Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar
|Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar
جيش المهاجرين والأنصار
|Participant in the Syrian civil war|
|Leaders||Abu Omar al-Shishani (Summer 2012 – Winter 2013)
Salahuddin al-Shishani (December 2013 - Present)
|Aleppo and Latakia Governorates, Syria|
|Strength||1,000 fighters (March 2013)
200 fighters (December 2013)
|Part of|| Caucasus Emirate
|Originated as||Muhajireen Brigade (Katibat al-Muhajireen)|
|Allies|| Syria Revolutionaries Front
Army of Mujahedeen
Harakat Sham al-Islam
|Opponents|| Syrian Armed Forces
National Defense Force
Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA, Arabic: جيش المهاجرين والأنصار Army of Emigrants and Supporters), formerly known as the Muhajireen Brigade (Katibat al-Muhajireen), is an Islamist jihadist group made up of Chechen and other Russian-speaking foreign fighters, and native Syrians, active in the Syrian civil war against the Syrian Government. The group was briefly affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
The group was established under the name Muhajireen Brigade in summer 2012, and was led by an ethnic Chechen, Abu Omar al-Shishani (alternatively called Abu Omar al-Chechen), an Islamist fighter from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge  who had fought against Russia in the Second Chechen War and the Russia-Georgia War. While Syrian jihadist groups like Ahrar ash-Sham and Al-Nusra included many foreign jihadists who had traveled to Syria to fight with the rebels, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar was composed of largely non-Syrian fighters from the beginning.
Role in the Syrian civil war
The group became involved in the Battle of Aleppo against the Syrian Army. The group lost ten men in two days in late September 2012 in a confrontation with the Syrian Army; the unit subsequently redeployed after receiving insufficient support from other rebels.
The Muhajireen Brigade went on to participate in major assaults against Syrian military bases in alliance with other jihadist units. In October 2012, they assisted the Al-Nusra Front in a raid on the 606 Rocket Brigade, an air defense and Scud missile base in Aleppo. In December 2012, they fought alongside Al-Nusra Front during the overrunning of the Sheikh Suleiman Army base in Western Aleppo. In February 2013, together with the Tawhid Brigades and Al-Nusra Front, they stormed the base of the Syrian military's 80th Regiment near the main airport in Aleppo.
The group played a key role in the August 2013 capture of Menagh Air Base, which culminated in a VBIED driven by two of their members killing and wounding many of the last remaining Syrian Armed Forces defenders. A branch of the Muhajireen Brigade was involved in the 2013 Latakia offensive.
In August 2013, Abu Omar released a statement announcing the expulsion of one of his commanders, Emir Seyfullah, and 27 of his men from the group. He accused the men of embezzlement and stirring up the animosity of local Syrians against the foreign fighters by indulging in takfir—excommunication—against other Muslims. However, Seyfullah rejected these charges, instead claiming that he had been expelled because he had opposed Abu Omar's plan to merge JMA with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Following the announcement of the death of Caucasus Emirate leader Dokka Umarov in March 2014, a statement from the North Caucasian members of JMA was posted on the rebel Kavkaz Center website pledging allegiance to his successor, Ali Abu Mukhammad.
In February 2014, JMA joined the Ahl Al-Sham Operations room, a joint command consisting of the main Aleppo-based rebel groups including Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front), the Islamic Front and the Army of Mujahedeen. In the months that followed, JMA reportedly spearheaded many of the assaults on Syrian Government-controlled areas of Western Aleppo.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
In late November 2013, in a statement posted by the group online, Abu Omar swore a bay'at—oath of allegiance—to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The statement claimed that those members of the group who had sworn a prior bay'at to Dokka Umarov, leader of the Caucasus Emirate, were awaiting approval from Umarov before also joining ISIS. Many of the Chechen members of the group did not support Abu Omar's decision to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and in December 2013, they appointed another Chechen known as Salahuddin al-Shishani as their commander. The group has since operated independently and fights alongside many groups that ISIS has clashed with.
The group is composed of diverse nationalities. The Chechen rebel news agency Kavkaz Center has described the Muhajireen Brigade as being made up of Mujahideen from the Caucasus Emirate, Russia, Ukraine, Crimea and other CIS countries. Many of them are veterans from other conflicts. Members killed fighting for the group have included ethnic Azeris, Tajiks, Kazakhs and Dagestanis. The Syrian rebels refer to them as "Turkish brothers". As the group expanded, it integrated also native Syrians into its membership.
The group's leadership structure consists of a military leadership, a sharia committee, a shura council and a media arm, Liwa al-Mujahideen al-Ilami. The latter is the same name as a media group established by foreign mujahideen fighting in the Bosnian war.
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- Vatchagaev, Mairbek (9 August 2013). "Influence of Chechen Leader of North Caucasian Fighters in Syria Grows". Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- "Syria Spotlight: Insurgent Split — The Dispute Between Abu Umar al-Shishani & His Deputy, Seyfullakh the Chechen". 23 November 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- "North Caucasus Fighters in Syria Pledge Allegiance to Umarov's Successor". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
- "Chechen-led group swears allegiance to head of Islamic State of Iraq and Sham". Long War Journal. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
- "Increasing Numbers of Central Asian Jihadists in Syria". Central Asia-Caucasus Institute. 2 October 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
- "12 Azeri jihadists reported killed in Syria". Long War Journal. 2 April 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
- "Tajik, Kazakh, and Russian fighters killed in Syria". Long War Journal. 4 April 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
- "Сирија, почиње џихад" [Syria, the Jihad begins] (in Serbian). Radio Television of Serbia. 23 September 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
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- Akhbar Sham (Russian)