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WASHINGTON – The head of the self-styled Caucasus Emirates has reversed his position and now will back Chechens fighting for “jihad” in Syria, so they can bring back their experiences to more effectively take on the Russian security services in their quest to set up an independent Islamic state subject to Shariah law, according to report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Doku Umarov, who leads the Caucasus Emirates, which the Islamist militants want to establish in existing southern Russian provinces, initially was opposed to Chechens leaving the area to fight in Syria.

He even tried to encourage Chechens who had been living in other countries and going to fight in Syria to instead return to the Russian province of Chechnya to fight.

Umarov was in part persuaded by a fatwa issued by a local sheikh, Abu Abdurrakhman al-Magribiy, who backed Umarov’s position that Chechens and other North Caucasians should fight at home and not in Syria.

However, a second part of that fatwa said that the North Caucasians could engage in the civil war in Syria if their goal was to obtain the combat experience needed to return home and use it against the Russians.

“The militants’ religious authority proposed something Russia is very afraid of – namely, hardened militants returning to the North Caucasus to damage Russian interests,” said Mairbek Vatchagaev of the Washington think-tank, Jamestown Foundation.

Analysts say that the North Caucasian volunteers now in Syria have become so efficient as fighters that their militarized units have been merged into the unified system of the Syrian armed opposition forces.

Part of the basis for acceptance by the Umarov and his leadership has been the videos showing North Caucasian military actions in Syria posted on YouTube. They show a prominence by the North Caucasians taking part in the Syrian civil war. Now, the Caucasus Emirate websites “proudly report on how the North Caucasians are fighting in Syria,” Vatchagaev said.

Analysts believe that it will be important for Umarov to establish control over those North Caucasians who do return from Syria.

If not, then the concern is that they will form an alternative force independent of the Caucasus Emirate leadership.

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