Among the IS fighters involved in the offensive on Kobani are Russian-speaking North Caucasian and Azerbaijani militants with extensive experience in fighting in similar terrain, North Caucasian sources close to IS say.
One source who claims to have close ties to IS in Syria said that the North Caucasian fighters involved in the battle had experience fighting in mountainous terrain in their home countries.
While the information could not be independently verified, in the past few days, video footage of IS fighters in action near Kobani were posted to YouTube by the unofficial, pro-IS Amaq News, which appears to be embedded with IS units. The videos showed IS fighters speaking both Russian and Azeri.
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(Video footage showing Russian-speaking IS fighters advancing on Kobani)
That Russian-speaking fighters from North Caucasian jamaats (fighting units) are playing a key role in IS’s Kobani offensive is not surprising. IS military Emir Umar Shishani, an ethnic Chechen from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, is likely one of the military leaders directing the Kobani offensive. Umar took a group of experienced North Caucasian fighters with him when he formally pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in December last year.
That faction, which has since grown larger, has been referred to as the Al-Aqsa Brigade and has fought alongside Umar in other key battles including in Syria’s Deir Ezzor Province, is fiercely loyal to Umar Shishani.
Pro-IS social media accounts have not referred to the Al-Aqsa Brigade by name, but reports on October 8 mentioned a faction called the Jamaat Abu Kamil as fighting in Kobani and having experienced some losses.