Ajnad Kavkaz (AK)


Ajnad Kavkaz(AK) is a Chechen Islamist faction that officially formed in 2015 around a core group of fighters who had made their way to Syria from the Caucuses since 2013.* Like the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), the group is largely independent, though it has frequently fought alongside both smaller hardline factions and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in offensives against the Syrian regime and Russian forces.* Prior to its formal founding, the original AK fighters fought under the command of the Syrian Islamist faction Ansar al-Sham.* However, as more foreigners joined the war, AK grew and in 2014 left Ansar al-Sham to become independent, finalizing its official form in spring 2015.* AK often operated within broader operations rooms—that is, cooperation agreements that see factions retain their independence but agree to coordinate on specific military matters, sometimes sharing weapons and supplies with each other—that included hardline groups like al-Nusra Front and TIP, such as the 2015 Jaish al-Fatah operations room.* AK has managed to maintain largely good relations with most rebel factions in the northwest, including HTS, but unlike other Chechen groups has never had a relationship with ISIS.* Rustan Azhiev, the leader of AK and a veteran Chechen insurgent since 1998, claims their overall goal is to remove the Russian government from the northern Caucuses and establish a unified state in the region, though he admits that this is not currently feasible.* In October 2022, Rustan Azhiev reportedly arrived in Ukraine along with some of his AK members to join the war there against Russia.*


Abdul-Khakim Shishani (a.k.a. Rustan Azhiev)*

Base of Operations

Idlib and Latakia provinces in Syria*


Khliafa.org (unavailable)

Membership Size and Relevance

AK consists mostly of Chechens but also includes foreign fighters from elsewhere in the Caucuses, Syrians, and foreign Arab fighters.* The group has worked closely with HTS and its predecessor, al-Nusra Front. As of 2022 what remains of the very small faction resides in the Latakia area of northwest Syria as a semi-independent faction, though HTS claims the group has fully merged under its military wing.*

Recruitment and Propaganda

AK has in the past published videos and photos of its operations on its website and via various social media accounts.*

Violent Activities

AK has played a central role in several rebel offensives during the war, including the 2015 seizure of Idlib city and much of the province from regime forces, and the 2017 raids against regime positions in west Aleppo after rebels lost control of Aleppo city.*


  • February 2017: “We came to Syria because here also are our brothers and sisters who need our help. It is possible that from here there will also be an opportunity to assist our brothers and sisters in the Caucuses.”*
  • February 2017: “The battle for liberating Muslim lands and establishing on them the Law of Allah – this is the duty of every Muslim. Independent territory and Sharia – these are the main attributes of a Muslim State. Of course we all dream and work for the creation of such a state.”*

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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