Central Asian jihadist group joins ISIS


Fighters from Sabiri’s Jamaat, which joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham earlier this year.

A jihadist group made up of Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Russians from the Caucasus that operates in Syria has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham.

The group, known as Sabiri’s Jamaat, swore allegiance to the ISIS in March, according to From Chechnya to Syria, a website that tracks fighters from the Caucasus and Central Asia who are waging jihad in Syria.

Sabiri’s Jamaat is currently led by “Khalid ad-Dagestani,” a jihadist from the Republic of Dagestan in the Russian Caucasus, according to a fighter who explained why the group joined the ISIS. The group’s previous emir, Abdullo Tashkenti, was from Uzbekistan, was killed earlier this year.

The exact size of the group is not known, but likely has scores of fighters. In a video (below) released by the group back in January, at least 70 fighters are pictured. The speaker in the video says that the group is made up “Uzbekis, Tajiks, Chechens, and Dagestanis.”

Several of the ISIS’s flags are prominently displayed in the video. And the fighters appear to be well armed and equipped. At the end of the video, a small convoy made up of SUVs, minivans, cars, motorcycles, and a flat bed truck with anti-aircraft guns mounted on the back is shown. Then short clips of the group fighting at night are also shown.

A fighter from Sabiri’s Jamaat claimed his group swore allegiance to the ISIS after the fighters from Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, attempted to confiscate its anti-aircraft artillery. Khalid ad-Dagestani then met with Omar al Shishani, a Chechen who serves as a top military commander in the ISIS, and swore an oath to the jihadist group.

Jihadists from the Caucasus and Central Asia play a prominent role in fighting for al Qaeda and the ISIS inside Syria. Chechens command fighting units in both jihadist groups. An Uzbek known as Abu Hussein leads the Seyfuddin Uzbek Jamaat, which serves in the Al Nusrah Front. Two other Chechens known as Abu Walid al Shishani and Muslim al Shishani, also lead groups within the Al Nusrah Front. [See LWJ report, Chechen al Qaeda commander, popular Saudi cleric, and an Ahrar al Sham leader spotted on front lines in Latakia].

Additionally, some fighters from the Caucasus have remained neutral in the open dispute between the ISIS and the Al Nusrah Front. Al Qaeda disowned the ISIS earlier this year after a leadership dispute between the ISIS and Al Nusrah devolved into open warfare.

Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar, or the Army of the Emigrants and Helpers, which is led by a Chechen known as Salahuddin al Shishani, has fought alongside both the ISIS and Al Nusrah and its allies such as Ahrar al Sham and the Islamic Front. Salahuddin’s deputy is Abdul Karim Krymsky, a Crimean Tatar from the Ukraine.

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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