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Germany Reportedly Concerned About Radicalization Of Chechen Diaspora

German authorities are particularly concerned about Chechens from the diaspora in Germany fighting with the Junud al-Sham faction in Latakia led by an ethnic Chechen from the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, Muslim al-Shishani.

The German authorities are concerned about the radicalization of the country's Chechen diaspora population, according to local media reports.

Around 500 Germans are thought to be fighting in Syria with the Islamic State (IS) group. According to Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, many of the Germans in Syria have an immigrant background.

Social-media accounts belonging to Russian-speaking militants in Syria have revealed that a number of Chechens from diaspora communities in Germany and Austria are fighting in Syria, including with the IS group, as well as with Chechen-led factions.

At least one of Germany's Chechen diaspora, a Russian-speaking militant who goes by the name Adam al-Almani ("the German") is fighting with Islamic State in Kobani as part of the Chechen-led Al-Aqsa Brigade.

Among the ethnic Chechen militants known to have come to Syria via Austria are Abu Abdullakh al-Shishani (real name Khamzat Achishvili). Originally from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, Achishvili spent most of his life in Austria before going to Syria. In Syria, Achishvili reportedly married the daughter of Chechnya's Federal Migration Service, Seda Dudurkayeva, before his death last summer.

However, German news reports say the authorities are particularly concerned about Chechens from the diaspora in Germany fighting with the Junud al-Sham faction in Latakia. That faction is led by an ethnic Chechen from the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, Muslim Abu Walid al-Shishani (Murad Margoshvili). Muslim al-Shishani is a veteran jihadi who fought in the second Russo-Chechen war alongside prominent Arab foreign fighters Ibn al-Khattab and Abu al-Walid.

German news reports, based on the December 7 edition of the "Frankfurter Allgemeine" newspaper, say that an ethnic Chechen from Bavaria had been killed fighting alongside Junud al-Sham, but did not say when or give the man's name.

The reports quoted an anonymous source in the German domestic security agency as saying that Muslim al-Shishani is an "idol for the Islamist scene in Germany."

The reports also claimed that around a quarter of the approximately 40 cases brought against German nationals for support of jihadist groups in Syria are related to support for Junud al-Sham. A 31-year-old German man arrested in the Cologne area in November was suspected of helping recruit Germans to fight with militant groups in Syria, including the Islamic State group and Junud al-Sham.

Until recently, German-speaking supporters of Muslim al-Shishani and Junud al-Sham published propaganda material about the group in German. These supporters also produced a German-language version of a biographical video that told the story of Muslim al-Shishani's past life as a militant in the North Caucasus, where he was affiliated to the Caucasus Emirate.

In September, the U.S. State Department designated Junud al-Sham leader Muslim al-Shishani a foreign terrorist fighter.

The State Department announced that Muslim al-Shishani is "a well-known Chechen leader in Syria who built a terrorist training base in Syria near the Turkish border, where newly arrived foreign fighters received combat training. He is also the leader of Junud al-Sham, a militant group that fights alongside other extremist groups in Syria."

It is likely that the designation was at least in part a result of the influence of Muslim al-Shishani and his group in Germany and Austria.

Muslim al-Shishani has also served time in prison in Ingushetia in the North Caucasus on charges of involvement in an illegal armed group. He was arrested in 2003, sentenced in 2004, and released in 2006.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

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.


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