Chechen-led jihadist group in Syria releases video of training camp

A new jihadist group known as the Jamaat Ahadun Ahad, or the Group of the One and Only, has released a video of its training camp in Syria. The group is led by a Chechen commander and includes fighters from Chechnya, Europe, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and several Arab countries.

The video was published today on Jamaat Ahadun Ahad’s YouTube page. The video shows a rudimentary camp situated in a large clearing surrounded by woods. Several tents are visible. The exact location of the camp was not disclosed, but it may be located in the Syrian province of Latakia, where the group is said to concentrate its efforts.

Dozens of Jamaat Ahadun Ahad fighters appear in the video. The fighters are shown conducting small unit drills, including conducting assaults and ambushes, patrolling, and breaking contact while under fire. In one drill, featured at the end of the video, a mock patrol is ambushed by a group of camouflaged fighters, who are instructed to quickly take weapons and ammunition from dead troops before leaving.

Although the Jamaat Ahadun Ahad fighters appear to be well armed and equipped, they are not wearing uniforms, unlike fighters in a number of other jihadist training camps. Many of the fighters in the video are also apparently not concerned about covering their faces.

Jamaat Ahadun Ahad is led by a Chechen commander known as Al Bara Shishani, according to From Chechnya to Syria, a website that tracks fighters from the Russian Caucasus and Central Asia who are fighting in Syria.

According to a statement released on the jihadist group’s Twitter feed, Jamaat Ahadun Ahad’s “[shura] council consists of mujahideen with a great past on the lands of jihad in Chechnya and Afghanistan.” The statement was released in Arabic, English, and Turkish.

Jamaat Ahadun Ahad is made up of both foreign fighters and Syrians.

“Jamaat Ahadun Ahad is a smaller jihadist group consisting of several anonymous and independent muhajireen (foreign fighter) brigades. A number of Ansar (local Syrian) brigades have also joined the formation,” according to an analysis of the group that was published by From Chechnya to Syria.

“As a mostly foreign fighter brigade, Jamaat Ahadun Ahad boasts many Chechens, Turks, Arabs, Europeans, and even several former members of the Taliban,” presumably from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the analysis stated. Trainers from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, an al Qaeda linked group, are known to be based in Syria.

Jamaat Ahadun Ahad is said to be neutral in the dispute between the Islamic State and the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.

Jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria are promoting training camps

Already this year, jihadist groups in both Iraq and Syria have promoted the existence of at least eight training camps.

In mid-March, the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria and a rival of the Islamic State, announced that it is running two training camps in Syria. Its Ayman al Zawahiri Camp was located in the city of Deir al Zour and is named after al Qaeda’s current emir (the Islamic State currently controls the city). 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 who are part of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, released video of its training camp in Aleppo province. The video included footage of a bomb-making class.

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.

In June, an Uzbek jihadist group known as the Imam Bukhari Jamaat released a video of its training camp in Syria. The camp is thought to be located in Aleppo province.

In July, the Islamic State released several photographs of what it said are its training camps in Iraq’s Ninewa province, and several more images from a camp in Aleppo, Syria.

The videos and photographs from ISIS, Al Nusrah Front, Muhajireen Army, Imam Bukhari Jamaat, and Jamaat Ahadun Ahad 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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  • Caleb says:

    Do we know anything about al Bara ash-Shishani and his possible connections to other Chechen commanders in the region (I.e Abu Muslim or Abu Musa)?

  • Manus says:

    These Chechens need to return home and give Putin something to do…

  • Nancy Kobrin says:

    Any updates on Chechens in eastern Ukraine or Ukraine for that matter?

  • Evan says:

    Another joke on LWJ…
    These guy are “trained?” Really?
    This really is jayvee stuff, these guys aren’t/can’t be serious.
    Let’s do a very quick analysis….
    No one would ever really go into combat, literally a foot away from the man next to him, let alone rush like that, let alone rush two feet then wait. Granted I understand that they may have been just explaining the concept, but small unit fire and maneuver is supposed to look like water flowing over rocks, constantly moving, flowing forward. No one would be able to hear anything if they were all right next to each other like that, and so no one would be able to communicate and also it would only take 1 grenade/RPG/whatever to kill a whole mess of those guys packed in like sardines. Just saying, cause you play like you practice right?
    Other than that they seem to have decent discipline, and a fair ability to maneuver somewhat, and provide security, but really nothing that would lead me to believe that these guys are any more advanced or capable than say, militia level.
    How do they perform after 3 days with no sleep?
    No food? Do they work together and rely on each other? Or do they try to go it alone and do their own thing? How resourceful are they? How creative are they? How is their morale? How would it be under fire? These things are just soulless training excersizes, they in no way depict how a group of men will perform under duress, and extreme stress and discomfort.

  • Hello, there are at least 80 Chechens fighting with the Novorussians. There are also some Ingush fighting with them. The President of Chechnya organized a volunteer center for those who wanted to go fight in Novorussia, but he closed it down after a while possibly because he came under criticism.
    There are said to be some Ingush and Chechens also fighting for the Ukies.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Yes, very funny. These guys are so bad, that they’ve take over half a country. Just because they don’t live up to US special forces standards of training doesn’t make them any less dangerous.
    How well trained do you think the 9/11 hijackers were? Or the Mumbai attackers? Or the guys who blew up the Harriers after penetrating security at Camp Bastion? I could go on….
    Yup, the joke is on me.

  • blert says:

    The footage is a propaganda exercise.
    Hence, the players are highly visible and the field of vision is compressed to satisfy the camera’s limitations.
    You see the same stuff across Hollywood. Try “Hell and Back” with Audie Murphy as technical adviser. He not only acted in the film — but performed such feats in real life. So he knew what was what.
    In terms of technique, this footage looks entirely Western, as it largely replicates Western military doctrine at the squad level… for regular straight-leg infantry.
    No ordinary infantry formation could hope to compete with Special Forces, any nation’s Special Forces. By definition, SF troops are martial Olympians, the top 1% of the top 1%.
    Keep in mind that the American DoD washes out the bottom 80% of American manpower BEFORE bootcamp. That’s why American combat performance is so uniformly high. (no draftees)
    Drawing from millions, the DoD musters only a few thousand Olympian soldiers.
    So they are not the benchmark, and never have been.
    ISIS must be respected because al-Baghdadi is a recruitment magnet — no less than Lawrence of Arabia or Napoleon Bonaparte.
    Levée en Masse is what we’re looking at. It’s something that Arab despots have shunned going back just about forever.
    It’s something entirely new – for Arabia.
    It’s so new that the MSM — even the think tanks — have totally missed the al-Baghdadi effect.
    When Napoleon first used levée en masse all of the other powers were confined by classic imperial armies. Indeed, Britain never dropped that model right up through the middle of WWI. (!!!)
    Napoleon’s continental opponents quickly found that they had better raise mass armies or be swept off the map.
    Napoleon famously induced sovereigns into contributing seriously large armies — even though they wished him dead. They just couldn’t stop themselves.
    Similar sentiments are no doubt held across al Anbar. Sunni chieftains realize that they must kiss the hand they can’t bite.
    Consequently they are contributing manpower to al-Baghdadi’s ‘project’ through gritted teeth.
    As for the despot: his martial equation comes straight from Napoleon: triumphal momentum must carry the day. The boy just can’t play a pat hand.
    And by Arab standards, al-Baghdadi IS A BOY. Like Napoleon, he is staggeringly young for his position. Only a handful of the most celebrated Caliphs ever made it while so young.
    Again, it’s the Lawrence of Arabia/ Napoleon Bonaparte effect. If al-Baghdadi is allowed to live, his domains must surely grow, for he is not a creature of stasis.
    In that sense, al-Baghdadi is as expansionist as Adolf Hitler — and with similar racial–ethnic ‘selection logic.’
    And to think, our President signed off on his release from Gitmo. (2009)
    [ FYI, ALL Gitmo transfers/ releases pass through the President’s desk. They are so few in number. They are THAT important to the President.
    Likewise, the President signs off on EVERY drone shot/ target authorization. This has been openly admitted by the White House. Again, they are so limited in number, and so politically sensitive.
    In this, the DoD/ CIA is merely replicating the command sequence so well publicized WRT OBL in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
    All significant decisions are made by the White House.
    Ironically, preventing future al-Baghdadis has been the intention… Oops.]
    The White House decision loop largely explains why we never read about the CIA taking out a moving target of opportunity.
    Hence, al-Baghdadi could flee across the Iraqi desert in a blatant escort convoy — without too much concern.
    The exact same attempt by the Duck of Death (big K) resulted in his death. (Libya)
    30 Hummers racing across the desert is too obvious, no?

  • Evan says:

    Look at who these goofs have “taken half a country,” from!
    The 9-11 hijackers were in fact, “trained.” at least trained enough to be able to fly a plane, not land it, but fly it sure.
    And, you KNOW that the Mumbai siege and the perpetrators of the siege were very well trained by ISI/Paki spec ops. They rehearsed the siege, they had maps, comms, explosives, etc. They held a whole city hostage for days, after making an undetected amphibious landing. So, I guess the joke IS on you…
    A bunch of dudes in pjs swinging around on monkey bars, or carrying rifles and playing army is NOT a serious threat.
    And anyone who says that we ( the US ) should all be afraid, and that they’re coming to get us, is either a fear monger
    who’s trying to sell something, or an idiot.
    Obviously, my analysis was of these particular individuals in the video. Not of AQ at large or jihadists in general. Just like in our armed forces I’m sure that there are real warriors amongst them who ARE a serious threat, and then there’s guys like the ones in the video…..
    In life, you’re either trained, or you aren’t. And it absolutely makes a very real difference as to just how ” dangerous,” you are. An untrained jihadist with a gun is dangerous, yes….
    But a trained grandma with a gun is WAY more dangerous, it’s not about who you are, or what you look like necessarily, but what you know, how well you’ve been trained. This is just sense. And so, if you are a goofball jihadi out in some Syrian forest running around playing army, and your training is about on par with a militia, then yes, I think that’s a joke.
    What hope do these people have if they were to come up against a foe who was well trained and supported? None.
    These guys can stand and fight with the SAA, sure, because they’re both about as well trained as a militia. But, could they ever go toe to toe with let’s say, France? Absolutely not, they’d be decimated, look at Mali as an example.
    You think these people pose a threat? Fine, I’ll agree that to a weak, corrupt, poor third world country, these guys are trouble, but for pretty much everyone else these guys are a joke. Nothing more.

  • Evan says:

    I get that this video is mainly for propaganda purposes, and I get that these guys ARE dangerous and that they are a real threat.
    I’m not saying that if every single jihadi on the battlefield isn’t trained up just like our tier 1 operators, then they aren’t shi*.
    That’s not what I’m saying, they could be trained up more like a regular army unit and that would at least be worthwhile training that would undoubtedly make them more effective as a fighting force overall.
    What I am saying is that these guys do not possess some natural prowess in war, neither does anyone else, but that the training that hey receive makes the difference. You play like you practice, wether its football or war. If this is the extent of their training then really what do we have to fear?
    I would take 1 squad of my Marines over an entire battalion of these guys and we would be a more effective fighting force.
    Not by virtue of just being American, or even being Marines, but because we are trained, and we are motivated and we are dedicated, excuse the rhyme. Those are the things that make the difference on the battlefield. How well you work together, your morale, training etc. how well you are supported by other units, how resourceful you are as a whole, those things that cannot be quantified or seen in a video.
    That’s what makes us the best, yes tech helps and yes support makes a difference, but it all really boils down to the man and his unit and these traits or characteristics that cannot be measured or weighed. Do the jihadis really possess these same traits? I don’t think they do, and I don’t think that there opponents do either.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Evan, you are attributing arguments to me I’ve never made, so I will end this here. I never said these guys could go toe to toe with the USMC. What I have said is that the camps network, along with the safe havens
    1) threaten local governments (Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Mali, Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc…) and increase the camp networks and safe havens
    2) allow for greater selection of recruits for attacks against the West, whether on the homeland or against US interests overseas.
    Underestimate these “goofs” just like US intel underestimated them prior to 9/11, and your are bound to fail.
    Additionally, if we don’t possess the will to deploy the USMC and Army against said “goofs” then who will stop them? Do you really think the Brits and the French are eager to do it if we aren’t?

  • Evan says:

    Fair enough, all of those points are good, valid points and I agree. More training camps overall is a bad thing, in af/pak or Syria or wherever.
    My comments on your blog are mine alone and I don’t mean to attribute anything to you directly, unless it’s in quotations, which I hope is the right way to attribute something to you.
    But, as far as these or other jihadis standing and fighting any American combat unit, I didn’t mean to insinuate that that was what you were arguing. I was just arguing that wether its a tier 1 asset like blue team or purple team, or a good old fashioned straight leg Marine unit, these guys don’t stand a chance. But we agree on that.
    Even if we were to send in the Marines, and the Army, again….what would be different this time?
    I’m not blaming you, and I know it’s not your fault or anything like that, but I would just ask, why, when so many of my brothers died fighting FOR them, should we go back in to fight for ground that has already been paid for in American blood, to fight for the same ground again???????
    What will be different this time bill?
    I don’t know, and I don’t have any of the answers, but I’ve certainly got questions.
    You’ve got to understand where I’m coming from….
    I’m an infantry Marine, I fought in Korengal, and Chow Kay, and the Mateen. All up down in and out of the Pech river valley. This was a couple years before the movie Restrepo was filmed
    And in 2009, I believe, after 8 years of fighting in these mountain passes, we pull out? Some general somewhere decides it’s not ” strategically viable,” anymore? So what changed in that time? Who lives with that? How are we supposed to feel about the sacrifices that were made in these places, like Sgt. Peralta in Fallujah, like my brother Marines in Sangin.
    I don’t want any more Americans to die for Afghanistan or Iraq or any other country. If they want to step up the drones/precision guided munitions to help out the Peshmerga and IA I’m all for it, but until its seriously come down to the IS conquering either Irbil, or Baghdad, I wouldn’t support any more US involvement than what I’ve previously mentioned here.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Thank you for your service and I understand your frustration and hesitation to re-engage. I agree with you in many ways. I have to be brief because I am slammed with news right now. But if we are to engage, we need to be in it to win it, we need to have clear goals and well articulated strategy and tactics. We’ve learned the hard way, yet again, that half measures are often more costly than doing nothing.
    My very best wishes to you & yours.


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