By: Hasan Mustafa – This analysis has been published on the blog From Chechnya to Syria.
Following further correspondence with a member of Jamaat Ahadun Ahad, important information regarding this new battalion has been revealed. According to Abu Fulan al-Muhajir, Jamaat Ahadun Ahad (Group of the One and Only) boasts around 250-300 fighters, with the leadership being mainly Chechen. Much of the group’s social media activities are conducted in English, Turkish, Arabic and Russian, with recruitment primarily targeting foreigners.
According to Khilafa.org, a Russian-language jihadist website, Jamaat Ahadun Ahad consists of four Chechen Muhajir groups and two Syrian Ansar groups (mostly Syrian Turkmens from Reef Latakia). The leader of the Jamaat was named as Amir Al-Bara Shishani. Little is known about Amir Al-Bara Shishani, and Abu Fulan al-Muhajir declined to give any further information stating, “We are actually not much into writing about individuals, that includes Al-Bara. We are only doing this for the sake of Allah. Not for the name of a group or Amir.”
This is a prominent concept in Islam where believers are urged to carry out deeds only for the sake of God and not for fame or recognition. Drawing attention to one’s deeds is highly undesirable and this, among others, is perhaps a reason leaders of this group prefer to fight in relative secrecy. However most other Chechen commanders in Syria are highly famous such as Omar al-Shishani who is a prominent leader in the Islamic State.
Abu Fulan tweeted that Amir Al-Bara Shishani has fought under the command of Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Indeed, in an official statement released by JAA (in English, Arabic and Turkish), the group states that they are run by a Shura’a Council consisting of mujahideen with “great pasts in the lands of jihad in Chechnya and Afghanistan.” They also stated that their Shura’a Council “only rules by what Allah swt has ordered” (referring to Islamic Shari’a). The statement also reiterated that Jamaat Ahadun Ahad is an independent brigade and does not belong to any other faction, nor has it previously. Abu Fulan al-Muhajir further stressed that despite having a North Caucasian leadership, none of the fighters in the group have ba’yah (allegiance) to the Caucasus Emirate as many other Chechen fighters in Syria do. Jamaat Ahadun Ahad has a close relationship with other rebel groups active in Latakia, particularly with Muslim Abu-Walid Shishani’s Junud ash-Sham. The two Chechen groups fight alongside each other and cooperate together in operations.
In regards to jihadist infighting Jamaat Ahadun Ahad has declared neutrality, preferring to focus its efforts against the Syrian regime. However jihadist groups in Latakia were always closer with Jabhat al-Nusra than with the Islamic State. Their position so far has been to follow the scholars of the Ummah (Islamic community), and most jihadist scholars and ideologues have rejected the IS Caliphate. As such it can be reasoned that while not hostile to IS, Jamaat Ahadun Ahad is in disagreement with them.
Jamaat Ahadun Ahad has also released a video of its soldiers carrying out ribat (garrisoning) in Latakia. The video consists mostly of pictures of JAA fighters and is centered on a single encampment in a heavily forested area. The fighters are mostly armed with light weapons, with the heaviest weapon operated being a mortar. A few light vehicles are also present.
Another video released by the group on its YouTube channel shows a training camp operated in a forest clearing somewhere in Latakia. Fighters carry out drills, practice ambushes, assaults and patrols. Jamaat Ahadun Ahad appears to be well-armed and well-equipped. It can be assumed that those covering their faces are perhaps foreign fighters (covering for safety reasons).
Official Statement released by Jamaat Ahadun Ahad:
“In The Name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful
We thank Allah swt for granting us this blessing of jihad.
We announce the formation of a new coalition, Jamaat Ahadun Ahad. To explain it shortly:
– We are not a new group. We have united some independent muhajireen groups here in Shaam.
– It is run by a shoura council, and only rules by what Allah swt has ordered.
– The shoura council consists of mujahideen with a great past on the lands of jihad in Chechnya and Afghanistan.
– Our group has never previously, and doesn’t currently belong to any fractions.
Ya Allah make our steps firm, accept our good deeds, protect us from showing off, arrogance and trials.”
Note: Some of the information presented in this report was stated to be incorrect by both Abu Fulan al-Muhajir and Jamaat Ahadun Ahad itself (through their official Twitter account). Both declined to clarify what exactly was incorrect due to security reasons. Most likely it was a reference to the following, which has been edited out of the main body of the report.
“The leaders of the four Chechen brigades were named as Amir Al-Bara Shishani (also named the overall commander), Amir Abdul-Hakim Shishani, Amir Zumso Shishani (a leader of the independent Tarkhan’s Jamaat) and Amir Abu Ubayda Shishani. Most likely, Amir Abdul-Hakim Shishani refers to the leader of the independent Chechen Khalifat Jamaat active in Latakia. The leaders of the Ansar groups were listed as Abu Samir al-Ansari and Abu Umar al-Ansari.”
This information has been left here (with a note) however as both the Khalifat Jamaat and Tarkhan’s Jamaat were independent Chechen brigades operating in Latakia and both participated in the Al-Anfal Offensive. And the leaders of these two brigades did indeed have “a great past in the lands of jihad in Chechnya…”But the inclusion of Tarkhan’s Jamaat would go against their official statement where they stated that the group has never previously belonged to any factions. Tarkhan’s Jamaat once pledged its allegiance to Doku Umarov of the Caucasus Emirate.
As such it will remain pending further clarification regarding the group’s leadership, but for the timebeing it is to be viewed with skepticism.
It is somewhat fascinating that the Jamaat itself is reading my analysis.