Foreign fighters have been a significant and growing part of the Syrian rebellion for quite some time. Combatants have entered the country mainly from Northern Africa, notably Libya where fighters from their own rebellion have hoped to “export” the revolution.
But the latest reports are that significant amounts of rebel fighters have been flocking to Syria from Chechnya, with one group calling itself the Brigade of Migrants being led by a Chechen and composed of fighters from Russia’s North Caucasus.
There have been off and on reports of handfuls of Chechen fighters coming into Syria, but today’s reports suggest this has grown from a few isolated fighters here and there into a bonafide movement of Chechen militants who fought the Russian occupation moving into Syria to fight against a Russian ally.
It is not principally Russia’s role in Syria that is motivating the fighters, however. Rather their leaders are exhorting them that an “Islamist state is within reach” and that, alongside the other Islamist factions that increasingly run the rebellion, Syria can be transformed into a fundamentalist Sunni state.