In a short video address
dated July 30, a group of Syrian fighters has appealed to Muslims in the North Caucasus to wage jihad in Russia rather than travel to Syria to participate in the fighting there. Specifically, they refer to the recent appeal by self-styled Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov to prevent the holding of the Winter Olympic Games
in Sochi in February 2014.
The address is delivered by a wheelchair-bound fighter identified as Salakhuddin who appears to have lost both legs. He is surrounded by seven masked fighters armed with heavy machine guns and grenade launchers.
Speaking in accented Russian, Salakhuddin begins by conveying Ramadan greetings to Muslims across Russia, and specifically to Umarov, whom he refers to as “our emir." (He is wearing a black T-shirt bearing the slogan "Caucasus Emirate.")
Salakhuddin says there has been a “huge influx of volunteers” from the North Caucasus to join the armed opposition in Syria. He attributes that wave of volunteers to a widely held belief that "Syria is where you go to join the jihad."
Salakhuddin says it is understandable that Muslims from those areas of Russia where there is no jihad should share that belief, but that Muslims in the North Caucasus have an obligation to remain at home and fight there, even though conditions are far more difficult in terms of weaponry, support, and the possibility of withdrawing from the front to the rear. He cites a sura from the Koran in support of that argument.
Salakhuddin further advises North Caucasus Muslims to "fight in the lowlands if you can’t go to the mountains,"or alternatively to travel to Moscow or other Russian cities to target the enemy there, or prepare to sabotage the Winter Olympics in line with Umarov’s instructions.
He points out that jihad does not necessarily involve joining a large fighting force, and that individuals or groups of up to three fighters can inflict considerable damage if they set their minds to it. In that context, he quotes Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev's observation that "modern technology enables one man to inflict irreparable damage on the infrastructure of the enemy state."
How many fighters from the North Caucasus are fighting in Syria
and who recruits them remains unclear. The Russian daily "Kommersant" claimed last week
that there are 100 Chechen fighters in Syria.
The paper quoted Russian Interior Ministry officials as having identified Isa Umarov (no relation to Doku), whose cousin Movladi Udugov is one of the main ideologues of the Caucasus Emirate, as a recruiting officer.
Also last week, the republic of Daghestan's authorities released a statement
denouncing the participation of an estimated 200 Daghestani volunteers in the fighting in Syria.
Police in Novo Sasitli, near Daghestan's administrative border with Chechnya, recently apprehended a 46-year-old Daghestani who had been wounded while fighting in Syria
and returned home to recuperate.