Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya
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|Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya
(Arabic: المجاهدين العرب في الشيشان)
Jihadist black flag and Coat Of Arms of the ChRI
|Allegiance||Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Caucasus Emirate since 2007
|Size||500 - 700|
|Engagements||First Chechen War
Second Chechen War
Insurgency in the North Caucasus
|Fathi al-Jordani 1995-1997
Abdurahman al-Zarki 1997-2000
Ibn al-Khattab 2000-2002
Abu al-Walid 2002-2004
Abu Hafs al-Urduni 2004-2006
The Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya (Arabic: المجاهدين العرب في الشيشان, Al-Moojahadeen Al-'Arab fee Al-Shishan; Russian: Арабские моджахеды в Чечне, Arabskiye Muzhakhady v Chechnye) is an international unit of Islamist Mujahideen fighting in Chechnya and other parts of the North Caucasus.
It was created by Fathi al-Jordani in 1995 during the First Chechen War, where it fought against the Russian Federation in favor of Chechnya's independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Since the outbreak of the Second Chechen War it played an important part in further Chechen resistance.
The unit has been known by several names throughout its existence. Examples include the Mujahideen in Chechnya, the Islamic Regiment, the Islamic Battalion, the Arabs in Chechnya and the Ansaar in Chechnya. The term 'Arab Mujahideen' is often used by one of the rebels' official media outlets, Kavkaz Center.
Although the core of the unit has always consisted of Arab volunteers, a large number of its members are in fact non-Arab (most notably Turkish) and some trace their ancestry to the Caucasus. It is not to be confused with the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR), al-Qaeda’s 055 Brigade or the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB).
Foreign Mujahideen have played an important part in both First and Second Chechen Wars. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent Chechen declaration of independence, foreign fighters started entering the region and associated themselves with Chechen rebels, most notably Shamil Basayev with whom Khattab build up a friendship. Many of them were veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war and prior to the Russian invasion, they used their expertise to train the Chechen separatists.
During the First Chechen War they were notorious and feared for their guerilla tactics, inflicting severe casualties on the badly prepared Russian forces. The mujahideen also made a significant financial contribution to the separatists’ cause; with their access to the immense wealth of Salafist charities like al-Haramein, they soon became an invaluable source of funds for the Chechen resistance, which had little resources of its own.
After the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya most of the mujahideen decided to remain in the country, including Khattab who married a woman from Dagestan. In 1999, foreign fighters played an important role in the Invasion of Dagestan. Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and Khattab had created the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade which was composed of Chechen Arab and Dagestani fighters. The invasion was started in support of the Shura of Dagestan separatist rebels. After the battle they retreated back into Chechnya. The incursion provided the new Russian government with a pretext for intervention and in December 1999 Russian ground forces invaded Chechnya again.
Since the outbreak of the Second Chechen War the Arab Mujahideen played another important part, both for delivering fighters and their financial contributions. It was during this time that the Russians succeeded in eliminating the most prominent mujahideen commanders Khattab and Abu al-Walid.
The battalion is mostly composed of Arab and Turkish Jihadists. Its first Emir (leader) was Ibn Al-Khattab (Saudi) who was killed in March 2002 and succeeded by Abu al-Walid (Saudi), who was killed in April 2004. His successor became Abu Hafs al-Urduni (Jordanian) who was killed in November 2006. He was succeeded by Muhannad (Saudi), who was killed in a clash with security forces in the Chechen village of Serzhen-Yurt on 21 April 2011. The battalion is split into multiple units of Mujahideen commanded by their respective Emirs.
- "The radicalisation of the Chechen separatist movement: Myth or reality?". The Prague Watchdog. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
- "Emir Muhannad: The Last of Chechnya’s Arab Volunteers". The Jamestown Foundation. 29 April 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
- Paul Tumelty (January 31, 2006). "The Rise and Fall of Foreign Fighters in Chechnya". Terrorism Monitor (Jamestown Foundation) 4 (2).