Chechen commander for Al Nusrah Front reported killed in fighting against Syrian forces


Center: Muhammad al Shishani.

A Chechen leader of a unit that joined the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, has been killed during recent fighting against the Syrian military, according to reports.

The military commander, who is known as Muhammad al Shishani (the Chechen) or Muhammad al Khurasani, was killed while fighting in the town of Lermon on March 19, Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate reported.

Muhammad was killed during a joint assault with the Army of Emigrants and Supporters against Syrian forces in Lermon. The two groups attacked a Syrian military “complex of concrete, high-rises on the outskirts” of the town and eventually “stormed” the buildings. The two Chechen-led groups then linked up other forces from the Al Nusrah Front to continue operations.

At the time of his death, Muhammad led a faction from the Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters, or Muhajireen Army) that had joined the Al Nusrah Front last year after Omar al Shishani joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS).

Muhammad had taken command of the Muhajireen Army faction following the death of the group’s previous emir, Saifullah al Shishani, in battle with Syrian forces in Aleppo in early February. In a statement released after his death, Saifullah was praised as a “heroic knight” by the emir of the Al Nusrah Front, Muhammad al Julani. [See LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front praises Chechen commander killed in Aleppo.]

More than 400 fighters are said to have been under Muhammed’s command at the time of his death. He led Chechens and other fighters from the Russian Caucasus, as well as Syrians and other foreign fighters.

Muhammad was seen in a video that was published by Usudu Sham, a propaganda arm of the Muhajireen Army, on Feb. 25. In that video, one of the fighters seated next to Muhammad urged fighters in both Europe and Chechnya to join the jihad in Syria.

“To those in Europe and Chechnya I want to say, let’s rise up and unite and fight the infidels in this blessed land,” the masked fighter said, according to a translation provided by EA Worldview.

Chechens and others from the Russian Caucasus and even from the Ukraine hold prominent positions in jihadist units fighting in Syria. In addition to Muhammad and Omar al Shishani, who commands fighters in the ISIS, a Chechen known as Salahuddin al Shishani serves as the emir of the Muhajireen Army. His deputy is Abdul Karim Krymsky, a Crimean Tatar from the Ukraine. Hundreds of fighters from the Caucasus and Russia are known to fight in the ranks of the jihadist groups in Syria that are commanded by Chechen leaders.

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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