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Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya

The Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya (Arabic: المجاهدين العرب في الشيشان‎, Al-Mujahidin Al-'Arab fi Al-Shishan; Russian: Арабские моджахеды в Чечне, Arabskiye Muzhakhady v Chechnye) was an international unit of the Islamist Mujahideen that fought in Chechnya and other parts of the North Caucasus.

Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya
(Arabic: المجاهدون العرب في الشيشان‎)
Flag of Jihad.svg  Coat of Arms of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.svg
Jihadist black flag and Coat Of Arms of the ChRI
AllegianceChechen Republic of Ichkeria
Caucasus Emirate since 2007
TypeLight Infantry
Size5,000 – 12,000[1]
EngagementsFirst Chechen War
Second Chechen War
Insurgency in the North Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh War[2]
Abdourahman al-Zarki 1997–2000[3]
Ibn al-Khattab 2000–2002
Abu al-Walid 2002–2004[2]
Abu Hafs al-Urduni 2004–2006[2]
Muhannad 2006–2011[2]
Abdulla Kurd 2011[2]

It was created by Fathi al-Jordani[3][5] in 1995 during the First Chechen War, where it fought against the Russian Federation in favor of Chechnya's independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. During the Second Chechen War it played an important part in further fighting.


The unit has been known by several names throughout its existence. Examples include the Mujahideen in Chechnya, the Islamic Regiment, the Islamic Battalion, the Arabs in Chechnya and the Ansaar in Chechnya. The term 'Arab Mujahideen' is often used by one of the rebels' official media outlets, Kavkaz Center.

Although the overwhelming majority of the unit has always consisted of Arab volunteers, there was members of non-Arab (most notably Kurdish) and some trace their ancestry to the Caucasus. It is not to be confused with the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR), al-Qaeda’s 055 Brigade or the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB).


Foreign Mujahideen have played an important part in both First and Second Chechen Wars. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent Chechen declaration of independence, foreign fighters started entering the region and associated themselves with Chechen rebels, most notably Shamil Basayev with whom Khattab build up a friendship. Many of them were veterans of the Soviet–Afghan War and prior to the Russian invasion, they used their expertise to train the Chechen separatists.

During the First Chechen War they were notorious and feared for their guerilla tactics, inflicting severe casualties on the badly prepared Russian forces. The mujahideen also made a significant financial contribution to the separatists' cause; with their access to the immense wealth of Salafist charities like al-Haramein, they soon became an invaluable source of funds for the Chechen resistance, which had little resources of its own.

After the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya most of the mujahideen decided to remain in the country, including Khattab who married a woman from Dagestan. In 1999, foreign fighters played an important role in the War of Dagestan. Shamil Basayev and Khattab had created the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade which was composed of Chechen Arab and Dagestani fighters. The invasion was started in support of the Islamic Djamaat of Dagestan separatist rebels. After the battle they retreated back into Chechnya. The incursion provided the new Russian government with a pretext for intervention and in December 1999 Russian ground forces invaded Chechnya again.

During the ensuing Second Chechen War, the Arab Mujahideen played another important part, both for delivering fighters and their financial contributions. It was during this time that the Russians succeeded in eliminating the most prominent mujahideen commanders Ibn al-Khattab and Abu al-Walid.


The battalion was mostly composed of Arabs. Although there existed Kurdish Jihadists in relatively small numbers. All known Emirs (leaders) are deceased. Its first Emir was Ibn Al-Khattab (Saudi) who was killed in March 2002 and succeeded by Abu al-Walid (Saudi), who was killed in April 2004. His successor became Abu Hafs al-Urduni (Jordanian) who was killed in November 2006. He was succeeded by Muhannad (Saudi), who was killed in a clash with security forces in the Chechen village of Serzhen-Yurt on 21 April 2011.[2] Several weeks later, his successor Abdulla Kurd (Kurd) was also killed.[6] The battalion was split into multiple units of Mujahideen commanded by their respective Emirs.

See alsoEdit

Yugoslav wars


  1. ^ "The Arab Foreign Fighters and the Sacralization of the Chechen Conflict" (PDF). Lorenzo Vidino. Spring 2006. Archived from the original on 20 September 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Moore, Cerwyn (May 27, 2015). "Foreign Bodies: Transnational Activism, the Insurgency in the North Caucasus and "Beyond"". Terrorism and Political Violence. 27 (3): 395–415. doi:10.1080/09546553.2015.1032035. Retrieved September 14, 2019 – via Taylor and Francis+NEJM.
  3. ^ a b "Emir Muhannad: The Last of Chechnya's Arab Volunteers". The Jamestown Foundation. 29 April 2011. Archived from the original on 23 June 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  4. ^ Vidino, Lorenzo (2006). The Arab Foreign Fighters and the Sacralization of the Chechen Conflict. international: Al Nakhlah. pp. 10 (11).
  5. ^ Paul Tumelty (January 31, 2006). "The Rise and Fall of Foreign Fighters in Chechnya". Terrorism Monitor. 4 (2).
  6. ^ "Russia kills al Qaeda militant who fought with Chechen rebels". CNN. 4 May 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2014.