A court in Naberezhnye Chelny in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan has sentenced a local man to one year's imprisonment in a penal colony for fighting with a Chechen-led militant group in Syria.
According to a January 19 report by Chelny-biz.ru, a local news portal in Naberezhnye Chelny, 25-year-old Rishat Idrisov pleaded guilty to the charges against him. The investigation also found that Idrisov's actions in Syria would lead to Russia being "discredited in the international arena" and would hinder the preservation of international peace, security and interstate relations, the report said.
The reports of Idrisov's trial and the charges against him, as they relate to his alleged activities in Syria, are sketchy and appear somewhat confused as to which group he fought for. However, it is possible to draw some tentative conclusions about which militant group Idrisov was likely with, based on key details included in the reports.
According to the reports, Idrisov took part in a "Caucasian" military training camp near the city of Haritan in Syria's Aleppo province.
From November to December 2013, Idrisov was responsible for guarding territory in Al-Mallah in Aleppo, the reports said. During this time, Idrisov also carried out other duties for the armed group he was with. The reports said this group was Islamic State.
In December 2013, Idrisov left the group he was with and joined Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, where he also carried out guard duties for facilities and areas under the control of the group.
The details in the report strongly point to the probability that Idrisov had always been part of the Chechen-led group Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA), and that he remained with it in December 2013 when the group split, with a large faction transferring their loyalties to the Islamic State group, then known as ISIS or ISIL.
Prior to December 2013, at the time when the reports say that Idrisov was fighting with the Islamic State group, JMA was under the command of Umar Shishani, a Kist from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. Umar had brought his men from JMA to fight alongside what was then-ISIS in a number of offensives in Aleppo province, the largest of which was the successful attack against the Syrian government-held Menagh air base in August 2013.
Umar was later named as ISIS's military commander in northern Syria, and in December 2013 he formally left JMA -- taking a large group of his loyal followers with him -- and swore allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Umar's switch of allegiance to Baghdadi and ISIS led to a split in JMA, with some members of the group choosing to remain loyal to the Caucasus Emirate and its then-leader, Doku Umarov. Following that split, JMA branded itself as the Caucasus Emirate's official branch in Syria.
The details given in the reports of Idrisov's conviction suggest that he was among those who chose not to follow Umar to ISIS, but to remain with JMA and loyal to the Caucasus Emirate.
In November 2013, when Idrisov was undertaking his training in the military facility, JMA under Umar Shishani was based in Haritan, Aleppo province as the reports stated. JMA continued to be based in Haritan after Umar Shishani and his group left to join ISIS.
Idrisov is the second Tatarstan resident to have been convicted and given a prison sentence for fighting in Syria.
In December, a court in Kazan sentenced 27-year-old Raif Mustafin to three years and 10 months in a general corrective prison colony for fighting in a militant group in Syria.
Mustafin, who went to Syria in 2012, was part of a "Tatar jamaat" but had initially used his fluent Arabic to join an Arabic-speaking group.
A man who had lived in Kazan in Tatarstan was apparently executed earlier this month by Islamic State, which accused him of being a Russian agent. The man, Sergei Ashimov, was born in Karaganda in Kazakhstan but later moved to Kazan in Tatarstan, according to Russian and social media sources.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk