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Militants from Russia’s North Caucasus fighting for the Syrian opposition

July 26, 2013, 16:05 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

Natives from Russia’s North Caucasus republics are fighting as mercenaries on the side of the Syrian opposition. The Syrian conflict that has been raging on for several years has become a training ground for terrorists. According to the Russian Federal Security Service, about 200 Russian nationals are fighting a Syrian government troops under the Al-Quaeda banner. Russia's Foreign Ministry has recently admitted that natives of Chechnya have joined the fighting on the side of Syrian radical groups. Russian media reports that the Syrian opposition has over 100 Chechen militants in its ranks. They were recruited by chief ideologists of the Chechen Wahabi movement.

A local resident who used to fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has recently been detained in the Khasavyurt district of Dagestan.

The man, born in 1967, whose name is kept secret, fought for the rebels in Syria from May through July, 2013 and was wounded, the NEWS.ru portal says citing a statement of Dagestan’s Interior Ministry. He returned to his native village in Dagestan via Turkey and Azerbaijan on July 19 to continue his treatment.

“Russia is concerned with the fact that about 200 militants from Russia are fighting on the side of the Imarat Kavkaz (also known as the Caucasian Emirate) terrorist organization under the banners of Al-Quaeda and other affiliated organizations,” Alexander Bortnikov, the Russian Federal Security Service director, told a meeting of the heads of security services and law enforcement agencies from foreign countries that are the Federal Security Service partners early in June. He said that militants from other countries were being sent to fight in Northern Africa.

“We agreed that this is a very serious threat for all states, not only for Russia and the CIS but also for Europe and the American continent,” Bortnikov emphasized. “The most dangerous thing is that these terrorists will finally return to countries where they came from,” he added.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has recently admitted that Chechen field commanders are participating in the Syrian war. The Russian Foreign Ministry press and information department said in a statement released on July 23 that a certain Abu-Musaab, a native of Chechnya, was heading an Islamist group fighting against Bashar al-Assad.

The statement followed a massacre of the local Kurds staged by Islamists in the north of Syria in retaliation for capturing their commander Abu-Musaab who used to call himself a Chechen. The Islamists, demanding his release, launched reprisals against the Kurdish civilians; they beheaded innocent people and took about 500 Kurds, mainly women, old people and children, hostage.

Abu-Musaab whose real name is unknown (using nicknames is a tradition among militants who embark on the Wahabi path) was set free. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Islamists are still holding about 200 civilian hostages who are being used as a live shield.

“Moscow resolutely condemns the atrocities of the terrorist international in the north-east of Syria,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in its statement. The ministry described the recent massacre in northern Syria as a bloody provocation designed to disintegrate the country and create a bridgehead for international terrorism in Syria.

The fact that Chechen militants are taking part in the Syrian conflict on the side of the opposition has many proofs, including on video tapes. However, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has been denying their involvement in the Syrian conflict all the time.

This month, the Syrian militants have executed Franciscan Father Francois Murad and one more person from his entourage for their links with the Syrian government troops. The militants beheaded them publicly and recorded the execution on a video tape. They constantly spoke Russian off-screen.

Last April, a brother of one of the abducted Syrian metropolitans, said that Chechen extremists from the Al-Nusra Front (Front of Defense for the People of Greater Syria) which is the local wing of Al-Quaeda, stood behind the kidnapping of the two clergymen. The Greek Orthodox Church sources confirmed that information to the media.

Usman Ferzauli, an advocate of Chechnya’s independence now residing in a West European country, had confirmed that Chechen militants were fighting in the ranks of the Syrian opposition in an interview which Kommersant daily published on Friday.

“It is hard to say for sure how many Chechens are fighting in Syria but I believe there must be more than a hundred,” Ferzauli, who called himself the foreign minister of the Republic of Ichkeria, clarified. According to him, most Chechen fighters in Syria come from Russia’s North Caucasus although there are also “European Chechens” whose parents fled war and moved to live in Europe during the first and second Chechen campaigns. Usman Ferzauli believes that all of them penetrate into Syria via Turkey.

He said that supporters of the Imarat Kavkaz terrorist organization, which is banned in Russia, called on Chechens to join the war on the side of the Syrian opposition. Imarat Kavkaz or the Caucasian Emirate is headed by Doku Umarov, the leader of underground armed groups operating in the North Caucasus. Another militant chieftain, Usa Umarov, is in charge of recruiting young Chechens for the Syrian opposition. Usa Umarov is a cousin of Movladi Udugov, the Imarat Kavkaz ideologist.

According to Usman Ferzauli, Umarov is in Syria but he regularly crosses the Russian border without problems to recruit new fighters.