Chachan jihadist leader leaves Syria’s Idlib to fight in Ukraine

IDLIB, Syria (North Press) – A military source close to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) revealed that a Chechen jihadist leader, along with a group of his militants, left Idlib, northwest Syria, and arrived in Ukraine at the end of last week.

The Chachan leader, Abdul-Hakim al-Shishani, serves as the leader of Ajnad al-Kavkaz, an armed jihadist group close to HTS and operates in the Syrian Governorate of Idlib.

A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told North Press that the Chechen leader arrived at the end of last week in Ukraine with about 70 militants of his group.

Prior to entering Ukraine, the source said, the Chachan leader entered Turkey and stayed there for several days after coordinating with its intelligence service, which facilitated the group’s arrival in Ukraine.

HTS also facilitated the departure of the Chachan leader,  who left Idlib with his group in small batches, as part of its efforts to get rid of all foreign militants who carry extremist ideology from the areas under its control. This comes as part of HTS’ efforts to get closer to the West, with the aim of removing the organization’s name from terror lists.  

Al-Shishani had arrived with his jihadist group in the Syrian opposition-controlled areas in northwestern Syria in mid-2014, and took the northern countryside of Latakia as its main stronghold.

Reporting by Baha’ al-Nobani