Chechen fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham are taking part in clashes between ISIS and Kurdish factions in Syrian Kurdistan, near the border with Turkey.
Piecing together the information from Kurdish and Chechen sources, it seems that “ISIS” in this case is not a unified faction with a central goal, but is acting as a loosely-connected collection of factions who are fighting for local control of resources and territory. They are certainly not participating in any wider attempts to fight regime forces. This particular Chechen group is using various aspects of jihadi ideology to give a semblance of sectarianism to what are essentially opportunistic attacks to target resources.
Social media accounts belonging to the fighters say that two Chechens were killed this week, one named Umar Shishani (not ISIS military Amir Umar Shishani).
The clashes are taking place near Ayn al-Arab (Kobanê).
The Chechen sources mention a Kurdish village named Sirin, also mentioned in this account from a Kurdish source, which talks about the clashes:
On the other hand, a separate group affiliated to the ISIS attacked the Girê Sor town of Kobanê where they were ambushed by YPG fighters, according to the reports provided by the YPG spokesperson. Seven members of the gang group were killed and two others wounded in clashes. ISIS groups were also ambushed by YPG forces as they attempted to move towards the Kurdish-inhabited Mitras village in the Sirin town of Kobanê
A video of the aftermath of the attack (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES OF DEAD FIGHTERS) taken on a cellphone:
The video starts off in Chechen, and the fighters then meet some Russian-speaking jihadis, one of whom gives a short speech berating those who “sit at home” instead of waging jihad; the fighters then come across several dead Kurdish fighters killed in the assault on the grain elevator.
Significance of the assault:
The Chechen source talks of clashes around a grain elevator in Sirin, in an attempt to gain control of this important resource:
In the last three days there have been an assault on an elevator [grain elevator] near the Syrian border with Turkey on Kurdish villages (PKK), this place is still kept by the Islamic Front but they passed it to the Kurds (PKK)… the brothers [i.e. ISIS forces] took the elevator and lots of useful industrial products which will be of immense help for the peaceful population of the Islamic State (about 70 thousand tons of grain ) and give a lot of workplaces to Muslims …
By the will of Allah our brothers Umar Shishani and AbduRohman Shishan were killed and two brothers were wounded (not very bad wounds they soon returned to duty)…
More than 15 Kurds (PKK) were killed and there are prisoners.
To recap, this Chechen faction is not battling for any specific cause i.e. against Syrian regime forces but is merely fighting other local groups, in this case the Kurds, for local control of resources and territory. It is clear why ISIS has clashed with insurgent factions like the Islamic Front, because these ISIS factions act independently, attacking and taking IF-controlled resources and battling other groups. By using various aspects of jihadi ideology — e.g. by here saying that the capture of the grain elevator will provide “jobs for Muslims”, they are painting a thin veneer of sectarian motives over what are in reality merely opportunistic attacks to gain resources.
Featured image: One of the Chechens killed in the fighting, who also happens to be named Umar Shishani.