While the group was already mostly fighting on the same side as al-Qaeda in the first place, the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar today announced it is formally pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, in Syria.
The Muhajireen consists of around 1,500 fighters, and historically has been a primary route for Chechens and other fighters from the former Soviet Union to enter the Syrian Civil War. The group’s main power bases are in Aleppo and Latakia, which are two areas in which al-Qaeda is attempting to expand.
The Muhajireen had previously been reported to be fighting alongside ISIS in Aleppo, and this could shift the balance of power in the area around the Turkish border, where the two sides are in direct competition for important towns.
The group was founded by Abu Omar al-Shishani, a Chechen who had fought against Russia in the Chechnya wars and the Russo-Georgian War. The group’s leadership remains largely foreign, and al-Qaeda estimated in their own statement that the Muhajireen was 30% foreign fighters at this point.
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