Omar al Chechen (Omar al Shishani), the leader of the Jaish al-Muhajireen wa Ansar, or the Army of the Emigrants and Helpers, released a short videotape today in which he denied reports of his death that surfaced last month. He also denied that he had helped set up a meeting between Senator John McCain and a rebel unit in Northern Syria.
Abu Omar made the denials in a short interview (1:53) that was released on YouTube and obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. When asked about recent reports of his death, he responded, “Praise be to Allah, everything is from Allah, so whoever dies or lives, such is life.”
On Sept. 27, the commander, whose Muhajireen Army serves as the vanguard force for al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, was reported by Al Haqiqah, an Arabic website based in France, as having been killed.
“This terrorist [Abu Omar] was gunned down by a female member of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units [YPG] forces as hundreds of fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Muhajireen Army were attacking the villages of Tal Sallurah, Dayr Ballut, and Jalmah,” Al Haqiqah reported, according to a translation of the article that was provided to The Long War Journal. Abu Omar was also rumored to have been killed earlier this year, but he later surfaced in al Qaeda propaganda videos.
When Abu Omar was asked if he had agreed to allow the Northern Storm Brigade meet with McCain earlier this year, he said: “We do not meet with such disbelievers who fight Muslims wherever they are. This is not true.”
Senator McCain’s controversial visit with the Northern Storm Brigade included his being photographed with a rebel commander who had kidnapped 11 Lebanese men (two were later released).
The Northern Storm Brigade, a Free Syrian Army unit, has clashed with the ISIL in Azaz. That dispute, which saw the Northern Storm Brigade on the losing end of an ISIL offensive, was mediated by the Tahwid Brigade, a large Free Syrian Army unit that just last week joined the Al Nusrah Front (al Qaeda’s other branch in Syria) in calling for the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, throughout Syria and rejected the US-backed Syrian National Council.
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