the ‘bottom of the deck’ for quite awhile.

      This new found Turkish desire to somehow reestablish themselves as a reinvented Ottoman Empire with nouveau
      post-Modernist approach to dominating the ‘Region’ is no surprise. The Iranian’s are doing it. Russia has their ‘hand’ in the mix. The Saudi’s are doing it. An eclectic miasma of Muslim Revolutionaries, Extremists, Radicals, Fundamentalists, Anarchists, Nihilists, etc., are raging rampant along with the defunct Baathist Iraqi ‘Brotherhood’ not mention a host of others. All the while a tepidly reticent US President is content to lead with his behind.

      Erdogan aggressively came out into the open once the spigot from the BTC Pipeline was opened. And he just wants what ‘everybody’ else wants, as much as he can get his claws on.

  • Gaz says:

    There are lots of rumors going around the following the nuclear deal with Iran and it’s allies taking over Yemen and becoming more powerful in Iraq, Saudi Arabia has decided to go all in on toppling Assad.

  • Phi says:

    I think the people described here are from Turkmenistan and surrounding former soviet states. This has nothing to do with Turkey. However, Turkey of course might support parties in the Syria war in some ways, but it seems the article is not related to this.

  • Rick Lee says:

    m3fd2002 says:
    April 23, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Your thoughts on Turkey Government echo my own however, I’m interested in what Russia thinks because they are funding Natural Gas Line through Turkey and weapons to Syria.

    Turkistan is probably too small to create her own FIAT currency and although ISIS is big on gold coins as a new currency I don’t think Turkistan would get on board with that. So does Turkistan want to join Turkey and use the Lira or stay in Syria and use the Pound?

    After intelligent people with a persuasive and passionate vocabulary enter the battlefield the wars in Syria (1,000?) will abruptly end in a week. The borders might change marginally. Kurdistan might become a country with land swaps between Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

    I don’t think Turkistan will become it’s own country because I’ve never heard about it before this story however, city-states are a tantalizing idea in non-mainstream media and that is a possibility.

    Meanwhile 220,000+ Syrians dead and millions upon millions are refugees. All of this at the hands of US National Endowment for Democracy getting bribes from Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

    The story is deeper than the tip of the iceberg outlined above.

    • mike merlo says:

      @ R Lee

      “After intelligent people with a persuasive and passionate vocabulary enter the battlefield the wars in Syria (1,000?) will abruptly end in a week.” What you wrote makes no sense to me. What “intelligent people?” How will this rebellion possibly “end in a week” with the entering of the ‘affray’ of those you ‘speak of?’ The only way I ‘see’ this ending in a week is if one side or the other or both simply ceases & desists from all hostilities. Or maybe one side or the other or some ‘outsider’ uses 1 or more WMD’s

  • rtloder says:

    Idlib was conceded because of streaming directly from the Turkish border, good to hear its Chechen Affiliated even led .
    But of course it’s a make over of the Brotherhood conversion campaign.
    However this might stir a bit of diplomatic support for Assad in the East.


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