The Islamic State extremist group's North Caucasus affiliate, Wilayat al-Qawqaz (Caucasus Province) has issued a call for would-be militants in Russia to join it and fight against Russian forces rather than joining IS in Syria.
In a video message released last week by Furat Media, IS's official Russian-language media wing, the leader of IS's Caucasus Province in Daghestan, Abu Mukhammad Kadarsky (Rustam Asilderov), said this was the wish of IS's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
"We ask that you obey the order of the Caliph (IS leader), the Qadi (religious judge) of the Caliphate (IS's term for the lands under its control), and participate -- I mean the Muslims of the Caucasus, that they [should] go out and wage jihad in the Caucasus," Kadarsky said.
Fight At Home, Not In Syria?
In recent months, IS's Russian contingent has made numerous propaganda efforts to encourage would-be militants from the Russian Federation to join its ranks -- in Syria and Iraq.
These efforts appear to have been successful. Although exact numbers are unknown, the number of Russian-speaking militants fighting alongside IS seems to have expanded over the last year -- though it is likely that the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB) estimate of 2,400 Russian nationals is exaggerated.
But as new recruits entered its ranks, IS's Russian contingent has also seen heavy losses, particularly in Kobani in Syria and in Baiji in Iraq.
So with IS's Russian battalions needing fresh recruits to replace those killed, why has Furat Media published a call from IS's Caucasus Province asking new recruits to join IS and fight in Russia rather than Syria?
The answer is likely that IS's Russian contingent does not see the Caucasus Province's recruitment call as a serious threat to its own recruitment activities.
Despite the propaganda, IS's Caucasus Province is weak and unlikely to attract large numbers of recruits to swell its ranks in the forests of Daghestan, particularly as winter draws near.
The Caucasus Province does not control territory in Russia and its structure has been damaged by extensive counterterrorism operations targeting militant leaders. In August, Russia killed Islam Muradov, the leader of a Daghestan-based militant group who pledged allegiance to IS in December 2014.
Significantly, the Caucasus Province has carried out no major attacks since militants in the North Caucasus first began to pledge allegiance to IS last December.
The one attack IS has claimed to have carried out -- against a Russian military barracks in the Magaramkentsky district of southern Daghestan on September 2 -- was never independently confirmed.
Indeed, local residents denied the attack ever happened, saying there are no military units in the area, only a frontier post.
Boosting IS In Syria
Curiously, the U.S. Treasury Department referred to the alleged Daghestan attack in its announcement on September 29 that it had blacklisted the Caucasus Province as a terror group.
The United States can impose financial sanctions and penalties on blacklisted groups. But this is unlikely to have any material impact on IS's Caucasus Province.
However, the kudos associated with being blacklisted by the United States -- and of being accused of perpetrating a major attack in Russia -- will boost the prestige of IS's Russian contingent.
The blacklisting will especially please Abu Jihad (Islam Seit-Umarovich Atabiev), the IS militant who has spearheaded the message of support for "jihad" in the North Caucasus as a way of projecting power.
An ethnic Karachai from Russia's Karachayevo-Cherkessia Republic, Abu Jihad has led an increasingly bitter power struggle between IS's Russian-speaking contingent and its rival, the North Caucasus's home-grown insurgent group the Caucasus Emirate.
But Abu Jihad's efforts to portray himself as a jihadi leader for whom the Islamist struggle in the North Caucasus is a major concern has aroused scorn and anger among militants in Syria who have remained loyal to the Caucasus Emirate.
Militants from Imarat Kavkaz V Shame, the Caucasus Emirate's affiliate in Syria, refer to Abu Jihad as "Abu Jahili" (Abu Ignorant) and "Abu Kazzab" (Abu Liar) and accuse him of stirring up fitna -- sedition -- among Russian-speaking fighters in Syria and in the North Caucasus.
They also say Abu Jihad and IS in general are only pretending to care about jihad in the North Caucasus, in order to advance themselves and attract new recruits.
"If he cares so much about the Caucasus, why doesn't he go fight there himself?" one Aleppo-based North Caucasian militant, who would not give his name, said of Abu Jihad.