Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz: A Caucasus Emirate Group in Latakia

By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

Relatively little news comes out these days from northeast Latakia province, which remains outside of regime control despite the recapture of the Armenian town of Kassab in June. However, it is important to observers of jihadi groups as what I would call ‘the muhajireen’s hangout’. For example, the Moroccan group Harakat Sham al-Islam– now a part of the independent jihadi coalition Jabhat Ansar al-Din- engages in da’wah outreach to locals in the area. It is also where the group Jaysh Muhammad in Bilad al-Sham (led by Abu Obeida al-Masri) headed after being forced to leave the locality of Azaz in northern Aleppo province by the Islamic Front. The continuing importance of northeast Latakia as a place for muhajireen groups to congregate is illustrated by the emergence of Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz (‘The Caucasus Soldiers’ Group’).

Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz, as confirmed to me in an interview, is affiliated with the Caucasus Emirate, which also counts Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa al-Ansar of the Jabhat Ansar al-Din coalition as among its affiliates. However, Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz also claims to operate independently and not to be part of Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa al-Ansar and Jabhat Ansar al-Din. It is an interesting question to ponder why that is so. As my colleague Caleb Weiss of The Long War Journal suggests to me, Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz’s operating status may have to do with the Caucasus Emirate’s encouragement of group independence. In keeping with the general trend of an anti-fitna (i.e. anti jihadi infighting) stance on the part of non-Islamic State [IS] and non-Jabhat al-Nusra [JN] muhajireen groups, Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz officially claims to have no problems with other jihadi groups.

Thus, to quote from my interview with a media representative: “We don’t have a [formal] link with anyone [in Syria] but we work with all- thanks to God- and we have no problems with any of the other jihadi groups like [Jabhat] Ansar al-Din, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State.” Note the reflection of the anti-fitna stance in referring to IS as simply ad-dawla al-islamiya [‘The Islamic State’] rather than JN’s disparaging ‘jamaat ad-dawla‘ [‘group of the state’]. Concomitant with such official anti-fitna posturing is the group’s stated aim on its Facebook page:

“Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz is a Caucasus mujahid group aiming to gather the Caucasians in the totality under the banner of jihad against the enemies of Islam in the totality. It operates in Latakia.”

I suspect though that were my interviewee to leave Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz and become completely independent, he might express a much more negative view of IS, which had rejected outreach attempts by Jaysh al-Muhajireen wa al-Ansar’s Salah ad-Din ash-Shishani. Indeed, my interviewee for Jabhat Ansar al-Din, Abu Mo’atasem al-Shami– once affiliated with Jabhat Ansar al-Din sub-component Harakat Fajr al-Sham al-Islamiya- has since resigned from Jabhat Ansar al-Din’s media office, and has conveyed to me his desire to set up an outlet to document and expose the crimes of the regime and IS (now referred to by the derogatory Arabic acronym Da3esh).

In the context of Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz, it is also notable that the group’s Facebook page has advertised JN leader Abu Muhammad al-Jowlani’s recent interview (see below), but does not similarly advertise media content from IS, hinting that in practice, relations are closer with JN than they are or ever can be with IS.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 19.07.18

Below are some photos put out by Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz of its presence in Latakia province.

1520622_1559351060962957_6636774618118945014_n
Two Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz fighters in Latakia: on left, Abu Obeida al-Sharkasy [the Circassian]; on right, Abu Sewar al-Abkhazi [the Abkhazian].

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Training for Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz fighters, purportedly Circassians.

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Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz fighters in the Latakia forest.

Update (24 November 2014)

Another member of Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz got in touch with me today and offered some more specific information about the group:

1. It is not incorrect to say the group is affiliated with Caucasus Emirate, but one must also note that Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz has given bay’ah [allegiance] to Abd al-Hakim ash-Shishani, who is not only part of Caucasus Emirate but also leads his own group: Jamaat al-Khilafa al-Qawqazia [‘The Caucasian Caliphate Group’].

2. The group’s membership currently totals 32, and the majority of its members- while ethnic Circassians- were not born in the Caucasus area, but rather Syria [specifically, the Golan Heights area] and Jordan. In this regard, this member of Jamaat Jund al-Qawqaz characterizes the group’s activities thus: ‘Our jihad is in Latakia and the Golan Heights.’ 

Comments (27)


1. ghufran said:

A good report, yet some thawrajiyyeh still insist that there are Thuwwar (revolutionaries),not terrorists, in northern Latakia. Opposition media including the SNC continues to use the term “Thuwwar” to describe Nusra et al terrorists and post their “victorious stories” on the net. The guardian published an article FSA fighters joining ISIS forces because of “US bombing”, those rebels expected the US to bomb the Syrian army and when that did not happen they reacted by joining a terrorist organization (!!):

US air strikes in Syria are encouraging anti-regime fighters to forge alliances with or even defect to Islamic State (Isis), according to a series of interviews conducted by the Guardian.
Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups are joining forces with Isis, which has gained control of swaths of Syria and Iraq and has beheaded six western hostages in the past few months.
Some brigades have transferred their allegiance, while others are forming tactical alliances or truces. Support among civilians also appears to be growing in some areas as a result of resentment over US-led military action.
“Isis now is like a magnet that attracts large numbers of Muslims,” said Abu Talha, who defected from the FSA a few months ago and is now in negotiations with other fighters from groups such as the al-Nusra Front to follow suit.
Assam Murad, a fighter from a 600-strong dissident FSA brigade near Homs said: “There’s no way we would fight Isis after the US military campaign against them.”
يا أمة ضحكت من جهلها الامم

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November 23rd, 2014, 1:02 pm

 

2. Ghufran said:

Hopes for a political settlement in Syria are not supported by facts on the ground, the conflict now, and always was, is regional and a solution has to be regional also.
Russia and Iran have no incentives to compromise until they get something in return. Ignore the children play and the press conferences and watch what happened in the negotiations with Iran and the developments in the Ukraine.
Syrians are merely watching, their future is not in their hands today and the talks about a change in US policy in Syria are materials to fill pages of media sites, Obama is stuck and I do not know if he is willing or able to make a U turn in his foreign policy while the GOP is getting ready to assume control of both chambers of the Cingress.

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November 23rd, 2014, 7:52 pm

 

3. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Damascus is permanently under site. Nothing has really changed. Assad will finally fall when the US, who is not in a hurry at all, or IRAN, who could made historical agreements with Occident, decide that Assad must commit suicide.

Corruption in Damascus is reaching incredible heights. Army members and officals of the state have absolute freedom to steal and get forced bribes.

Assad will fall cannibalized by its own forces.

When Hafez Al Assad said ¨Iran will never leave us alone¨ he was 99 % right, but as he is NOT a prophet nor a God´s son or voice on earth there is 1 % that he is wrong and he will finally be.

Hafez Al Assad did not predict that his son sillyness would bring the country to actual circumstances that can bring the Persian Empire and the American Empire agreeing to sacrfice Assad the Stupid.

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November 24th, 2014, 4:37 am

 

4. Alan said:

Compare coverage w/ Saudis
http://t.co/7quyya32i6
http://t.co/gwVsAJ8mb1
Most Chechens in IS are from Georgia or Turkey, have very few links to Caucasus Emirate, and always appear in the spotlight

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November 24th, 2014, 8:18 am

 

5. Mina said:

Robert Fisk who is reporting from the frontline reports of Chinese-speaking (Uyghur?) fighters. No doubt the Turks helped both Chechens and Uyghurs get there.

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November 24th, 2014, 8:42 am

 

6. SANDRO LOEWE said:

MINA and ALAN have become the OBAMA US-IRANIAN AXIS speakers.

Come on now say that US, Saudis, bla bla bla.

Everything is exposed now, Russia, Obama and Iran working together to destroy the syrian uprising and feeding the IS monster for getting permission to bomb it.

ALAN and MINA now you are on the US side. Congratulations. Now you can go and get the american citizenship.

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November 24th, 2014, 3:00 pm

 

7. ALAN said:

Keep your nerves Mr. Sandro
I am a graduate of the Soviet school. Speech directed to me, is on the wrong address. Your anger shows a lack of distinction between (revolution) and the assassination of regimes for the sake of economic interests.
ya 7aram 🙂

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November 24th, 2014, 3:48 pm

 

8. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Mr. Alan,

I am a graduate in a European School, and I wonder who asked you where you graduated.

You have been defending the massacre of civil unarmed and peacefull demonstrators. Now that Assad, Russia and Iran have destroyed, exiled and tortured the opposition and fed the monster of ISIL now you try to show yourselves as good people with good feelings. Like the son of a dog Putin when he goes to pray in the church LOOOOLL.

I am not that stupid to follow your empty dialectics for emtpy heads.

Go and lose yourself you and all the criminals who supported war crimes and who supported destruction of FSA while feeding ISIL.

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November 24th, 2014, 6:44 pm

 

9. Uzair8 said:

Regarding the alleged Erdogan comments, I saw this retweeted by Aboud Dandachi:

Mehmet Sait Şahinalp ‏@MSHNLP ·15 hours ago
British media like BBC and Guardian, distorting #Erdogan words as if he said “women not equal to men”! pic.twitter.com/tQoUxX39id

Mehmet Sait Şahinalp ‏@MSHNLP ·14 hours ago
@MSHNLP Im living in TR, speaking Turkish and I listened him on TV but I never heard him mentioned “women not equal man”

Mehmet Sait Şahinalp ‏@MSHNLP ·14 hours ago
@MSHNLP Unfortunately, some of our brothers living in Europe and America, believes that the distortion of the western media.

https://twitter.com/MSHNLP/status/536948329155145728/photo/1

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November 25th, 2014, 4:09 am

 

10. ghufran said:

another “moderate rebel group” joining ISIS:
انضمت مجموعة مقاتلين من كتيبة “عز الدين القسام” المقاتلة في ريف اللاذقية إلى تنظيم داعش في الرقة، وذلك بعد أن سرقت أسلحة الكتيبة الثقيلة، من بينها رشاشات عيار 14.5، بالإضافة إلى سيارة شاحنة كبيرة مثبت عليها رشاش عيار23.
وأعلنت المجموعة التي كانت تقاتل سابقا مع حركة “شام الإسلام” التي تم تصنيفها مؤخراً ضمن قائمة التنظيمات الإرهابية، عن وصولها إلى مدينة الرقة في أمس الإثنين وانضمامها إلى تنظيم داعش، وفق صحيفة “القدس العربي”.
The only good thing about this is that the new terrorists have joined ISIS in Raqqa instead of establishing a new branch elsewhere.

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November 25th, 2014, 6:25 pm

 

11. ALAN said:

Is there an American spring?
Rise up to break free from the bondage of bankers, arms companies and evil policy makers!
http://cs7010.vk.me/c625121/v625121489/aaa8/U3XP_dxAdIo.jpg

http://www.nbcnews.com/watch/nbc-news/arrests-in-downtown-atlanta-follow-ferguson-protest-march-363886147892

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November 26th, 2014, 6:47 am

 

12. ALAN said:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1SUQ1qtdb0#t=34
it’s imperative for the US to find a balanced approach to China, Russia and the Middle East, since a failure to achieve this goal may not only endanger the international peace, but would affect the very survival of the United States as a super power. Otherwise, America will have to settle for a role of a regional power, with no real influence whatsoever over the situation in Europe and Asia. It seems, that this will be the most likely scenario since the recent actions of Barack Obama are showing that he has realized his miscalculations and now he’s desperately trying to get out of trouble he has created himself. Still, he has no clue what to do.
http://journal-neo.org/2014/11/26/us-at-crossroads-between-russia-middle-east-and-china/

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November 26th, 2014, 1:55 pm

 
 

14. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Light Crude Oil hit today 68 USD for JANUARY 2015.

I hope Iranian and Russian economies, that depens totally on energy rates, explode sooner that later.

Now it really looks as a question of time.

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November 27th, 2014, 11:58 am

 

15. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Iran needs OIL prices to be at 130 $ per barrel as breakeven price

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November 27th, 2014, 2:52 pm

 

16. ALAN said:

The US government being run by a hidden cabal of warmongers from beneath the surface.

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November 27th, 2014, 4:33 pm

 

17. Ghufran said:

Low oil prices are not sustainable and the damage caused by low prices is not limited to Russia and Iran, oil producers in Canada and the US are not happy and many people now are losing their jobs or being forced to work part time. Cost of producing oil in north America is over $ 60 a barrel and that will affect production especially after OPEC failed to cut export. It is a political game that is played to achieve short term objectives, countries in the gulf are waiting to hear the screams for help from competitors but judging from previous experiences those screams are not coming any time soon from russia and iran and I do not see this situation lasting for more than 6-9 months at most. Turkey, India, china , and most consumers are happy for now.

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November 28th, 2014, 1:41 am

 

18. SANDRO LOEWE said:

When OIL rised from 40 to 120 USD Russia, Iran and Venezuela developed regional power roles and exported its ideological ¨revolutions¨ based solely on the power of OIL incomes. Now the theatre could be over. US may lose but the one controlling rates now are Saudia and Kuwait because do not want to cut production.

Iran is nervous and near bankrupcy.

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November 28th, 2014, 3:53 am

 

19. ALAN said:

STOP ARMING ISRAEL. STOP ARMING THE KILLERS OF CLILDREN
The United States will arm Israel with 3,000 smart bombs as part of Washington’s military aid to Tel Aviv.
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/11/28/387844/us-to-arm-israel-with-3000-smart-bombs/

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November 28th, 2014, 8:46 am

 

20. SANDRO LOEWE said:

ALAN

Asking stop killing palestinian children but promoting and justifying the killing of syrian and iraqqi children is RACISM.

Two days ago 100 civilians massacred by Assad aviation in Raqqa.

This is what you do.

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November 28th, 2014, 10:02 am

 

21. ALAN said:

Juergen !
Germany’s DW Reports ISIS Supply Lines Originate in NATO’s Turkey
Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) published a video report of immense implications – possibly the first national broadcaster in the West to admit that the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) is supplied not by “black market oil” or “hostage ransoms” but billions of dollars worth of supplies carried into Syria across NATO member Turkey’s borders via hundreds of trucks a day…
http://youtu.be/akbfplUcjLU?t=1s

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November 28th, 2014, 10:04 am

 

22. SANDRO LOEWE said:

The world consumers have been paying the party costs in Russia, Iran, Venezuela and so on.

With OIL below 70 USD Venezuela collapse is a question of time.

Russia bankrupcy expected for summer 2020.

Iran demolition coming soon if unreal budgets ends…

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November 28th, 2014, 11:47 am

 
 

24. SANDRO LOEWE said:

ALAN,

This cheap garbage propaganda signed by MAHDI DARIUS is for free? With this name I am sure he is not an iranian paid troll.

LOOOOOOOOL

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November 28th, 2014, 2:00 pm

 

25. ALAN said:

Syrian lovers favorite “conspiracy theory”
The U.S. could simply tell its mercenaries (many of whom I believe are disguised al-Nusra followers) to stop cooperating with al-Nusra.
LOL
http://www.blacklistednews.com/AP%3A_U.S._Mercenaries_Working_With_Al-Qaeda_No_Scandal_-_Just_A_%22Difficulty%22/39490/0/38/38/Y/M.html

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November 28th, 2014, 4:38 pm

 
 

27. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Keep calm Alan, your russian and iranian losers causes will finally hit the ground.

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November 29th, 2014, 8:07 am

 

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