A new jihadist group known as the Jamaat Ahadun Ahad, or the Group of the One and Only, has released a video of its training camp in Syria. The group is led by a Chechen commander and includes fighters from Chechnya, Europe, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and several Arab countries.
The video was published today on Jamaat Ahadun Ahad’s YouTube page. The video shows a rudimentary camp situated in a large clearing surrounded by woods. Several tents are visible. The exact location of the camp was not disclosed, but it may be located in the Syrian province of Latakia, where the group is said to concentrate its efforts.
Dozens of Jamaat Ahadun Ahad fighters appear in the video. The fighters are shown conducting small unit drills, including conducting assaults and ambushes, patrolling, and breaking contact while under fire. In one drill, featured at the end of the video, a mock patrol is ambushed by a group of camouflaged fighters, who are instructed to quickly take weapons and ammunition from dead troops before leaving.
Although the Jamaat Ahadun Ahad fighters appear to be well armed and equipped, they are not wearing uniforms, unlike fighters in a number of other jihadist training camps. Many of the fighters in the video are also apparently not concerned about covering their faces.
Jamaat Ahadun Ahad is led by a Chechen commander known as Al Bara Shishani, according to From Chechnya to Syria, a website that tracks fighters from the Russian Caucasus and Central Asia who are fighting in Syria.
According to a statement released on the jihadist group’s Twitter feed, Jamaat Ahadun Ahad’s “[shura] council consists of mujahideen with a great past on the lands of jihad in Chechnya and Afghanistan.” The statement was released in Arabic, English, and Turkish.
Jamaat Ahadun Ahad is made up of both foreign fighters and Syrians.
“Jamaat Ahadun Ahad is a smaller jihadist group consisting of several anonymous and independent muhajireen (foreign fighter) brigades. A number of Ansar (local Syrian) brigades have also joined the formation,” according to an analysis of the group that was published by From Chechnya to Syria.
“As a mostly foreign fighter brigade, Jamaat Ahadun Ahad boasts many Chechens, Turks, Arabs, Europeans, and even several former members of the Taliban,” presumably from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the analysis stated. Trainers from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, an al Qaeda linked group, are known to be based in Syria.
Jamaat Ahadun Ahad is said to be neutral in the dispute between the Islamic State and the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.
Jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria are promoting training camps
Already this year, jihadist groups in both Iraq and Syria have promoted the existence of at least eight training camps.
In mid-March, the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria and a rival of the Islamic State, announced that it is running two training camps in Syria. Its Ayman al Zawahiri Camp was located in the city of Deir al Zour and is named after al Qaeda’s current emir (the Islamic State currently controls the city). The other camp, whose location was not disclosed, is called the Abu Ghadiya Camp and is named after the leader of the al Qaeda in Iraq facilitation network that was based in eastern Syria. Abu Ghadiya was killed in a US special operations raid in eastern Syria in the fall of 2008.
In the beginning of April, the Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters, or Muhajireen Army), a group of foreign fighters led by commanders from the Caucasus who are part of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, released video of its training camp in Aleppo province. The video included footage of a bomb-making class.
In early May, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham announced the existence of the Zarqawi Camp, which is named after the slain founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital of Damascus.
In June, an Uzbek jihadist group known as the Imam Bukhari Jamaat released a video of its training camp in Syria. The camp is thought to be located in Aleppo province.
In July, the Islamic State released several photographs of what it said are its training camps in Iraq’s Ninewa province, and several more images from a camp in Aleppo, Syria.
The videos and photographs from ISIS, Al Nusrah Front, Muhajireen Army, Imam Bukhari Jamaat, and Jamaat Ahadun Ahad training camps are reminiscent of others released by al Qaeda from the network of camps in Afghanistan during the 1990s. Al Qaeda used camps such as Khalden and Al Farouq to churn out thousands of foreign fighters who fought alongside the Taliban in the 55th Arab Brigade. But al Qaeda also selected graduates of the camps to conduct attacks in the West, including the Sept. 11, 2001 operation against the US.