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How Babur The Migrant Worker Became Jafar The Weeping Suicide Bomber

  • Joanna Paraszczuk

Perhaps in response to the video showing him crying shortly before he blew himself up, the Imam Bukhari Jamaat released another video which showed footage of Babur Israilov smiling and laughing.

Perhaps in response to the video showing him crying shortly before he blew himself up, the Imam Bukhari Jamaat released another video which showed footage of Babur Israilov smiling and laughing.

A suicide bomber whose last moments were filmed in a disturbing propaganda video last month has been identified as Babur Israilov, a 21-year-old citizen of Kyrgyzstan.

Israilov appeared in a video published on September 18 by an Uzbek-led militant group, the Imam Bukhari Jamaat, which is loyal to the Afghan Taliban.

The young ethnic Uzbek, whose nom de guerre was Jafar al-Tayyar, was filmed weeping as a group of militants helped him climb into an explosives-packed armored personnel carrier.

A few minutes later, the young man killed himself as he detonated his vehicle near the Shi'ite town of Fua in Syria's Idlib Province. Israilov had been deployed as part of a major assault on Syrian government forces by Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front.

Israilov's identity came to light when his relative, Khamidullo Botirov, who lives in the Suzak district in Kyrgyzstan's Jalal-Abad Province, saw the video on a cell phone. Botirov says he recognized the young man as his nephew and contacted the intelligence services.

The Teenager Who Went To Russia

Israilov was born in southern Kyrgyzstan in 1994.

His uncle, Botirov, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that Israilov's parents divorced when he was an infant. Israilov never knew his father, Takhir Rakhitov, who moved out of the family home after the divorce and later remarried.

In 1995, when Israilov was 18 months old, his mother -- Botirov's older sister -- died suddenly.

Israilov went to live with his uncle. But in November 2013, aged 19, he left Kyrgyzstan and went to live and work in Russia as a labor migrant.

It was there, it seems, that the young man became radicalized and recruited by the pro-Taliban extremist group he joined in Syria.

Israilov was filmed weeping as he climbed into his explosives-laden APC in a previous video released by the Imam Bukhari Jamaat.

Israilov was filmed weeping as he climbed into his explosives-laden APC in a previous video released by the Imam Bukhari Jamaat.

"I was against his going to Russia, but he didn't listen to me," Botirov told RFE/RL. "I was afraid that he would get into bad company."

During the first few months Israilov was in Moscow, Botirov says he spoke to his nephew by telephone a couple of times. Israilov even sent money home.

But then, the young man changed his name from Babur to Abdullah, his uncle recalls. And by spring of 2014, Israilov had disappeared.

"After March, he was gone. I thought that maybe things weren't working out for him or he'd fallen into someone's clutches," Botirov says.

Botirov is left wondering why his nephew's life ended as it did. He believes that maybe he had been too strict with Israilov.

"I never thought something like that could happen to him," Botirov said. "I'm so, so sorry."

Israilov's father also recognized his son in the video.

Rakhitov said that although he played no part in his son's upbringing, he never stopped caring about him.

"If I'd have brought him up myself, this would probably never have happened," Rakhitov said. "I want to say to other parents: Watch your children. Don't let them go down the wrong path."

Not Just IS

It would be significant if Israilov was, in fact, recruited in Russia to fight for the Taliban-aligned Imam Bukhari Jamaat in Syria.

Another image of a smiling Babur Israilov from a video released by the Imam Bukhari Jamaat

Another image of a smiling Babur Israilov from a video released by the Imam Bukhari Jamaat

It would show that it is not just the Islamic State (IS) group that is involved with recruitment and radicalization among Central Asian labor migrants in Russia.

Israilov's recruitment raises the question of whether other militant groups led by or involving groups of Central Asians in Syria are also actively recruiting among labor migrants in Russia.

According to the Kyrgyz security forces, 84 Kyrgyz nationals from Israilov's native Jalal-Abad Province are in Syria, including four minors. Fourteen people from the province have been killed in fighting.

The Weeping Suicide Bomber

RFE/RL's story of the Uzbek-speaking suicide bomber who was filmed weeping in the final moments of his life has raised questions about how the Imam Bukhari Jamaat persuaded him to blow himself up in Syria.

The story prompted Uzbek-language discussions on the Internet about why the young man was crying. Had he been coerced? Brainwashed?

Apparently in response to the discussions, the Imam Bukhari Jamaat released another video on September 28 which showed footage of Israilov smiling and laughing.

The group's leader, Salahuddin al-Uzbeki, a veteran militant with links to the Taliban, is also seen praising Israilov.

"While there are brave ones like this among the ummah [global community of Muslims], Allah will never let them be devoured by the infidels."

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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