A prominent Chechen commander in Syria, Salahuddin Shishani, has been killed in the Hama countryside of northwestern Syria.
His former group has released a statement on his death. In addition, other jihadists on social media have posted photos of his reported body. Two influential jihadist figures in Syria, the Saudi Abdallah al Muhaysini and Abdul Razzaq al Mahdi, have also eulogized the veteran jihadist on social media.
According to the reports, Salahuddin was killed in the northern Hama countryside where fighting between jihadist forces and forces loyal to the Assad regime have occurred in recent days.
The exact nature of his purported death has yet to be confirmed; however, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that he was killed by a Russian airstrike.
Salahuddin was the emir of a small jihadist outfit comprised of North Caucasians and native Syrians, Jaysh Usrah, which was first reported by From Chechnya to Syria. Prior to forming this group, he was the leader of the Caucasus Emirate’s branch in Syria.
The branch was formed in July 2015 by Shishaniand his former deputy Abdul Karim Krymsky after being deposed from Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (the Army of the Emigrants and Helpers, or JMA). The Caucasus Emirate in Syria is thought to still exist, albeit small and fractured, after the departure of Salahuddin.
Shishani led JMA after Abu Omar al Shishani, one of the group’s founders, joined the Islamic State.
JMA was designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department in September 2014. At the time, State described it as “a Chechen-led terrorist organization based in Syria that consists primarily of foreign fighters.” In September 2015, it joined al Qaeda’s branch in the country, the Al Nusrah Front.
In a statement released on its Telegram page, Liwa al Muhajireen wal Ansar, as it is now known as part of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, confirmed his death.
Prior to migrating to Syria, Salahuddin was a veteran of the jihad in the North Caucasus and Georgia.
Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.