Chechens: Jihadis for Hire?

Since major insurgencies have sprung up around the Arab world in recent years, stories have emerged of Chechens joining the fight. The first reports of Chechens fighting in Syria appeared in 2012. It has been implied that many of these fighters are veterans of the Russian-Chechen conflicts. The reason for Chechen involvement in Syria may be twofold: Wahhabists joining the fight against Alawite and Russian-backed Bashar al Assad.

Digging deeper, more reasonable explanations are uncovered, at least for the involvement in Syria. Ethnic Chechens are traditionally Sufis. In the later part of the 20th century, a more conservative form of Islam began to take hold. By the time of the Chechen-Russian wars, Salafi/Wahhabi Islam – an ultraconservative sect of Sunni Islam – had permeated much of Chechnya. Many of the rebels fighting the Russians were these Salafists, who wanted to establish a Caucasus Emirate.  Once the wars ended, Russia installed a pro-Russian government, led by Ramzan Kadyrov. Fleeing the pro-Russian regime, many hardened Chechen rebels found their way into the mountains bordering Georgia. This is the area rebel leader Doku Umarov made his base of operations. Crossing into the North Caucasus from their mountain base had become increasingly difficult for Chechen rebels.

Enter 2011. Syrian rebels rise up against dictator Bashar al Assad. Chechen rebels found a new cause, helping the oppressed Sunni rebels fighting Assad. And they found it much easier to travel south than to go north. The Chechens found the funding and the training in Syria that they had not seen in the Caucasus. Fighting against Putin’s friend Assad must be a bonus. It is estimated that hundreds Chechen fighters have made the trek south to Syria to fight along side the rebels. There is even a website devoted to the phenomenon.

What about the recent reports of Chechens found fighting in Yemen? Last week, at least one Chechen militant was among those killed in a Yemeni military operation targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It’s possible that Chechens are growing weary of the chaos and brutal reality of fighting in Syria’s civil war. The once united struggle against Assad has turned into infighting among the rebels and terror groups. Chechen Islamists appear to be regrouping, and moving the fight to Yemen. At this time, there are no estimates on the number of Chechens in Yemen. But like Syria, the number of foreign fighters in Yemen is growing, making AQAP’s fight truly a global one.

Even more disturbing is a recent (unconfirmed) report of Chechen fighters seen in Ukraine this week. How do Chechens go from two wars and an ongoing insurgency against Russia, to backing pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine? The most likely explanation is that those showing up in eastern Ukraine are encouraged (read: paid) by Russia to cause unrest in the pro-Russian areas. Ukrainian officials have claimed to have encountered several Chechens fighting in the eastern regions, and that several were killed in operations around Donetsk and Slovyansk. Several months ago, it was reported that Chechnya’s “Vostok” 1st motorized infantry battalion helped in the operation to annex Crimea. This, of course, is vehemently denied by Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov. It’s worth noting that Kadyrov is fully backed by Russia, who also denied military involvement in the annexation of Crimea despite evidence to the contrary.

Looking at all the reports of Chechens fighting in the Middle East and in Ukraine, it’s becoming clear that not all Chechens are created equal. Those found in the Middle East tend to be Chechen Islamists, helping out their brothers in the Struggle. Yet, those fighting in Ukraine are under the Kremlin thumb. Finding both sides outside of Chechnya’s borders is interesting. Given the economic conditions in Chechnya, it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that Chechens are becoming Jihadis for Hire.



A Diary of WWII, part two

Growing up, I knew my grandfather was in World War II. He served in the Pacific, from New Guinea to the Philippines. Like many WWII veterans, he did not speak of it often, only sharing little anecdotes and funny stories. It wasn’t until after he died that we found a diary from his time in the Army. The diary only covers a few months, from February 1945 to May 1945. I am sharing it as a way to give a personal view left out of so much war writing, and to preserve a little piece of my history. I hope you enjoy…

These are my grandfather’s words. I have not altered them in any way, including spelling. If a word was illegible, I left a blank.

A. 10. Today we broke the record in the Southwest Pacific for being in actual combat. 67 days is the longest for any outfit today makes 68 days straight. We also stand reville daily.

A. 11. Went to pick out a new position for B btry up at the Inf. front lines. We ate dinner with them. They showed us a dead pro-jap they had killed the day before. We find a problem today don’t know the facts yet.

A. 12. had vehicle inspection this morning. I went back to where (Calamba) B btry were alone,to mail some packages and get money turned in for money orders.

A. 13. Nothing new happened today. We got our beer, also our money orders City of Calamba

A. 14. Went to rear __, then then to 54th hospital. When I got back I saw a movie the name Lara.

A. 15. Went to Combia after mail. Oh yes had pork chops for supper. No activity.

A. 16. I went back to Manila today. it was really a sight to see, how they are rebuilding it up again. I did get alful mad trying to buy some ice cream they wanted 4 pesos for a cup. I went on out to Clark field. they have liberty ships at the docks unloading. you can see jap ships around there. it looks like Pearl Harbor. We really had a nice trip. We are now 76 miles of Manila. No activity.

April 17. Well Baker btry moved out to ourselves again today boy I’m glad of that, we had quit a job laying our wire. We only fired a few rounds.

A. 18. All I did was put our line over head. City of Tianog

A. 19.fired on 50 japs don’t know results yet.

A. 20. Carried out patrol didn’t find any japs

A. 21. Carried out another patrol killed one jap

A. 22. Out patrol killed five japs, we also fired on targets

A. 23. Sent out patrols got two japs. I carried a horse we captured from the japs to the G. Col. house.

A. 24. Shot a jap in the foot and captured him his rank was cpl. We carried him to our O.P. and questioned him he told us where the other japs around here were. 82 days in combat.

25. Moved to a village near Santo Tomas went though San Pablo, it was a pile of ruins.

26. We loosen up our guns today 700 rounds.

27. We did a lot of firing on jap personell I was also very sick from the shot we had.

28. did a lot of firing over B.C. got hit with a piece of scrapnel Not bad, it was in the foot. I made a trip to Santo Tomas and to Lipa. We also got our beer.

A. 29. I went to Lipa on to Clomba then to our to be rest comp. Come back and went to a show :Together Again” the Inf. took the hill we have been firing on so much. We gave them a few voleys to start them off.

30. Worked on my jeep til noon, then we pulled one gun on top of a mountain and fired 100 rounds point blank. Charge 3. it was really fun to watch it. there were japs all around us. A bull doser ran over one and smashed him flat. the mountain is near San Pablo. I also got paid today. I draw 72 pesos and 20 centaves.

May 1. I went to 98th evac. Hosp. to see Bob Lange. City of Real. We pulled the one gun back on top of the mountain. It rained so they can’t get off. saw a show also.

May 2. Our gun got off the mountain by wenching theirselves down. I drove our warn officer Mr Hunt to Calamba had a flat on the way my first one in combat it took all after noon for me to fix it.

May 4. We moved our rest area at Los Banos after 92 days of actual combat.

May 5. We worked like hell all day. saw a movie that night.

May 6. We moved back into combat ease of Manila fired all night. saw the japs shoot a pilot of a P38 and of course the plane crashed. he shot him with a rifle.

May 7. We fired all day. long on cover also all night. We are now supporting the first Cav.

May 8. We fired all day and all night. I was alful sick.

May 9. We didn’t fire a round because the Inf. took all eight hills they were after.

May 10. Moved to another rest area near Manila. Another sentence here is badly faded, and unreadable.

May 11. Was busy pulling up tents.

May 12. I was in bed sick all day.

May 13. drove Capt Hon to Manila for some supplies. Up untill May 10 we fired 130000 rounds of ammo have credit of knocking out 14 – 75 MM. 6 – 105 MM. 3 – 155 and one 12 incher (or 30 senmiters) About 8 or 10 prime mover and a flock of trucks and horses. 600 men also 85 we killed with small arms. (we had 18 men wounded only one killed. two bronze stars so far.

That is where the diary ends. Pfc Thomas P. Bridges was discharged on 31 Aug 1945. He left the Army with (according to a detachment form) an Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with one Bronze Battle Star, Overseas Service Chevrons-Two, a Good Conduct Medal, and a Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star. God bless my grandfather, and all other veterans.

A Diary of WWII, part one

Growing up, I knew my grandfather was in World War II. He served in the Pacific, from New Guinea to the Philippines. Like many WWII veterans, he did not speak of it often, only sharing little anecdotes and funny stories. It wasn’t until after he died that we found a diary from his time in the Army. The diary only covers a few months, from February 1945 to May 1945. I am sharing it as a way to give a personal view left out of so much war writing, and to preserve a little piece of my history. I hope you enjoy…

These are my grandfather’s words. I have not altered them in any way, including spelling. If a word was illegible, I left a blank.

Feb. 5. Went to 11th airborne Hq saw a jap 150 motor

Feb. 6. left there to join up with my outfit, without a map or anything. Came over a montain pass, just as I found them we moved up with the inf. that night. We didn’t fire.

Feb. 7. We fired on japs that night. Hq. machine gun cpl. opened fire with a 50 cal. On our machine gun cpl. hit him three time, arm, leg, stomic. Next morning Feb. 8 I went with him to hosp. that same day we moved again.

March 1, 1945 Moved positions drove all day long.

Mar. 2. got to Manila saw a lot of japs still laying around everywhere.

Mar. 3. Went to Nichols field saw about 100 jap planes destroyed on the grounds

Mar. 4. I drove the B.C.S from each firing btrys all over Manila inside the walled city and saw McAurthur and ____ A time bomb went off and killed four boys just ahead of us. We also drove to Clark field. saw a lot of jap planes.

Mar. 9. I went to the O.P. didn’t see much.

Mar. 10. Went to O.P. saw A20 scraffing a roadblock.

Mar. 11. Went to O.P. saw inf. and japs fighting it got to hot for the Yanks, so they backed up and we opened fire on the japs.

Mar. 12. Watched A20 bomb and scrafe the hill were our inf was drove off. We alos fired on jap position.

Mar. 13. All the Bn. moved to another position (70 miles) except the “B” btry. We stayed and really pooped out the rounds, to support the inf. I also eight letter from my honey. Oh yea we also watched P38s ans A20s bomb and scrafe.

Mar. 14. first we fired 40 rounds at 5:30 to start the day off right. Went for rations at 11 airborne Hq.

Mar. 15. Knocked out jap machine guns ____ and troops. sniper fired 2 rounds at me on the way to get rations. I didn’t see him.

16 Mar. Moved one gun forward to fire on certain positions. Was very good hits.

Mar. 17. fired on jap targets

Mar. 18. pull one gun up and fired all day on japs

Mar. 19. we took the hill that the air corp had bombed and scrafe and we have shelled so much. We also fired on japs in cave. rounds landed right in the door.

Mar. 20. Pulled up two guns and knocked of a bridge. Also machine gun nests.

Mar. 21. the japs rebuilt the bridge, so we had to blow it up again

Mar. 22. pulled up two guns and fired on jap installations

Mar. 23. March order, come as far as 11th airborne Hq. stayed over night

Mar. 24. Continued our move. We hit our position at 2:00, We got dug in before night. At 11:00 PM 756 opened machine gun it was a 4th of July. Killed jap sniper in our position. City of ____

Mar. 25. I went up and saw the 12 inch jap gun that our Bn knocked out. it was dug in, with a house top over it on tracks with winches to move it from over the gun so it could fire, dead japs laying all over the place it took 200 japs to operate it. It was a wonderful set up. Knocked out gun. Killed sniper in our position at noon.

Mar. 26. At 2 OClock we had 8 rounds of japs counterbtry. four boys wounded in C btry. it was 75 MM. We also fired on cave positions.

Mar. 27. At 7:20 AM. we had 20 rounds of counter btry. 1 man wounded “C” We fired on the 75, don’t know if we got it or not as he is in a cave. Also fired on other targets.

Mar. 28. We layed down a baradge from 9:00 until 12:00 for the inf. push also got my two Batangus knives.

Mar. 29. One man that was wounded the 26 died today, the first man we’ve lost out of our Bn. We also had about 20 more rounds of counter btry. We were eating supper when it started about 5:30 in the evening.

Mar. 30. We pulled up two guns and give the japs hell. I was at our ___ all day.

Mar. 31. didn’t do but very little firing

April 1. About all we did was get ready to move

A. 2. We moved to new position near Banton __. Rained all day

A. 3. fired a little but not much excitement.

A. 4. pulled two guns up again. We knocked out two jap 105 MM. 16 direct hits on them also killed a lot of japs.

A. 6. Pulled up two guns fired a lot on jap position, also one of “A” Btry’s men shot another one. (Smith) About 11 PM. hit him in lower part of chest. he’s in bad shape at 54th EV hosp.

A. 7. Went to rear __. saw the city of Lipa sure was a mess. Our guns did a lot of firing, knocked out 3 jap 150 MM. guns. 756 was getting counter btry from them.

A. 8. fired on the japs that made the bands I attack on the inf. don’t know the results yet. Also saw the A20s giving them hell. got in 9 replacements.

A. 9. didn’t do any firing or anything today just sat round working on my jeep all morning…

Part 2 coming soon.