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Chechnya’s Veteran Fighters – Chechnya’s Veteran Fighters Have Their Backs to the Wall (The Jamestown Foundation)

Aslan Doukaev writes: In two battlegrounds 1,500 kilometers apart, veteran Chechen freelance fighters are being rebuked by those with whom they aligned against a common foe. In June, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the main rebel group in the Idlib Governorate of Syria, issued a demand that the hundreds of foreign fighters operating in the area acknowledge its leadership or disband. The HTS, which evolved out of the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, has been steadily consolidating its control over the province since 2017, sidelining rival factions and cracking down on groups that did not recognize its authority and sought to preserve their autonomy (see Terrorism Monitor, October 13, 2020). On June 27, a Syria-based journalist close to the rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime reported that the HTS had asked the leader of one such group, the Chechen-led Junud al-Sham, to leave the province of Idlib, the last major stronghold for anti-government forces. “It appears that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham gave Muslim [al-]Shishani an ultimatum to either join their organization or to leave Idlib province. Muslim [al-]Shishani has refused to join Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and, therefore, they have asked him to leave Idlib altogether,” the journalist said, citing his sources (Facebook.com/ognofficial, June 27).

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