Interfax: Self-styled groups, not soldiers, fighting Islamic State – Chechen source

Map of Area Spanning Portions of Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, highlighting military engagements against ISIL

(Interfax – Moscow, February 9, 2016)

There are self-styled groups of young people from Chechnya fighting the Islamic State terrorist group [ISIS] (which is banned in the Russian Federation) in Syria and Iraq, a source within the leadership of the Chechen Republic told Interfax.

“There have been people from the Chechen Republic in the area of armed conflict in Syria and Iraq since the very beginning of the appearance of Islamic State. Those are self-styled groups of young people aiming to fight the terrorist organization,” the source said.

The source said that “none of those fighting is a soldier of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation or a member of units of the Russian Interior Ministry”.

The source added that the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov had never said that there were special forces of the Russian law enforcement agencies in Syria stationed in the Chechen Republic.

“We know perfectly what kind of a threat comes from international terrorist organizations operating in Syria and Iraq. In order to counter those threats, it is necessary to possess operational information and know who from Chechnya and other regions are members of ISIS, and it is necessary to take preventive measures on the spot. These people [self-styled groups] are tackling this and other tasks,” the source said.

The source also said that there are also people who went to the conflict area at their own initiative, and their sole purpose is to find and eliminate their blood feud enemies, who were involved in the killings of their relatives and close friends committed by militants.

“Naturally, all these people describe themselves as supporters of ISIS. This is an extremely difficult task. So, there have been cases where some of them were exposed, and it is not difficult to guess what happens next,” the source said.

The source said that those people do big work, having no legal status, risking their lives every minute and suffering losses.

According to the source, those people helped trace channels of recruitment, training areas and delivery routes of militants into the conflict zone from different countries.

When asked a clarifying question, the person said that they had no information about who those people were.

“Apparently, those who are supposed to know do know that,” the source within the Chechen leadership told Interfax.

[BBCM note: The comment comes following Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s statement on the “Vesti Nedeli” programme aired by official Russian TV channel Rossiya 1 on 7 February that people from Chechnya are fighting behind Islamic State lines in Syria.

The TV programme showed the training of a Chechen special-purpose unit whose fighters are reportedly prepared to be sent to Syria on a secret mission to fight the Islamic State group.]

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