Infamous Chechen leader Muslim Abu Walid al-Shishani vowed to fight al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the de-facto ruler of the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib, until death in a new audio recording shared by his supporters on October 23.
Al-Shishani, whose real name is Murad Iraklievich Margoshvili, is a Georgian citizen. He reportedly fought against Russian government forces in the First and Second Chechen Wars. The terrorist arrived in Syria to fight government forces around ten years ago.
Al-Shishani refused to joint HTS. In July, the leader decided to dissolve his group, Junud al-Sham, and leave Greater Idlib along with his militants. This didn’t happen however, most likely because he couldn’t find any safe haven outside of the region. In response, HTS launched a limited search operation in al-Shishani’s stronghold, northern Lattakia, but couldn’t find him.
In his new recording, al-Shishani revealed that HTS had falsely accused him of sheltering ISIS members and outlaws. The leader called the group’s claims “lies”.
“We will for sure defend ourselves, there is no other way … God willing, we will die in honor, not degraded in one of their [HTS’] prisons,” the leader said.
Al-Shishani went on to call on HTS fighters to not believe the “lies” of their leaderships. He also asked the group’s commanders to listen the people in Greater Idlib.
HTS’ move against al-Shishani was indeed a surprise. The leader and Jund al-Sham were never enemies of the terrorist group.
It will not be easy for HTS to neutralize al-Shishani and his group. The leader has been receiving much support from radicals all over Greater Idlib. The terrorist group will likely face a very serious backlash if it decides to use force against al-Shishani.