This article examines the participation of North Caucasian fighters in the Syrian Civil War, including their motivations for joining the conflict, activities and recruitment, and their ties with jihadi networks. It also discusses the international and security implications, for Russia in particular, and the role of certain Gulf states as financers. It concludes that North Caucasians not only participate in combat but also contribute to recruitment efforts by drawing in volunteers from post-Soviet republics, with financial backing from Turkey and Gulf states. The article also draws parallels between the North Caucasian insurgency in Russia and the Syrian Civil War.
Since the protests against President Bashar al-Asad’s regime began in March 2011, the Syrian Civil War has claimed over 100,000 lives and has created more than two million refugees and four million internally displaced people, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis. Following reports of use of chemical weapons against civilians in August 2013, the United Nations (UN) and world leaders became engulfed in debates about whether, and how, to punish those responsible for the attack. The range of proposed responses included military strikes against al-Asad’s forces, arming the opposition forces, and ultimately providing the regime with the opportunity to surrender its chemical weapons. As a result, attention once again shifted to the elusive question of who made up the Syrian opposition to the al-Asad regime.
Analysts have been quick to point out that the opposition, consisting of a dizzying number of factions with diverse political and ideological backgrounds and objectives, is far from a unified, cohesive entity. It is important to note that the ranks of the various opposition factions are not composed strictly of Syrians, and the conflict continues to attract fighters from numerous regions and with various, often contradictory, goals. Some have alleged that the Syrian Civil War has attracted more jihadi volunteers, including those with links to al-Qa’ida, than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are also reportedly as many as a few thousand fighters in Syria from the post-Soviet regions (mainly Central Asia, Russia, and the Caucasus), including a large number of ethnic Chechens and Dagestanis. Many of them having previously fought in Afghanistan and their native lands of Chechnya and Dagestan, they have earned reputations as fierce fighters and are often more experienced than their Syrian counterparts. As a result, fighters of North Caucasian ethnicity, such as ethnic Chechen Abu Omar al-Shishani, have become prominent figures in the fractured opposition, commanding their own powerful brigades of thousands of dedicated jihadists. Their reputation for violence is such that an intelligence report prepared by colleagues of Free Syrian Army (FSA) General Salim Idriss for the U.S. State Department labeled a group of 250 Chechens led by Omar al-Shishani as the “‘most dangerous and barbaric’” of the al-Qa’ida-linked fighters.
In the aftermath of two deadly explosions in Volgograd in late December 2013, there was widespread concern that the 2014 Winter Olympic Games could be a high-profile target for North Caucasian rebels, including those who were returning from the Syrian battlefields. While Dokka Umarov, formal leader of the Caucasus Emirate–a jihadi terror group active in the North Caucasus –had previously discouraged North Caucasians from joining the Syrian conflict and instead urged them to support the insurgency in their native land, he soon changed his position, lending his support to those fighting in Syria and encouraging them to return eventually to the insurgency in their homeland. This policy shift was apparently caused by his realization of the immense appeal that the Syrian war has for many North Caucasians. As a result, in addition to Moscow’s general concern over the return of its citizens once the armed conflict in the Middle East is over, Russian authorities took extra precautions to ensure that possible insurgents were kept as far away as possible from the Olympic events in Sochi. The participation of North Caucasians in the Syrian conflict is thus an important facet of the ongoing civil war with trans-regional repercussions that cannot be underestimated.
This article examines the participation of North Caucasian fighters in the Syrian Civil War–a phenomenon with wide-reaching implications both within and beyond Syria’s borders that has thus far been largely under-researched. It first provides an analysis of their motivations for joining the conflict, activities and recruitment, as well as their relationships with jihadi networks. It also discusses the international and security implications of their participation in the conflict, including implications for Russia, and the role of certain Persian Gulf states as financers. The article asserts that in addition to participating in combat, including as field commanders, North Caucasians contribute to recruitment efforts by drawing in volunteers from post-Soviet republics and secure financing from Turkey and Persian Gulf states. The article also draws parallels between the North Caucasian insurgency in Russia and the Syrian Civil War.
THE MOTIVIATIONS OF NORTH CAUCASIANS FOR FIGHTING IN SYRIA
Concentrated primarily in northern Syria in Latakia Province, Idlib Province, Aleppo, and in the Turkish-Syrian border regions of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad, North Caucasians have come to play an important role as part of the opposition force battling the Bashar al-Asad regime. However, due to the lack of verifiable information coming from the region, their numbers have been difficult to quantify. There are varying estimates as to how many North Caucasians are fighting in Syria, ranging from 300 to as many as 1,400. It is important to note that not all North Caucasian participants come directly from Russia, with significant numbers of volunteers coming from Chechen, Dagestani, and other diaspora in Turkey, Georgia, and Europe, as well as students of Islamic theology arriving from the Middle East.
Like other foreigners participating in the conflict, North Caucasian volunteers have diverse motivations for joining the fighting in Syria. One of the overriding motivations distinguishing them from other groups, however, is that the Syrian conflict provides them with the opportunity to fight Russia on another front. Given the protracted history of violent conflict between the Russian state and rebels in Chechnya, Dagestan, and other North Caucasian republics as well as the Kremlin’s blatant support for the al-Asad regime, many North Caucasian fighters view the Syrian Civil War as an opportunity to continue their resistance against Russia and Russian allies around the world. For example, for dozens of veterans of the First Russo-Chechen War among Turkey’s Chechen community who are unable to take part in the war in their native Chechnya due to severe counterinsurgency measures adopted by the republic’s pro-Moscow regime, the war in Syria presents an ideal opportunity to wage war elsewhere and to continue to fight the Russians. For those who did not participate in either the First or Second Russo-Chechen War, the fighting in Syria offers the opportunity to obtain combat experience and eventually to return home to the North Caucasus with fresh experience and a potentially higher status within the domestic insurgency than those who did not fight in Syria. From a practical standpoint, it is also far easier and less dangerous for aspiring fighters to enter Syria than to cross heavily fortified Russian borders in the North Caucasus, thus prompting some members of Chechen and other North Caucasian diaspora in Western Europe to go directly to Syria.
While the ability to fight against Russia, either tangentially or directly, in Syria has been a major motivation for North Caucasians to join the anti-Asad resistance, it is not the only motivation. As in the Chechen and Dagestani resistance movements, religion has been used as a unifying force by North Caucasians fighting in Syria. Young men in particular have been drawn to Syria by the appeal of jihad, and in some instances have been led to believe that it is the duty of all faithful Muslims to take up arms in the war. An October 2013 interview with Abd al-Khalim al-Chechen, member of the Shari’a Committee of the predominantly North Caucasian faction Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar, published by the Kavkaz Center–the website of North Caucasian Islamists–provides valuable insight into how Islam is used to validate the insurgency in Syria. His professed jihadi motivation for taking up arms in Syria distinguishes the group from the opposition factions seeking democracy for Syria and a peaceful alternative to the al-Asad regime. Throughout the interview, Khalim al-Chechen disavows democracy and “Western” interference in the internal affairs of Muslim countries and distances Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar from those in the FSA who seek cooperation with the West. This interview and other texts and videos produced by North Caucasian Islamists both within the region and in Syria clearly demonstrate that the Syrian Civil War is considered both an opportunity for jihad as well as the duty of Russian-speaking Muslims to join their oppressed brethren in Syria. In this way, the North Caucasian insurgency is conceptually linked to the struggle to overthrow the al-Asad regime. To this end, Khalim al-Chechen uses the interview to appeal directly to young North Caucasians and Muslims from post-Soviet countries, beseeching them to join the ranks of the mujahidin instead of just “watching while children are hung and injured, while women are raped, mosques defiled, and old and infirm killed cruelly.”
It is important to note, however, that not all those drawn to the conflict for religious reasons adhere to Salafi Islam. Sunni solidarity is a primary motivation for some individuals who are outraged by images of Sunni Muslims injured, tortured, and killed by Alevi “infidels.” Such images are spread via internet sources like YouTube and instigate public outrage in Dagestan, Chechnya, and elsewhere, prompting disenfranchised North Caucasians to take up arms to support their Islamic brethren in Syria suffering at the hands of the brutal, Moscow-backed al-Asad regime.
All of these factors combined have led analysts to note that North Caucasian participation in the Syrian Civil War is yet another breeding ground for “jihadist international,” a term used to denote fighters ready to move from one conflict to another in the name of jihad, whether or not they have any personal connection to it. With notoriously high unemployment rates in the North Caucasus, the opportunity to fight against the Moscow-backed establishment in Syria and the prospect of martyrdom have helped lure men away from their villages and into the conflict. Even prior to the Syrian conflict, insurgents in the North Caucasus had increasingly been presenting Salafi Islam as an alternative source of identity that could offer young men a welcome sense of belonging to a generation that had grown up amid wars, poverty, societal dysfunction, and often isolation from Russia beyond the Caucasus. The notion of a brotherhood in arms, fighting for what they consider a noble cause, the sense of adventure, and escape from a life of poverty and unemployment are thus all motivating factor for taking up arms in Syria.
JAYSH AL-MUHAJIRIN WAL-ANSAR
The largest and most significant grouping of North Caucasian fighters in Syria has traditionally been Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Helpers). The group came into being as a result of a March 2013 merger of the predominantly Arab Kata’ib Khattab (Brigade of Khattab) and Jaysh Muhammad (Army of Muhammad) as well as the predominantly Chechen Kata’ib al-Muhajirin, (Brigade of Emigrants). Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar consists (as of the writing of this article) of around 1,200 people, of which one-third to one-half are believed to be North Caucasians. It was formerly led by the renowned ethnic Chechen military commander Omar al-Shishani. The faction has fought in several regions of northern Syria and is reportedly based around the city of Aleppo. Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar has played an important role in the capture of strategic northern infrastructure, including the Handarat Air Defense Base and the Menagh Airbase. It is an important faction in the Syrian opposition due to its military prowess, high-profile leadership, and affiliation with al-Qa’ida-linked groups.
Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar has actively participated in the bloodshed in Syria. They gained popularity during the course of intense fighting around the Menagh Airbase and in Latakia Province, where they demonstrated their resilience by using only firearms, anti-tank missiles, and grenade launchers against tanks and airplanes. The group was one of at least nine opposition factions believed to have participated in the siege of the Menagh Airbase, which lies on a major opposition supply route to and from Turkey. Until late 2013, Omar al-Shishani tried to maintain autonomy, refusing to transfer command of his troops to the hands of the al-Qa’ida-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra. His decision to reverse this policy of autonomy and swear allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi resulted in a major rift between Omar and his deputy, Seyfullah al-Shishani, also an ethnic Chechen.
In early August 2013, Seyfullah al-Shishani and his units were expelled from Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar, forming a new brigade independent of ISIS. While the rift between the two leaders began with Omar al-Shishani accusing Seyfullah al-Shishani and his followers of embezzlement and takfir (apostasy), the split ultimately came to reflect one of the major points of contention among North Caucasians in Syria: whether to remain independent and loyal to Umarov and the Caucasus Emirate or declare allegiance to the Iraqi-led ISIS. In spite of the split, this rift between two of the most important ethnic Chechen leaders in Syria evidently did not have a serious impact on the morale of North Caucasian fighters, nor was it significant in terms of numbers. The majority of North Caucasian jihadists supported Omar al-Shishani in the dispute, as he is the more revered of the two. Based on the information available, Seyfullah al-Shishani’s followers became attached to the smaller and little known Salafi brigade Usud ush-Sham (Lions of Syria). At the time of writing, Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar was once again the subject of analysis. Reports emerging in December 2013 alleged that Omar al-Shishani had become fully enmeshed into the ranks of ISIS and that the new leader of Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar was another ethnic Chechen, Salahuddin al-Shishani.
Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar’s newly declared allegiance to ISIS and its cooperation with Jabhat al-Nusra are significant due to the groups’ links to al-Qa’ida. ISIS, established as an offshoot of al-Qa’ida’s presence in Iraq, operates primarily in the northern and eastern parts of Syria and has what has been referred to as an “uneasy alliance” with Jabhat al-Nusra. ISIS membership has been difficult to quantify, but the aforementioned intelligence report estimates that there are about 5,500 foreign fighters in ISIS. Founded in January 2012 with the help of the Islamic State of Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra consists of approximately 6,000 troops, both foreign and domestic, and is reported to have received arms, training, and funding from al-Qa’ida and its affiliates in Iraq and Syria. Amid the constantly shifting alliances and rivalries that comprise the Syrian opposition, the relationship between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS has been subject to conflicting reports. While the groups operate in many of the same areas and are both considered to be radical Islamic factions, Jabhat al-Nusra leaders have largely resisted pressure to merge with ISIS, which has led some fighters to abandon them and join the latter.
While Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar may have close ties with Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, they have a notoriously confrontational relationship with the local population in their areas of operation. A Human Rights Watch report, “‘You Can Still See Their Blood,’” directly names Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar, Jabhat al-Nusra, and ISIS as three of the five groups accused of planning, executing, and raising funds for an attack on villages in the Latakia countryside that took the lives of at least 190 civilians on August 4, 2013, the first day of the Muslim holiday Id al-Fitr. The report specifically names Libyans Abu Suhaib al-Libi and Abu Ja’afar al-Libi and Chechen Abu Walid al-Shishani from Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar as having played key roles in the offensive. Such reports of ghastly human rights violations perpetrated against the local population directly contradict Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar’s aforementioned goals and demonstrate that foreign fighters, including North Caucasians, too often contribute to Syria’s problems rather than alleviate them.
This predominantly North Caucasian brigade’s close ties to two of the leading radical Islamist factions in Syria is a cause for concern for a number of reasons. As previously noted, Russian officials are deeply concerned about North Caucasian fighters in Syria returning to the region with better training, more financing, and enhanced ties to al-Qa’ida networks. Given Umarov’s change of position regarding North Caucasians’ participation in the Syrian conflict, Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar’s cooperation with al-Qa’ida-linked groups could provide the Caucasus Emirate with new allies and training battlegrounds. As the armed conflicts in the North Caucasus have taken on an increasingly ideological as opposed to a nationalistic tone since the beginning of the 2000s, North Caucasians’ cooperation with al-Qa’ida-affiliated groups in the Syrian Civil War has helped to cement the growing perception that North Caucasian insurgents are terrorists rather than freedom fighters seeking peaceful independence from Russia.
An effective network of Salafi activists was established in Russia in 2013 with the aim of coordinating the recruitment of North Caucasian, Tatar, and Bashkir jihadi fighters to Syrian battlefields. The activists have adopted increasingly virtual methods of operation and recruitment, taking advantage of social media networks, among other means. Nevertheless, it is reported that a recommendation from a well-known Salafi is still needed for the application to be processed by “recruitment officers.” Accordingly, in an effort to prevent Russian agents from infiltrating the jihadi networks as well as to prevent fraud, the would-be recruits are usually expected to have some previous experience as members in Salafi communities. According to Russian media reports, Salman Bulgar, an ethnic Tatar originally from the Tatarstan city of Naberezhnye Chelny and a Salafi with military experience from the Afghanistan war, is one of these “recruitment officers.” A source in Russia, however, alleges that Bulgar and most “recruitment officers” like him are almost certainly Russian secret service agents, since operating on such a scale, and so openly, within Russia would be impossible without backing from the authorities. Other sources contend that these activities cannot take place without close surveillance by the Russian secret services.
It appears that Russian authorities have not substantially impeded the recruitment process, either due to their inability to track the movements of Salafi activists or as part of a conscious policy. According to the latter perspective, although they routinely monitor the activities of Salafi activists on the internet and elsewhere, the primary aim of Russian secret services for the time being seems to be to allow would-be jihadists to leave Russia in relatively large numbers in order to ensure that they do not join the ongoing insurgency in the North Caucasus or the Volga-Ural area. This was also a main security concern leading up to the Olympic Games in Sochi. Accordingly, given extremely high combat-related fatalities in Syria, Russian authorities apparently assume that North Caucasians’ deployment in the war zone would help to significantly reduce their numbers. However, while enabling young Russian-based jihadists to go to Syria may suit Moscow’s interests in the short-run, this could create a serious problem for Russian authorities once the Syrian Civil War ends and the jihadists, now trained in guerilla warfare, seek to return to their homeland in Russia’s predominantly Muslim areas to continue the jihad. The Russian authorities would have to make serious efforts either to prevent jihadists from returning to Russia or to detain them immediately.
INTERNATIONAL AND SECURITY IMPLICATIONS
The participation of North Caucasian fighters in the Syrian Civil War has a number of political and security implications for countries such as Russia, Turkey, and those in the Persian Gulf, namely Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Russian concerns regarding a potential attack on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi prompted extensive preparations, including background checks for those planning to attend the event, the passage of a law to jail militants returning from Syria, close cooperation with U.S. and British security services, and training exercises involving elite forces.
Sources suggest that much of Moscow’s concern over potential attacks on the Olympic infrastructure was related to the return of jihadists to their native North Caucasus. An amendment to Russia’s anti-terrorism law in 2013 states that individuals “training ‘with the aim of carrying out terrorist activity’” or involved with armed groups outside of Russia with aims contrary to Russian interests could be sentenced to ten and six years in prison, respectively. Elite units of the Russian Ministry of Interior periodically carry out massive inspections of the mountainous terrain of Adygea–an autonomous territory close to Sochi and primarily inhabited by ethnic Circassians–as well as the Sochi area, in order to identify open-air spaces where explosives and munitions could be hidden as well as possible hiding places for insurgents. The inspections also served as emergency training to test the professional and physical preparedness of troops in the region.
A particular concern going forward is North Caucasian fighters’ ability to secure financing from sources in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Persian Gulf. Given the recent split between the United States and Saudi Arabia over the U.S. decision to support Russia’s plan to allow the al-Asad regime to turn over its chemical weapons stocks, analysts have noted that Saudi Arabia has begun to shift its support from more centrist and politically motivated groups such as the FSA and the National Coalition to various Islamist groups. It is interesting to note that shortly before the U.S.-Saudi rift, Saudi Arabia had offered Moscow a secret and highly advantageous arrangement for the sale of oil if Russia were to abandon its support for the al-Asad regime. It also threatened Moscow with possible terrorist attacks on the Olympic Games in Sochi. Moscow’s refusal to accept the oil deal and its overwhelming continued support for the al-Asad regime has angered regimes in Persian Gulf countries and has allegedly led to growing support for the North Caucasian jihadists.
In light of the ties between North Caucasian fighters in Syria and ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, financial support from Saudi Arabia and other states could lead not only to more experienced, but also to better financed and equipped extremists bound for Russia and elsewhere. In this regard, the participation of North Caucasians in the Syrian Civil War might be a step toward cementing their international standing, reputation, and strengthening their links to jihadists and backers around the world. Their participation in the Syrian Civil War is an important phenomenon, as it is symptomatic of a larger issue: the growing “jihadist international” and interconnectedness of Islamist insurgencies worldwide.
Indeed, a number of parallels exist between the North Caucasian insurgency and the Syrian Civil War. After the First Russo-Chechen War, which was largely a nationalist battle for independence, the North Caucasian insurgency gradually adopted a fierier, jihadi tone, becoming a fractious struggle to establish the Caucasus Emirate. Similarly, the Syrian Civil War, which began as a series of demonstrations to overthrow the al-Asad regime, has morphed into a multi-front war characterized by a fractured opposition pitting centrist, politically motivated groups against jihadi factions. Time will tell as to whether the Syrian conflict will become as much of a never-ending cycle of violence, dysfunction, and regional turmoil as the North Caucasian insurgency. For the time being, however, the lack of a peaceful resolution to the fighting indicates that North Caucasian insurgents will continue to use Syria as a proxy war for their ongoing struggle against Russia, thereby forging a deep link between the fate of their insurgency and that of the Syrian opposition.
* Emil Souleimanov is Associate Professor with the Department of Russian and East European Studies, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. He has published extensively on the security and politics of the post-Soviet Caucasus and the adjacent areas of Russia, Turkey, and Iran.
*Megan Ouellette is a recent graduate of Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic and University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies.
 For an overview of the Syrian opposition, see Ken Sofer and Juliana Shafroth, “The Structure and Organization of the Syrian Opposition,” Center for American Progress, May 14, 2013, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/report/2013/05/14/63221/the-structure-and-organization-of-the-syrian-opposition/.
 Liz Sly, “Foreign Extremists Dominate Syria Fight,” The Washington Post, October 1, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/foreign-extremists-dominate-syria-fight/2013/10/01/5871685e-2ae7-11e3-b141-298f46539716_story.html.
 David Ignatius, “Ousting Assad May Be Only the Beginning,” The Washington Post, December 2, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-in-syria-ousting-assad-may-be-only-the-beginning/2013/12/02/24013450-5b9d-11e3-a49b-90a0e156254b_story.html.
 Valery Dzutsev, “War in Syria Has Reverberations in the North Caucasus,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 10, No. 170, September 25, 2013, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=41403&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=685&no_cache=1#.UpqWLMRDtyM; Mairbek Vatchagaev, “Hundreds of North Caucasians Have Joined the Ranks of Syria’s Rebels,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 10, No. 166, September 19, 2013, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=41385&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=685&no_cache=1#.UpqWw8RDtyM.
 Emil Souleimanov, “North Caucasian Fighters Join Syrian Civil War,” Central Asia–Caucasus Analyst, August 27, 2013, http://www.cacianalyst.org/publications/analytical-articles/item/12794-north-caucasian-fighters-join-syrian-civil-war.html; Vatchagaev, “Hundreds of North Caucasians Have Joined the Ranks of Syria’s Rebels.”
 Dzutsev, “War in Syria Has Reverberations in the North Caucasus.”.
 Mairbek Vatchagaev, “Russian Muslim Militants Are Joining the Ranks of Rebel Fighters in Syria,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 10, No. 117, June 20, 2013, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=41049&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=685&no_cache=1#.Up1hscRDtyN.
 Mairbek Vatchagaev, “Caucasus Emirate Leader Discusses Chechens in Syria in New Video,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 10, No. 152, August 15, 2013, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=41282&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=685&no_cache=1#.Upu-88RDtyM.
 Dzutsev, “War in Syria Has Reverberations in the North Caucasus.”
 “Interview with Member of Sharia Committee of Army of Emigrants and Supporters Abdul Khalim,” Kavkaz Center, October 18, 2013, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2013/10/18/18585.shtml.
 Ibid; Dmitry Shlapentokh, “The North Caucasian Resistance and the Syrian Crisis,” Middle East Insights, No. 83, December 3, 2012, https://mei.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Download-Insight-83-Shlapentokh-HERE1.pdf.
 Mark Galeotti, “Chechen ‘Jihadist International’ Emerges in Syria,” Russia Beyond the Headlines, April 15, 2013, http://rbth.co.uk/opinion/2013/04/15/chechen_jihadist_international_emerges_in_syria_25025.html.
 For more detailed information, see “Unemployment in Russia Ranges from 1.6 percent in St. Petersburg to 44.5 percent in Ingushetia,” Russia Beyond the Headlines, October 22, 2013, http://rbth.ru/news/2013/10/22/unemployment_in_russia_ranges_from_16_percent_in_st_petersburg_to_445_pe_31052.html; Joby Warrick, “Islamist Rebels in Syria Use Faces of the Dead to Lure the Living,” The Washington Post, November 4, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/islamist-rebels-in-syria-use-faces-of-the-dead-to-lure-the-living/2013/11/04/10d03480-433d-11e3-8b74-d89d714ca4dd_story.html.
 “SYRIA. Oath of allegiance by Syrian Mujahideen to Emir of the Army of Emigrants and Helpers, Abu Omar al-Chechen,” Kavkaz Center, March 26, 2013, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2013/03/26/17520.shtml; Joanna Paraszczuk, “Syria Special: ‘Foreign Jihadists’ — Who Are Jaish al-Muhajirin wa Ansar?” EA WorldView, August 15, 2013, http://eaworldview.com/2013/08/syria-video-feature-who-are-jaish-al-muhajirin-wa-ansar/.
 Paraszczuk, “Syria Special: ‘Foreign Jihadists’.”
 “Syria Rebels ‘Capture Key Aleppo Airbase,’” BBC News, August 6, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23585886.
 Joanna Paraszczuk, “Syria Spotlight: Insurgent Split — The Dispute Between Abu Umar al-Shishani & His Deputy, Seyfullakh the Chechen,” EA WorldView, November 23, 2013, http://eaworldview.com/2013/11/syria-spotlight-dispute-abu-umar-al-shishani-deputy-seyfullakh-chechen/.
 Ibid; Mairbek Vatchagaev, “Influence of Chechen Leader of North Caucasian Fighters in Syria Grows,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 10, No. 148, August 9, 2013, http://www.jamestown.org/regions/middleeast/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=41255&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=49&cHash=7498fa3ca7e32126f2d9a04773affb3f#.UqkRjfRDtyM.
 For more information, see “Split Among Chechen Fighters in Syria” [in Russian], Ohranka Website, Interfax, September 2, 2013, http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=radio&div=2020.
 “Ringleader of Russia’s Chechen Minions Declares War on Mujahideen of Syria,” Kavkaz Center, December 6, 2013, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2013/12/06/18621.shtml; Joanna Paraszczuk, “Russia & Syria Spotlight: A Split in Loyalties & Ideology for Syria’s Chechen Fighters,” EA WorldView, December 6, 2013, http://eaworldview.com.previewdns.com/2013/12/russia-syria-spotlight-split-loyalties-ideology-syrias-chechen-fighters/.
 Liz Sly, “Al-Qaeda Expands in Syria via Islamic State,” The Washington Post, August 12, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/al-qaeda-expands-in-syria-via-islamic-state/2013/08/12/3ef71a26-036a-11e3-9259-e2aafe5a5f84_story.html.
 David Ignatius, “Ousting Assad May Be Only the Beginning,” The Washington Post, December 2, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-in-syria-ousting-assad-may-be-only-the-beginning/2013/12/02/24013450-5b9d-11e3-a49b-90a0e156254b_story.html.
 Ken Sofer and Juliana Shafroth, “The Structure and Organization of the Syrian Opposition,” Center for American Progress, May 14, 2013, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/report/2013/05/14/63221/the-structure-and-organization-of-the-syrian-opposition/; Barak Barfi, “Who Are the Syrian Rebels?” CNN, September 6, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/06/opinion/barfi-syria-opposition-guide/; Aron Lund, “The Non-State Militant Landscape in Syria,” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, August 27, 2013, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-non-state-militant-landscape-in-syria.
 Liz Sly and Karen DeYoung, “Largest Syrian Rebel Groups Form Islamic Alliance, in Possible Blow to U.S. Influence,” The Washington Post, September 25, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/largest-syrian-rebel-groups-embrace-islamic-alliance-in-possible-blow-to-us-influence/2013/09/25/f669629e-25f8-11e3-9372-92606241ae9c_story.html.
 Souleimanov, “North Caucasian Fighters Join Syrian Civil War.”
 Emil Souleimanov’s interview with an officer of the Ministry of Interior, Dagestan, November 15, 2013. Like Bulgar, Seyfullah al-Shishani has also played an important role in recruiting support for the Syrian jihad. Some would argue that while Seyfullah lacks the same warrior-like reputation as Omar al-Shishani, his activity on the internet has been useful in many ways. He has a mastery of Arabic, Chechen, Turkish, and Russian. He has made many videos featuring shots of Syrian children killed in the fighting as well as fervent appeals to Muslims from Turkey, the Arab world, and the post-Soviet space to join the jihad in Syria, which has prompted many sympathizers from these regions. Although these individuals have not necessarily been recruited to the war as fighters, they have contributed to the cause with considerable financial resources.
 Emil Souleimanov’s interviews with Russian experts on military affairs, December 2013.
 Emil Souleimanov’s interview with an officer of the Dagestani Ministry of Interior, November 15, 2013.
 Alissa De Carbonnel, “Russia Fears Return of Fighters Waging Jihad in Syria,” Reuters, November 14, 2013, http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/11/14/russia-caucasus-syria-idINDEE9AD03U20131114; Ilya Arkhipov and Henry Meyer, “Obama Joins Putin War as Syria Jihadists Stalk Olympics,” Bloomberg, October 25, 2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-24/obama-joins-putin-war-as-syria-jihadists-stalk-olympics.html.
 De Carbonnel, “Russia Fears Return of Fighters Waging Jihad in Syria.”
 It is interesting to note that the troops employed were exclusively made up of ethnic Russians and Slavs, and that elite counterterrorist units from other ethnic Russian parts of the country were deployed to the region for the same purpose during the year of 2013.
 Yezid Sayigh, “Unifying Syria’s Rebels: Saudi Arabia Joins the Fray,” Carnegie Middle East Center, October 28, 2013, http://carnegie-mec.org/2013/10/28/unifying-syria-s-rebels-saudi-arabia-joins-fray/greh; “Jihadists Tighten Their Grip on Syrian Uprising,” UPI, October 28, 2013, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2013/10/28/Jihadists-tighten-their-grip-on-Syrian-uprising/UPI-39341382980563/.
 Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, “Saudis Offer Russia Secret Oil Deal If It Drops Syria,” The Telegraph, August 27, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/10266957/Saudis-offer-Russia-secret-oil-deal-if-it-drops-Syria.html.
 Emil Souleimanov’s interview with a high-ranking member of the Turkish military, December 20, 2013.