Al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has asked senior Chechen leader Muslim Abu Walid al-Shishani to join its ranks or leave the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib along with its militants within a month, several Syrian opposition sources reported on June 27.
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. Today, he leads a group of Chechen and Lebanese militants known as Junud al-Sham. The terrorist group was formed by him in 2012. The group is mainly active in the militant-held pocket in the northern Lattakia countryside.
According to Bilal Abdul Kareem, who runs the On the Ground News outlet from Greater Idlib, al-Shishani had rejected HTS’ demands. This may lead to a confrontation between HTS and Junud al-Sham.
HTS’ move was surprising as al-Shishani was never a foe of the terrorist group. Junud al-Sham is in fact known to be a very close ally of HTS.
The move appears to be a part of HTS’ continuous efforts to solidify its grip over Greater Idlib. The terrorist group’s leader may be also worried about his own life following the assassination of his spokesman by Syrian and Russian forces earlier this month. Al-Shishani is allegedly one of the top terrorists wanted by the Russian Federation.
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