DAMASCUS – As more blood is being shed in the pivotal Arab country, Muslims from Chechnya and North Caucasus are leaving for Syria to join the fighting against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s security forces.
"This is the first time that a mass number of Chechens have taken part in military actions abroad," Paris-based analyst Mairbek Vatchagayev told Reuters on Thursday, March 6.
Estimates show that dozens of Muslims from Chechnya and North Caucasus are fighting in Syria against Assad’s forces.
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"Jihad needs very many things,” Omar Abu al-Chechen tells his fighters in the Brigade of Migrants says in a video.
“Firstly it needs money. Much is dependent on money today for jihad," al-Chechen, his nomme de guerre, says in Russian and his speech is translated by fellow fighters into Arabic.
"(We) have missed many chances, but truly today there is a chance to establish (an Islamic state) on Earth.”
One Syrian opposition source said Chechens are the second biggest force of foreigners after Libyans who joined the Syrian uprising after overthrowing and killing Muammar Gaddafi.
An opposition source said 17 fighters from the North Caucasus were killed in fighting outside Aleppo last month.
Analysts say many of the fighters from North Caucasus are students who studies in religious schools outside Russia.
However, they have fighting skills and experience due to their participation in the wars against Russian forces in Chechnya in 1994-96 and 1999-2000.
"They are very significant, in some areas they are leading the fighting and some of them are leaders of Brigades,” a Syrian opposition source in touch with fighters said.
“They are experienced fighters and also they are fighting based on ideological belief, so they do not want anything in return.”
More than 70,000 people have been killed in two years of between Assad’s security forces and opposition forces.
The fighting has forced more than one million Syrians to flee their home to neighboring countries in addition to the displacement of two millions others inside the country.
But some Syrians are worried about the presence of foreign fighters in the fighting against Assad.
"We call all brothers from all the countries, please, my brothers we do not need men,” Brigadier Selim Idris, head of an opposition military command, told Reuters.
“Stay in your own countries and do something good inside your own countries.
“If you want to help us just send us weapons or funding or even pray for us but you do not have to come to Syria," he said.
"(Those) who are entering the country have a negative impact on the revolution, because we need the help from (Western and regional) countries. Please understand this issue.”
The presence of foreign fighters in Syria has already raised alarm in a number of Western countries.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned that the presence of foreign fighters in Syria poses a threat to Western interests.
"Syria today has become the top destination for jihadists anywhere in the world," he said. "We cannot allow Syria to become another breeding ground for terrorists who pose a threat to our national security."
There is no end in sight to the conflict in Syria, which has divided world powers.
Russia and Shiite Iran support Assad, while the United States, along with some European and Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab nations back a fractured opposition.Damascus and some of its opponents have said they will consider peace talks, but no meetings have been arranged.
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