Flag of the Caucasus Emirate in Syria
The Caucasus Emirate branch Vilayat Kabarda, Balkaria, and Karachay (KBK) recently released a video in which fighters from the Caucasus Emirate’s (CE) wing in Syria are shown partaking in battles in northwestern Syria. It is unknown if all the fighters shown in the video are from Vilayat KBK, other branches of the CE, or local members of the group.
The video, entitled “On the frontlines in Syria,” was released by Vilayat KBK’s IslamDin media. It begins with fighters participating in a battle, which is indicated to be near the “Shia villages of Fua and Kafraya” in Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province. The two villages are the last remaining regime-allied holdouts in the province. Combat scenes are shown, combined with archival photos of CE fighters in Syria.
It is not clear when the footage was filmed, however, a date at the beginning of the video indicates that it was filmed sometime this year.
It also marks one of, if not the first time, that a CE media wing originating in the North Caucasus has released a video of its branch in Syria. Previously, the videos were released by media organizations based in Syria, like Akhbar Sham. This shows that not only is the branch active, but that it is being treated as the official Syrian branch of the CE with actual operational ties to the parent organization in the North Caucasus.
The Caucasus Emirate, an al Qaeda-linked organization, has had at least two official representative groups inside Syria fighting alongside al Qaeda’s forces.
The first active group was the Chechen-led Jaysh al Muhajireen wal Ansar (JMA), which was founded by Omar Shishani, who later went on to become the Islamic State’s military leader. JMA would then be led by Salahuddin Shishani, who was eventually removed from the post with the help from the Al Nusrah Front. JMA then subsequently pledged allegiance to Al Nusrah, which is now folded within a new entity in Syria.
Salahuddin Shishani then created another official branch of the Caucasus Emirate, calling itself the aptly-named Caucasus Emirate in Syria, and pledged allegiance to the then-CE emir, Abu Usman Gimrinski. He would be removed from this post, as well, but the CE in Syria continues to exist. The CE in Syria has released several other videos of its forces fighting alongside Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front group, and the Al Nusrah Front. Members of the Vilayat KBK have also been previously documented with the CE in Syria and with JMA. Former fighters of the CE can also be found in several other North Caucasian groups operating in Syria.
Screenshots from the video:
An American-made M2 Browning machine gun can be seen in the background:
Portions of the video were translated by Justin Tomczyk, a student of Russian language at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.