The Tawhid wal Jihad battalion (KTJ), a predominately Uzbek and Central Asian group within the Al Nusrah Front, has released a video showing its forces training what it calls ‘commandos’ in Aleppo.
A small number of fighters, only 15 in total, are shown undergoing weapons training on variants of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG’s). The training is meant to provide experience for urban combat within the city of Aleppo, where the group maintains a heavy presence. Other groups in Syria include Al Nusrah’s Liwa al Muhajireen wal Ansar, which is a mainly Russian-speaking brigade, and the Islamic State have trained fighters for urban combat. (See LWJ report, Jihadists in Syria train for urban warfare.)
It also maintained a presence in Idlib Province. During the Jisr al Shughur offensive in Idlib earlier last year, KTJ operated closely alongside Junud al Sham, led by the Chechen Muslim Shishani, and the Syrian-wing of the Turkistan Islamic Party. Muslim Shishani is a US-designated global terrorist and has an extensive history with the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Caucasus Emirate (ICE). KTJ was also known to have operated at least two training camps in Syria.
KTJ pledged allegiance to the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, in September of last year shortly after the mainly-foreign group Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (JMA) also pledged its allegiance to Nusrah. JMA was historically a Chechen and North Caucasian group before being led by a Tajik and then a Saudi. A small group of mainly Crimean Tartars and other Russian-speaking militants, called the Crimean Jamaat, pledged allegiance just a few days later, swelling Nusrah’s ranks with Russian-speaking fighters and other militants from Central Asia.
(For more information, see LWJ report, Foreign fighter group officially joins Al Nusrah Front and Threat Matrix reports, Uzbek group pledges allegiance to Al Nusrah Front and Crimean Jamaat reportedly pledges allegiance to Al Nusrah Front.)
Photos and Screenshots from the ‘commando’ training:
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