ISIS has spread its tentacles further around Europe after a major terrorist group which commands ‘as many as 15,000’ in the Caucuses region of southern Russia pledged its allegiance to it.
The leader of the Caucuses Emirate, which has carried out over 900 terrorist attacks on Russian soil since its formation in 2007, personally declared his loyalty to ISIS commander-in-chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
‘We need to hurry up and unite so we can cut off the heads of the infidels,’ Aslan Byutukayev says in a new propaganda video allegedly filmed inside the predominantly Muslim republic of Chechnya.
The Caucasus Emirate serves as an umbrella group of smaller extremist groups in Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia, who have been waging bloody battles in an attempt to break away from Russian rule for decades.
The group may command tens of thousands of loyal subjects, according to Professor Gordon Hahn of the Monterey Terrorism Research and Education Program.
‘The entire CE [Caucuses Emirate] insurgency and terrorist movement may be estimated to number some 15,200 soldiers, leaders and facilitators,’ he wrote in his book The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin.
Islamic State already commands ‘up to 200,000’ fighters according to Kurdish commanders and as many as eight million people are thought to be living under its brutal reign across the Middle East and North Africa – after it expanded its territory to Libya earlier this year.
And in a recently released video entitled ‘Soon, Soon’, an unknown organisation called ‘ISIS Tunisia Province’ hinted at setting up yet another official base in the north African country which has supplied the extremists with 3,000 jihadi soldiers in recent years.
Caucuses Emirate was recognised as a terrorist organisation by the UK, United States, Russia and the United Nations following a series of deadly high-profile attacks between 2009 and 2014.
The Islamist group was behind the 2009 Nevsky Express disaster when 27 people were killed and over 50 wounded when a bomb was detonated on a high speed train carrying 661 passengers from Moscow St Petersburg.
It also claimed responsibility for two separate suicide bomb attacks on trams in the Russian city of Volgograd which killed 34 in December 2013.
Its fighters were among over 400 Chechen extremists who joined Islamic State on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq since 2011, according to the Russian Interior Ministry.
And Chechen fighters such as Islamic State’s military commander Omar Al-Shishani and Muslem Al-Shishani have taken a prominent role in guiding the terror group to victory throughout the Middle East.
In October 2014, after conquering Mosul, the man known as Omar the Chechen said he would take ‘revenge’ on Russia.
Bloomberg reported how Omar al-Shishani phoned his father in Georgia to tell him ISIS will someday wage war on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
‘He said ‘don’t worry dad, I’ll come home and show the Russians… I have many thousands following me now and I’ll get more. We’ll have our revenge against Russia,’ his father Temur Batirashvili said.
The number of Chechen fighters currently in Syria and Iraq range from 200 to 1,000 and there are growing concerns they are being told to return to their home countries to continue to wage jihad, according to the Independent.
Earlier this month, worrying images emerged on social media which showed extremists holding up ‘love letters’ to Islamic State’s leader inside Chechnya.
One handwritten message held outside the Akhmad Kadyrov mosque in the capital Grozny read: ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, this town awaits your holy army!’
That picture, which was seen by experts as a direct threat to the Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was followed by another featuring a masked fighter who held up a sign reportedly saying: ‘I swear by Allah, we are waiting for you in Chechnya!’
Although Baghdadi did not reply directly, ISIS terrorists recognised the messages and replied on social media, : ‘Be patient, o brothers and sisters… The day is not far off when the banner of Islam will hang and Shari’a law will be on the streets.
‘Heads will fly from those who tear off the hijabs of the sisters and pluck the beards of the brothers.’