Moscow, April 3 (IANS/RIA Novosti) A new website to promote the activity of a Syrian rebel group has been launched in the Russian language, thereby leading to concerns that Russian Islamists are involved in the Syrian civil war.
Fisyria.com is a standalone videofeed comprising four entries till April 2, the first posted March 25.
Most entries deal with Jaish al-Muhajireen wa Ansar (“Army of the Emigrants and Helpers”), a group that was created in March from a merger of several smaller rebel units.
The videos include a mission statement from Jaish, whose spokesman says the group is fighting to install Islamic Shariah law in Syria, a pledge of allegiance by newly joined recruits, an after-action report on the battle for a military base in Aleppo, and a report of a bombing of a Syrian town.
The website claims Jaish comprises about 1,000 soldiers, including an unspecified number of foreign volunteers, some of them from the “Caucasus Emirate”.
However, the crowd shown in the videos appears to number no more than an estimated hundred or two. All are armed with automatic rifles, and a “technical” – a pickup truck with a machine gun mounted in the back – is parked on the side.
Jaish is led by Abu Omar al-Shishani, a post on the website said. Western media earlier reported that the man, also known as Abu Omar al-Chechen, was a native of the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya.
Jaish’s previous incarnation, Kataeb al-Muhajireen, was reported to have been fighting for control of Aleppo since last fall alongside the Al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.
The Russian North Caucasus has a thriving jihadist movement – a legacy of two Chechen wars in the 1990s and 2000s – but their involvement in Syria remains open to question.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has claimed that no Chechens were to be found among the rebels fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict.
But a month after Kadyrov’s statement, the son of a late prominent Chechen jihadist warlord was killed in the battle for Aleppo.
Between 100,000 and 150,000 natives of the Caucasus have lived in Syria for over a century, but analysts said the diaspora is attempting to maintain neutrality in the ongoing civil war.