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Albanian Jihadi Fighters In Syria Document The Life Of Their Sniper Team

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

On August 4, 2018, a group of Albanian jihadis fighting in Syria alongside rebel factions released a 33-minute, slickly produced video about their small sniper unit. The video, filmed in documentary style, was distributed on the Albanian fighters' Telegram channel.[1] The video is entirely in Albanian with English subtitles.


Banner on Telegram advertising the video about the Albanian sniper unit

This video confirms previous reports that a small group of Albanian fighters is currently engaged in the Syrian conflict alongside other jihadi factions.[2] To conceal their identities, all the fighters in the video are shown masked or with blurred faces. Beyond the demonstration of the military capability of these Albanian fighters, the video is meant to serve as a recruitment tool, to persuade more Muslims, and particularly Albanians, to mobilize and join their jihad. The growing military pressure on rebel factions in the only remaining area under their control may explain why outreach is underway, particularly in those units comprised of foreign fighters, in an effort to garner support and potentially recruit more fighters in anticipation of the impending battle in which the regime will attempt to regain total sovereignty.

Note to media and government: For a full copy of this video, send an email with the title of the report in the subject line to [email protected]. Please include your name, title, and organization in your email.


Archival footage presented at the start of the video

The video opens with black and white archival footage of the devastation wrought by the war in Syria. The footage highlights the suffering of Muslims at the hand of the oppressive Assad regime and its allies. A narrator states: "The jihad in Syria, this deep wound is everyday becoming bigger in the hearts of the Muslim nation. The massacre that is taking place in front of the world, is felt deeply by every Muslim without any distinction, young or old. The murmuring of the little children and the supplication of the oppressed such as women and elderly men, is testimony to the cruelty and brutality of these animals against the Muslims."


The Albanian snipers practice their marksmanship


Some of the footage, such as the images shown above was filmed by a drone.

In the first part of the video, a group of six fighters practice their marksmanship in the mountains of north-western Syria. This sequence is accompanied by a voiceover and cuts to an interview with an Albanian fighter who explains in detail about the role and the duties of a sniper. He exhibits tactical knowledge and experience, and describes various aspects of a sniper's training, including the study of camouflage, marksmanship, weather conditions, etc. He also describes the weapons used by the unit, which he says are mostly modified old weapons, as well as Russian sniper rifles such as the SVD Dragunov. He states: "The Albanian sniper rifles are pieces from World War Two customized into modern high-accuracy solid rifles," adding that their most useful weapon is the Russian Mosin-Nagant rifle, which has been in use for more than 120 years. The video includes footage from the group's workshop, a small factory where the rifles are customized and adapted. The fighter explains how the modified weapons are assembled from various available parts or from parts that the fighters manufacture themselves.


In the above screenshots Albanian fighters make their way to their frontline positions.

The second part of the video shows the sniper unit preparing and setting out for active frontline duty. Referring to a map, the men discuss the details of their operation, including the overall plan, the tactical situation on the frontline, the configuration of the terrain, routes leading to the designated area, possible egress routes, distance from the enemy, potential threats posed by artillery and tanks etc. Next, the fighters are filmed leaving for the frontline in a truck, driving through rebel-held territory east of Idlib, and reaching the location where they are to assume their sniper position. One fighter describes the unit's duties and responsibilities on the frontline. A narrator praises those who left their homes to join the Syrian jihad, mentioning the few Albanians who "responded to the call of the oppressed in Sham." The video concludes with a general call for Muslims to mobilize for the jihad.


The above screenshots show the Albanian fighters in their sniper nests.


The images above show the workshop where the Albanian snipers customize their weapons.


The first part of the video features an interview with one of the snipers (left). The fighter shown wears an identifiable ring, which suggests that he is likely the same man posing in the picture on the right, which was featured in the MEMRI report referred to in endnote 2.

(Source: Telegram.me/Middleeastarchives, April 19, 2018.)

 

[1] Telegram.me/Jama't Al-Alban, August 4, 2018. The video was likewise circulated on Telegram channels belonging to other foreign jihad fighters such as the Swedish fighter group Telegram.me/LivetiSham