The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
In recent days, two videos were posted on social media that carried messages by ISIS in the Caucasus to Muslims in Russia and the Caucasus region to join the Islamic state and fight the Russian regime. These videos come on the backdrop of Russian involvement in Syria and efforts by Russian security forces to thwart ISIS activity and expansion in the country. It is possible that the posting of these videos in close succession can indicate that ISIS is in desperate need to recruit new fighters to help it resist the pressure applied by the Russian regime. Additionally, ISIS apparently aims to use these videos to prove that it is also active outside of Syria and Iraq, where it recently suffered a series of territorial losses.
First Video: "A Commerce That Will Never Fail"
On March 5, 2016, the information office of ISIS in the Caucasus posted a 12-minute video titled "A Commerce That Will Never Fail" (a reference to Koran 35:29). The video, which was posted on jihadi forums and on social media, documents the ISIS Caucasus "deputy governor" visiting a group of fighters in the southern part of the region. The video was apparently filmed before a suicide bombing of a Russian police checkpoint in the city of Jamikent, Dagestan, on February 15. The senior commander conducting the visit calls on young Muslims in the Caucasus to not sit idly by and join the fight against the Russians. He offers anyone who can't find a way to join ISIS to instead acquire a weapon and target Russians wherever they are. He threatens the Russian regime and the "tyrant" Putin and urges Russian Muslims to unite in order to conquer a specific area and then spread out from there. The video ends by showing the shooting execution of a man accused of spying for Russian intelligence. The video features fighters speaking Russian accompanied by Arab subtitles, and includes ISIS songs in both the original Arabic and in Russian.
Senior commander Abu Yaser (bottom right) along with regional commander Abu 'Adballah (bottom left). Abu 'Abd Al-Rahman (second on the right in the top row), who also speaks in the video, apparently carried out the Jamikent suicide bombing
Abu Yaser opens his statement by greeting the "caliph" Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, all mujahideen in the caliphate, and especially those in the Caucasus region. He praises those who joined the jihad, and calls on all Muslim youths to follow in their footsteps. According to him, if they are unable to do so, they have an alternative way to combat the infidels - lone wolf attacks.
Abu Yaser says: "Therefore, oh brothers, if you cannot find a way to contact us - praise Allah. Russia is large and there are a great many infidels there. Take an example from your brothers in other provinces [in Iraq and Syria, where the shari'a is implemented] - to this day we have no place to implement the shari'a. Therefore, oh brothers, we must awakens from our slumber. Praise Allah, in our midst there are brave brothers and there are millions of Muslims in Russia. Let us unite and conquer one specific area, from which we can expand. Those who seek for us with loyalty and seriousness will have no problem finding us. And if they cannot find us, then they can strike the infidels in Russia itself, since it is not hard acquiring weapons in Russia... What are you waiting for, oh brothers?! If you are waiting for the caliphate, then it has not arrived, and if you swore fealty to the caliph, then he has commanded you to kill the infidels wherever you find them... Do not think that the Islamic State made such achievements by sitting down. No. This Islamic State was built with the blood of the loyal brothers who should be a role model for us. We must follow in their footsteps and sacrifice our bodies and property to liberate this land from this tyrant [Putin]."
The second speaker, regional commander Abu 'Adballa, reiterates his and his men's oath of fealty to Al-Baghdadi, and stresses their commitment to sacrifice their lives and property for the sake of Allah. He called on all Muslims to join the path of Islam and not to abandon their mujahideen brothers alone in the fight. He also promises Muslims that "soon you will hear good tidings, Allah willing [likely referring to the subsequent suicide bombing in Jamikent]."
The third speaker in the video is suicide attacker Abu 'Abd Al-Rahman, who is shown while the ISIS lamentation nashid "The Black-Eyed Maidens Yearn To Meet [Martyrs In Paradise]" plays in the background. Abu 'Abd Al-Rahman also calls on Russian Muslims to sacrifice their lives and target the Russian tyrants in their home.
The video ends with the showing execution of a man suspected of spying for Russian intelligence.
Suicide attacker Abu 'Abd Al-Rahman
Shooting execution of suspected Russian intelligence spy
Second Video: "Caucasus - The Disease And The Cure"
On March 6, 2016, Al-Hayat Media Center, an official ISIS media production outlet, released a 26-minute video titled "Caucasus - The Disease And The Cure." The video, which was distributed on social media, outlines the Islamic heritage in the Caucasus and describes the crimes committed by the Russians against the Muslims throughout history. Speakers in the video call on Caucasus Muslims to join the Islamic State in order to attack and destroy the tyrannical Russian regime. The video ends with a narrator promising that "Syria will become a graveyard for the Russians." The video is in Russian with Arabic subtitles.
One of the speakers in the video
The first speaker in the video claims that Muslims today should follow the example of the first Muslims in the Caucasus, and join the Islamic State in order to defend their country. This speaker also appears in the final part of the video, where he calls on Muslims to fight an all-out war against the Russians. According to him, the eternal responses to the enemies of Allah are "an explosive device, a piercing bullet, a well-planned shooting by a capable sniper."
The second speaker in the video claims that all the various Russian regimes focused on the Caucasus in order to destroy Islam and steal the region's resources. A third fighter speaks at length in praise of jihad and the importance of fighting the taghout - tyrants who rule with un-Islamic laws. He claims that Muslims should aspire to establish an Islamic state and not to replace a Russian regime with a Chechen one or with democracy. He attacks the abominations and deviations that have spread throughout the Caucasus in the recent decades, and argues that the time has come to cure the disease by adhering to true monotheism and protecting Islam. A narrator later describes the dangerous phenomena which have spread throughout Russia, such as Muslim clerics who commit apostasy and assist the regime, Sufi cults, and Murji'a cults (a pejorative name for mainstream Salafis). The next speaker claims that all the aforementioned elements, who are supposedly Muslim, constitute the greatest danger to Islam.
The video later condemns the Russian military involvement in Syria, which leads to tens of thousands of Muslim casualties. In this context, the video shows a young fighter in camouflage who calls on the Caucasus Muslims to mobilize to help their oppressed brothers in Syria.
ISIS sniper in the Caucasus