ISIS commander Tarkhan Batirashvili–aka, “Omar the Chechen”–warns that Russia will soon be targeted by the terrorist group.
Breitbart According to The Moscow Times, “Batirashvili has gained a fearsome reputation throughout the conflict in Syria.” Bloomberg News reports that he now seeks “revenge” on Russia over Moscow’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
When the Islamic State commander known as “Omar the Chechen” called to tell his father they’d routed the Iraqi army and taken the city of Mosul, he added a stark message: Russia would be next. “He said ‘don’t worry dad, I’ll come home and show the Russians,’” Temur Batirashvili said from his home in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, on the border with the Russian region of Chechnya. “I have many thousands following me now and I’ll get more. We’ll have our revenge against Russia.”
He gave voice to plans for this revenge while talking on the phone with his father, who lives in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge. He told his father: “Don’t worry dad, I’ll come home soon and show the Russians… I have many thousands following me and I’ll get more. We’ll have our revenge on the Russians.”
Batirashvili’s son Tarkhan comes from an area that Russian President Vladimir Putin accuses of aiding Islamist rebellions that he’s spent more than a decade trying to crush. While Russia is focusing on the conflict in Ukraine, Georgians remember the humiliation in a five-day war in 2008, when Putin helped cement the separatist movements in the provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The red-bearded commander now known by the nom de guerre Omar al-Shishani is a leader of the forces fighting for an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Among them are dozens of youths from Pankisi who, disaffected by a lack of jobs and angered by Russia’s dominance in the Caucasus, have followed the call to jihad.
Russia’s conflict with the Chechens dates back centuries, including a 1785 uprising, with the modern hostilities reigniting as a separatist movement gained momentum as the Soviet Unionbroke apart a quarter century ago. Russia fought two Chechen wars in the past 25 years in part to counter attacks that originated in the region and spread through the country.
Apartment bombings in Moscow in 1999 that killed hundreds and the conflict spreading to the region of Dagestan were the immediate trigger for the second Chechen war, in which Putin laid the foundations of his image as a leader capable of restoring the country’s might. While Russia finally gained control of the republic during Putin’s first presidential term, the loyal regime he installed forced the insurgency to simmer in the rest of the Caucasus.
The Independent reports that estimates on the number of Chechen fighters in Syria “range between 200 and 1,000.” The “concern” is that these fighters are receiving training “to commit terrorist attacks on their return.”