The Muhajireen Army, a jihadist group comprised of foreign fighters and Syrians who are closely tied to al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, claimed credit for two recent suicide assaults that targeted government soldiers at an airport in Aleppo. In one of the two attacks, the jihadists used a BMP armored personnel carrier to detonate a large quantity of explosives.
Video of one of the two attacks as well as statements were released at FISyria, “a Russian website covering news from the jihad in Syria,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which translated the website postings. Both attacks, which targeted Syrian soldiers based at the Minnigh airport, took place in June.
The Muhajireen Army does not have an official propaganda outlet, and its information is often released via third parties, usually Russian-language websites. Fighters from the Russian Caucasus are prevalent in the Muhajireen Army, and the group’s commander is a Chechen.
The latest attack on the airport took place on June 23. In that complex assault, a Muhajireen Army unit led by Umar al Shishani detonated a captured Syrian Army BMP armored personnel carrier that was “loaded with 4 tons of explosives” somewhere at the base. It is unclear if the suicide bomber detonated at the gate, or inside the complex. The statement claimed that “the explosion destroyed the main building.”
The suicide bombing was immediately followed by an assault by more than a dozen heavily armed fighters. In the video, gunfire is heard right after the explosion.
The Muhajireen Army claimed that 15 of its fighters and “about forty Assad partisans were killed” during the suicide operation.
The Muhajireen Army also said that most of its fighters who were killed were “from the Caucasus and Azerbaijan.”
The other suicide assault took place on June 13. In that attack, a suicide bomber “drove into the airport” and detonated a “vehicle carrying 3 tons of explosives.”
“Following the explosion, 4 martyrdom-seekers ran into the building and began to attack,” and fought for three hours before being killed, the group claimed.
The airport in Aleppo has been besieged by the Muhajireen Army, the Al Nusrah Front, which is al Qaeda’s affiliate, and other allied jihadist and supposedly secular groups such as the Free Syrian Army for many months. Just four days ago, a video of a Syrian helicopter crashing in flames at Minnigh airport was posted on YouTube.
Yesterday, the Muhajireen Army released video of one of its fighters shooting down a Syrian military helicopter with what appears to be a SAM-7 surface-to-air missile. The video and an accompanying statement was also published on FISyria. [see Threat Matrix report, Muhajireen Army fires on Syrian helicopter with surface-to-air missile].
The Muhajireen Army is commanded by Abu Omar al Chechen, a jihadist from Russia’s Caucasus region. Hundreds of fighters from the Islamic Caucasus Emirate are thought to be in the ranks of the Muhajireen Army.
The group is known to fight alongside the Al Nusrah Front and has participated in overrunning several Syrian military bases.
At the end of March, Abu Omar al Chechen announced that the Muhajireen Brigade had merged with several Syrian jihadist groups and formed the Muhajireen Army. The group has “more than 1,000 Mujahideen, Muslim volunteers from different countries, including the Caucasus Emirate,” stated Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Caucasus Emirate.
The Muhajireen Army and the Al Nusrah Front are thought to be the fighting units of choice for the more than 700 European jihadists estimated to be fighting in Syria.