On June 11, 2020, OGN TV (Syria) uploaded to its YouTube channel an interview with Chechen military contractor Ali Shishani, the leader of Malhama Tactical, a group based in Syria that trains Syrian rebels. Shishani said that the goal of Malhama Tactical is to help the Syrian people against the tyranny of the Assad regime. He described Russia, ISIS, and the Assad regime as terrorists, and he explained that Malhama Tactical works with "resistance groups" such as Ahrar Al-Sham, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, and others. Shishani said that the Jihad in Syria has tremendous potential and that the factions should unite into a single military-political force with a unified army and competent leadership. He added that Malhama Tactical has a favorable attitude towards Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He continued to say that Malhama Tactical abides by the ceasefire agreed to by Turkey and Russia because this ceasefire is necessary and because it acts in accordance with the authority of the local factions. Discussing his personal life, Shishani said that he came to Syria in 2013 and that if Chechnya is plunged into war again, he would fight for its freedom from the "Russian occupation and its tyrannical regime", so that everyone would be able to live with honor and with compliance with shari'a". He concluded that Malhama Tactical aims to grow and that it has improved the quality of its work despite the death of its previous leader. For more about Malhama Tactical and its previous leader, see MEMRI TV Clips No. 6841, 6669 and 7341 and the JTTM report about the group.
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To view the clip of Malhama Tactical leader Ali Shishani on MEMRI TV, click here or below.
"I Hate Terrorism... Terrorists Are, For Example, The Regime Of Bashar Al-Assad And His Allies, Also Russia... [And] ISIS"
Ali Shishani: "Malhama Tactical is a project whose goal is to help the Syrian people and the Syrian revolution against the tyranny of the regime of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Malhama Tactical consists of a group of professional instructors who train members of the Syrian resistance.
"I came here in 2013.
"I came here to help Muslims, help civilians against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who has been doing injustice against Syrian people for many years."
Interviewer: "What is your understanding of terrorism? Who is a terrorist?"
Shishani: "I hate terrorism. Terrorists are those who intentionally kill civilians in order to intimidate them or force them to something, in order to achieve their goals. Terrorists are, for example, the regime of Bashar al-Assad and his allies, also Russia. ISIS, for example, are terrorists who have committed many crimes that are considered terrorism. I condemn terrorism.
"ISIS are Khawarij. They are enemies of jihad and the Muslim Nation. As I mentioned before, I consider them terrorists. And our relationship with them had been nothing but confrontation.
"We Have Been Working With... Ahrar Al-Sham, HTS, Sariya Mukawama Sha'biya, And Many Other Small Groups"; Syrian Jihad Needs "A Competent Joint Military Leadership"
Shishani: "We have been working with different groups. As for example Ahrar Al-Sham, HTS, Sariya Mukawama Sha'biya, and many other small groups. And all groups that are not terrorists are welcome.
"The Syrian jihad has tremendous potential. But in order to achieve this potential and to improve the situation we need a competent joint military leadership. Thus, the rebels need to unite into a single military-political force, work out a single adequate strategy and create one single army.
"We witnessed many feuds between factions and did not participate in a single one of them. We strongly condemn these actions, as such feuds always weaken jihad, weaken resistance. This is known fact.
"My Attitude Towards Turkey Is Favorable, It Is Our Good Ally. I Welcome Turkish Presence In The Syrian Arena"
Shishani: "My attitude towards Turkey is favorable, it is our good ally. I welcome Turkish presence in the Syrian arena, and I hope it will bring good results in the near future, if Allah wills."
Interviewer: "Right now, there's a ceasefire in place. What are your thoughts about the ceasefire, the agreements that Turkey and Russia are making? And do you abide by the ceasefires that are made between Turkey and Russia?"
Shishani: "These agreements are part of the politics and Turkey acts according to its vision of the situation and its own capability. We don't think that it's correct nor is it fair to criticize Turkey. Regarding the ceasefire agreement, we see that it was necessary.
"As for abiding by these agreements, Malhama Tactical fully complies with them. We do not have the authority to violate it. The authority lies with the local factions and we follow them in this matter.
"My attitude towards Erdoğan is favorable, he is an outstanding politician and does a lot of good for Muslims both in Turkey and abroad."
"We Want [Chechnya] To Become Free From Russian Occupation And Its Tyrannical Regime... [So That We Can] Live With Honor And With Compliance [With] Shari'a"
Interviewer: "What are your future plans, are you planning on going back to Chechnya to fight, or what?"
Ali Shishani: "We absolutely don't want a new war for our people. We just want freedom for our people, for it to become free from Russian occupation and its tyrannical regime, that everyone would be able to live with honor and with compliance of Shari'a.
"But if our people are one again plunged into war, then we, as part of our people, will fight for our freedom.
"After the death of our brother Abu Rafiq, it took us some time to restore the former pace. But we managed to do it, alhamdulillah, and we also managed to improve the quality of our work. Our goal is to grow and to continue to do what we are doing."