Uzbek jihadist group releases footage from Syrian training camp

An Uzbek jihadist group known as the Imam Bukhari Jamaat released a video of its training camp in Syria. It is the latest video by jihadist groups that shows fighters going through training at camps inside Syria.

The video, which was produced by Al Fath Studios and released in late May, was obtained by From Chechnya to Syria, a website that tracks fighters from the Russian Caucasus and Central Asia who are fighting in Syria.

The Imam Bukhari Jamaat group is named after an Uzbek cleric who authored a collection of hadith, or traditions of the Prophet Mohammad, that are considered to be among the most authentic. The group is allied with the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar, a jihadist group led by fighters from the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.

In the video of the Imam Bukhari Jamaat’s training camp, 31 trainees, who are dressed in identical uniforms and whose faces are covered, march in a double-file formation around the parade ground carrying assault weapons and other various arms. One trainee flies the black banner of jihad while marching.

The trainees then stop and stand in formation as their leader addresses an unmasked commander, whose face is digitally obscured. During the commander’s address, children are seen at the camp.

After the camp commander addresses the group, footage of the fighters executing rifle drills, conducting martial arts training and exercises, and navigating an obstacle course is shown.

While the site of the camp has not been disclosed, it may be located “around Hraytan in Aleppo Province,” as the group is known to operate there, according to Joanna Paraszczuk, who manages From Chechnya to Syria.

The Imam Bukhari Jamaat is the second Uzbek jihadist group to emerge in Syria in recent months. The other, the Seyfuddin Uzbek Jamaat, is led by Abu Hussein and fights for the Al Nusrah Front. US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal that the Seyfuddin Uzbek Jamaat is aided by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al Qaeda-allied group that is active in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Central Asia. [See LWJ report, Uzbek commands group within the Al Nusrah Front.]

Jihadist groups in Syria are disclosing training camps

At least five training camps have been disclosed by jihadist groups over the past three months.

In mid-March, the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, announced that it is running two training camps in Syria. Its Ayman al Zawahiri Camp is located in the city of Deir al Zour and is named after al Qaeda’s current emir. The other camp, whose location was not disclosed, is called the Abu Ghadiya Camp and is named after the leader of the al Qaeda in Iraq facilitation network that was based in eastern Syria. Abu Ghadiya was killed in a US special operations raid in eastern Syria in the fall of 2008.

In the beginning of April, the Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters, or Muhajireen Army), a group of foreign fighters led by commanders from the Caucasus, released video of its training camp in Aleppo province. The video included footage of a bomb-making class.

And in early May, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham announced the existence of the Zarqawi Camp, which is named after the slain founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital of Damascus.

The videos from ISIS, Al Nusrah Front, Muhajireen Army, and Imam Bukhari Jamaat training camps are reminiscent of others released by al Qaeda from the network of camps in Afghanistan during the 1990s. Al Qaeda used camps such as Khalden and Al Farouq to churn out thousands of foreign fighters who fought alongside the Taliban in the 55th Arab Brigade. But al Qaeda also selected graduates of the camps to conduct attacks in the West, including the Sept. 11, 2001 operation against the US.

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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