Junud al-Sham

Introduction

Junud al-Sham was a Chechen militant group with a fractured relationship with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The group was formed by spring 2013 by Murad Margoshvili, a.k.a. Muslim Shishani, who arrived in Syria in 2012. For the first few years of its existence, the group was heavily focused on training foreign fighters for other Salafist factions.* Shishani is a veteran of the Chechen wars in the 1990s and was designated as a Specially Designated National (SDN) by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in September 2014.* The group was severely weakened by defections to ISIS in 2015 and 2016 and has remained largely isolated in the northern Latakia mountains.* In July 2021, HTS ordered Junud al-Sham to disband and leave its positions in Latakia, and for its leader Muslim Shishani to leave Idlib altogether.* HTS accused Shishani and his group of harboring “criminals,” i.e., pro-ISIS and pro-al-Qaeda elements, an accusation Shishani denied.* HTS official Abu Mariah al-Qahtani specifically accused Junud al-Sham of taking up arms in defense of Jundallah—a small Sunni extremist group comprised of mostly Azeri foreign fighters considered more hardline than ISIS—which HTS had also began a crackdown of in the summer of 2021.* HTS has since dismantled Junud al-Sham, though Shishani remains in Idlib under HTS’s watch.*

Leadership

Murad Margoshvili (a.k.a. Muslim Abu al-Walid al-Shishani) (leader)*

Base of Operations

Latakia and Aleppo provinces in Syria (formerly)*

Website

N/A

Membership Size and Relevance

While Junud al-Sham largely consisted of Chechen foreign fighters, the group included dozens of western men in 2013 and 2014, though most of these foreigners joined ISIS by the end of 2014.* While the group was dominated by Chechens, Turkish, Arab, and the remaining European members fought within their own ethnic-based sub-groups operating underneath the Chechen command.* In its early years, Junud al-Sham was responsible for training hundreds of foreign fighters in Syria.* However, defections to ISIS and financial difficulties reduced the group to as few as 30 fighters by 2016.* Shishani alluded to his group’s weakness in 2021 when he stated: “We are the very last group that could cause problems [for HTS].”* While the group maintained its independence up until its banishment in 2021, it fought closely alongside al-Nusra Front in battles across Idlib, Latakia, and Aleppo throughout the earlier years of the war.*

Recruitment and Propaganda

Junud al-Sham easily attracted foreign fighters to its camps in the Latakia mountains thanks to the renown of its leader, Muslim Shishani, who was a veteran of the Chechen wars in the 1990s. The group published videos and pictures of its camps in the early years, emphasizing the group’s role in training foreigners, which helped to attract hundreds of men to its ranks.*

Violent Activities

Junud al-Sham fought extensively in rebel offensives in Latakia, Idlib, Hama, and Aleppo.*

Rhetoric

N/A

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On June 6, 2021, the Taliban attacked a complex in Ghor province, killing nine and injuring seven. That same day, the Taliban launched similar attacks on the police headquarters in Faryab province, killing 28 security forces, and in Balkh province, killing 19 and injuring 69 others.   

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