Caucasus Emirate in Syria highlights role in Aleppo fighting


Screenshot from the video from Al Eis, Aleppo

The Caucasus Emirate in Syria, the official Syrian branch of the al Qaeda-linked Caucasus Emirate, has released two videos highlighting its role in the current fighting in the Aleppo province.

The first video shows a nighttime operation against Kurdish forces in the Aleppo neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsud. No nightvision equipment appears to have been used in the video, however, heavy fighting can be heard. The Caucasus Emirate in Syria is not the only al Qaeda-linked group fighting the Kurds in Sheikh Maqsud. Ansar al Islam, which was originally founded in Iraq in 2001, has reported its forces are fighting the Kurds in the area. Additionally, the Uzbek group Katibat Imam al Bukhari, which is loyal to the Afghan Taliban, has released a video showing its forces fighting the Kurds there as well.

The second video was reportedly recorded shortly before the battle at Al Eis in the southern Aleppo countryside. A fighter in the group, presumably a native Syrian, gives a short Arabic-language address in which he states that the Caucasus Emirate in Syria and two other al Qaeda groups, Jund al Aqsa, and the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch, will fight together to “liberate the Aleppo countryside from Assad, Iran, and Satan’s dogs [referring to Iranian-backed Iraqi militias].” The jihadists later reported success at Al Eis, but the Assad regime has stated that its forces and their allies have recaptured the area.

The Caucasus Emirate in Syria was formed when the former emir of Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Helpers), Salahuddin Shishani, was removed from his post along with his deputy, Abdul Karim Krymsky, last summer. A small group of Chechen and other North Caucasian fighters followed suit and left with Shishani. The group then released a video announcing its formation and its bayah (allegiance) to the Caucasus Emirate and its emir at the time, Abu Usman Gimrinsky . However, From Chechnya to Syria has reported that Shishani was also deposed of his leadership position of the Caucasus Emirate in Syria, and now leads another small Chechen-led group.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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