The Treasury Department has added three Islamic State operatives, as well as “an overseas emissary” for the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists. The designations, published yesterday, include three jihadists from the Russian Caucasus and a recruiter from the United Kingdom.
The Islamic State members designated by Treasury are: Islam Seit-Umarovich Atabiyev (the deputy to Islamic State military commander Omar al Shishani), Akhmed Chatayev (the commander of the group’s Yarmouk Battalion), and Aseel Muthana (a recruiter).
Additionally, Zaurbek Guchayev, the Turkey-based emissary for the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Caucasus Emirate, was also designated.
Atabiyev, the most senior Islamic State commander listed in yesterday’s designations, “swore an oath of allegiance to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in December 2013,” Treasury stated, referring to the Islamic State by its outdated acronym, ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). In addition to serving as the deputy to Omar al Shishani, who is also a designated terrorist, Atabiyev served as the Islamic State’s governor for the Syrian town of Al Dana in the Idlib province. Atabiyev founded and runs the Russian language propaganda outlet Al Furat and “maintained a school in Syria to indoctrinate and train Syrian boys to become future fighters.”
Chatayev is described by Treasury as “the commander of the Yarmouk Battalion, a Chechen faction of ISIL.” According to RFE/RL, Chatayev, a Chechen national, is also known as Akhmed al Shishani, and at one point in time “was granted asylum by Austria.” He has encouraged jihadists in Chechnya to join the Islamic State and has appeared with Atabiyev in propaganda videos.
Aseel Muthana, a UK national, and his brother Nasser, who was listed by the US as a global terrorist on Sept. 29, are “considered representative of the group’s recruitment drive in the [W]est.” The US has evidence that Aseel “gave guidance to an individual interested in joining ISIL, inviting the individual to contact him directly via a social media service so that [he] could help him join the group.”
Guchayev, a Russian who is also known as Abdulaziz, is described by Treasury as “an overseas emissary” for the Caucasus Emirate who “is responsible for coordinating and directing the group’s activities in Syria.” He is wanted by INTERPOL and is said to be based out of Turkey. The Islamic Caucasus Emirate is an an Qaeda-linked group that was listed by the US as a terrorist organization in May 2011.
The Islamic State drove a wedge between jihadists in the Caucasus when a host of fighters from the Islamic Caucasus Emirate broke off and swore allegiance to the Islamic State’s emir, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. The Islamic State’s Caucasus “province” was announced in June, after IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani publicly accepted the oaths of allegiance sworn by jihadists throughout the region. The Caucasus branch is headed by Rustam Asilderov, a former Islamic Caucasus Emirate leader who defected to the Islamic State late last year.
The US government listed the Islamic State Caucasus Province as a terrorist group on Sept. 29. Also included in that designation is the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province, two al Qaeda-linked groups, and 31 other individuals and organizations.