Islamist rebels fighting in Syria are apparently calling on Muslims in Ukraine to wage jihad on their home front and have suggested eventually taking the battle to Moscow and Poland.
In a new video posted online, Abdul Karim Krymsky, the deputy head of the Al Qaeda-linked group the Muhajireen Army, challenged Ukrainian Muslims to “start on the path of jihad” against the Russian government.
Quotes from the video, which was posted online last week, were provided by the Washington-based research organization Foundation for Defense of Democracy’s publication the Long War Journal which covers jihadi movements.
“You have to open up lands yourselves and defeat the infidels,” Krymsky said.
“I want to say to those brothers, and I am addressing those brothers who remain [in Crimea], that they should feel dignity, so that they can start on the path of jihad,” he said. “So if they can’t come to the lands of Islam, like Sham [Syria], they can go to Moscow or Poland because the infidels there and here won’t rest until they destroyed your religion.”
The Long War Journal noted that the Muhajireen Army – which has close ties with the Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria — is comprised of hundreds of fighters from the Caucasus and Russia as well as Syrians, while its deputy commander Krymsky is himself a Crimean Tatar.
The new video does not appear to be the first call for jihad in the Ukrainian theater. In March, BuzzFeed quoted intelligence experts who noted that they had already seen calls for jihad in Crimea posted online but that the calls until then had been “relatively small.”
Also in March, a Ukrainian parliament member held out the threat of reprisals from radical Islamists against Russia, a threat that to now has not been carried out.
“We have Islamists, Wahhabis, Salafis, groups who have fought in Syria,” parliament member Mustafa Jemilev told Britain’s Financial Times, though he emphasized he did not endorse the potential violence.
Jemilev, himself a Crimean Tatar, said that several Tatars had approached him and stated that they would fight Russia to defend Crimea. Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in March.
“An enemy has entered our land and we are ready,” he said, adding, “We can’t stop people who want to die with honor.”
The predominantly Muslim Tatars make up around 12 percent of the Crimean population and largely oppose Russian control.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Crimean Tatar leaders on Friday that their interests are tied to Russia’s.
“None of us can allow the Crimean Tatar people to become a bargaining chip in disputes,” Putin said, adding, “especially in disputes between Russia and Ukraine.”
The full report on the 23 minute video calling for jihad in Ukraine can be found at the Long War Journal at this link. The jihadi video was originally translated in part by “From Chechnya to Syria,” a website that tracks rebels who have traveled to Syria from the Caucuses and Central Asia. It was originally posted online by Akhbar Sham, a Russian language website that promotes jihad.