Muhajireen Army uses BMP to launch suicide assault on Aleppo airport

The Muhajireen Army, a jihadist group comprised of foreign fighters and Syrians who are closely tied to al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, claimed credit for two recent suicide assaults that targeted government soldiers at an airport in Aleppo. In one of the two attacks, the jihadists used a BMP armored personnel carrier to detonate a large quantity of explosives.

Video of one of the two attacks as well as statements were released at FISyria, “a Russian website covering news from the jihad in Syria,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which translated the website postings. Both attacks, which targeted Syrian soldiers based at the Minnigh airport, took place in June.

The Muhajireen Army does not have an official propaganda outlet, and its information is often released via third parties, usually Russian-language websites. Fighters from the Russian Caucasus are prevalent in the Muhajireen Army, and the group’s commander is a Chechen.

The latest attack on the airport took place on June 23. In that complex assault, a Muhajireen Army unit led by Omar al Shishani detonated a captured Syrian Army BMP armored personnel carrier that was “loaded with 4 tons of explosives” somewhere at the base. It is unclear if the suicide bomber detonated at the gate, or inside the complex. The statement claimed that “the explosion destroyed the main building.”

The suicide bombing was immediately followed by an assault by more than a dozen heavily armed fighters. In the video, gunfire is heard right after the explosion.

The Muhajireen Army claimed that 15 of its fighters and “about forty Assad partisans were killed” during the suicide operation.

The Muhajireen Army also said that most of its fighters who were killed were “from the Caucasus and Azerbaijan.”

The other suicide assault took place on June 13. In that attack, a suicide bomber “drove into the airport” and detonated a “vehicle carrying 3 tons of explosives.”

“Following the explosion, 4 martyrdom-seekers ran into the building and began to attack,” and fought for three hours before being killed, the group claimed.

The airport in Aleppo has been besieged by the Muhajireen Army, the Al Nusrah Front, which is al Qaeda’s affiliate, and other allied jihadist and supposedly secular groups such as the Free Syrian Army for many months. Just four days ago, a video of a Syrian helicopter crashing in flames at Minnigh airport was posted on YouTube.

Yesterday, the Muhajireen Army released video of one of its fighters shooting down a Syrian military helicopter with what appears to be a SAM-7 surface-to-air missile. The video and an accompanying statement was also published on FISyria. [see Threat Matrix report, Muhajireen Army fires on Syrian helicopter with surface-to-air missile].

The Muhajireen Army is commanded by Omar al Chechen, a jihadist from Russia’s Caucasus region. Hundreds of fighters from the Islamic Caucasus Emirate are thought to be in the ranks of the Muhajireen Army.

The group is known to fight alongside the Al Nusrah Front and has participated in overrunning several Syrian military bases.

At the end of March, Omar al Chechen announced that the Muhajireen Brigade had merged with several Syrian jihadist groups and formed the Muhajireen Army. The group has “more than 1,000 Mujahideen, Muslim volunteers from different countries, including the Caucasus Emirate,” stated Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Caucasus Emirate.

The Muhajireen Army and the Al Nusrah Front are thought to be the fighting units of choice for the more than 700 European jihadists estimated to be fighting in Syria.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Will Fenwick says:

    These guys get lit up by Syrian Army armour all day and when they finally get their hands on some of there own they blow it up… strategic folly at its worst.

  • mike merlo says:


  • Forbes K says:

    Those 15 who were killed are 15 that Russia will not have to fight in Dagestan or Chechnya.
    Those are 15 who will not be able to kill American engaged in reconstruction in Afghanistan or training the ANA.
    Those are 15 who cannot provide a secure base areas for some other radicals, who want to execute suicide attacks in America from bases in Yemen, Syria, the Pakistani tribal authority.
    While I don’t want to see Russia or Iran coming out on top and dictating to the world, there is a sliver lining here.
    The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend. They are sometimes the person who will freely take an assistance and then cut my throat.
    Anyone, who always say the enemy of my enemy is ALWAYS is my friend, is selling you something or their IQ is closer to 70 than 100. State Department anyone? Anyone?

  • C-Low says:

    Forbes K
    Both sides are enemies so I have no problem at all playing off/on with the weapons and support. Keep the balance so neither side really gets the advantage to defeat the other. Let them both bleed eachother in the meat grinder turning.

  • Memlik Pasha says:

    The Jaysh al-Mujahirin wa’l-Ansar isn’t merely closely tied to JaN, but more like joined at the hip, and an integral part of its structure. Significantly, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recent appointed JMA leader Abu Omar al-Shishani his emir in charge of the ‘northern sector’, the provinces of Halab, Idlib and al-Ladhiqiyah. JMA can now probably be considered effectively part of the JaN/ISIS organization, much like how in 2006 AQI absorbed several other jihadist groups into its Islamic State of Iraq

  • KaneKaizer says:

    This is another “too bad both sides can’t lose” scenario. If I could put all of the combatants on both sides into a massive box and let them all kill each other, I’d do it.

  • ed says:

    @ merlo
    Azerbaijan is not that far from Chechnya and abutts Dagestan which have Islamist inspired problems. I bet if we were on the ground there we could readily verify how interconnected those nations/provinces are with roads, goods and ideals. There may not be superhighways there, but there still is plenty of highways, the internet, movement of people and ideals.

  • mike merlo says:

    I know where Azerbaijan is. I know where ‘everything’ is in relation to the GWOT. Read my earlier ‘Posts.’ My ‘question’ was in response to how often or many times has an Azerbaijani been mentioned within the context of the many Muslim Mercenaries that have ‘flocked’ to these various conflict zones.


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