Abu Omar al-Shishani

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Abu Omar al-Shishani
Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili.jpg
Omar al-Shishani as seen during the Syrian Civil War
Birth nameTarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili
Born(1986-02-11)11 February 1986 [1] [2] [3]
Birkiani, Georgian SSR, Soviet Union [4]
Died10 July 2016(2016-07-10) (aged 30) [5] [6]
Al-Shirqat, Saladin Governorate, Iraq
Allegiance Flag of Georgia.svg Georgian Armed Forces
(2006–2010)
Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar.jpg Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar
(2012–2013)
AQMI Flag asymmetric.svg Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [7] [8]
(May 2013 – July 2016)
Service/branch Military of ISIS
Rank Field Commander
Commands heldNorthern Syria
Battles/wars Russo-Georgian War [9]

Syrian Civil War [9] [10]

Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili (Georgian :თარხან ბათირაშვილი; 11 February 1986 – 10 July 2016), known by his nom de guerre Omar al-Shishani (Arabic : أبو عمر الشيشاني, [11] was a Georgian Chechen jihadist who served as a commander for the Islamic State in Syria, and previously as a sergeant in the Georgian Army. [11]

Georgian language Official language of Georgia

Georgian is a Kartvelian language spoken by Georgians. It is the official language of Georgia. Georgian is written in its own writing system, the Georgian script. Georgian is the literary language for all regional subgroups of Georgians, including those who speak other Kartvelian languages: Svans, Mingrelians and the Laz.

Georgia (country) Country in the Caucasus region

Georgia known until 1995 as the Republic of Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital and largest city is Tbilisi. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 square kilometres (26,911 sq mi), and its 2017 population is about 3.718 million. Georgia is a unitary parliamentary republic, with the government elected through a representative democracy.

Chechens Caucasian ethnic group

Chechens are a Northeast Caucasian ethnic group of the Nakh peoples originating in the North Caucasus region of Eastern Europe.They refer to themselves as Vainakhs or Nokhchiy. Chechen and Ingush peoples are collectively known as the Vainakh. The majority of Chechens today live in the Chechen Republic, a subdivision of the Russian Federation.

Contents

A veteran of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, Batirashvili became jihadist after being discharged from the Georgian military and served in various command positions with Islamist militant groups fighting in the Syrian Civil War. Batirashvili was previously the leader of the rebel group Muhajireen Brigade (Emigrants Brigade), and its successor, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters). In 2013, Batirashvili joined the Islamic State and rapidly became a senior commander in the organization, directing a series of battles and ultimately earning a seat on ISIL's shura council.

Russo-Georgian War 2008 war between Russia and Georgia in South Ossetia

The Russo-Georgian War was a war between Georgia, Russia and the Russian-backed self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The war took place in August 2008 following a period of worsening relations between Russia and Georgia, both formerly constituent republics of the Soviet Union. The fighting took place in the strategically important Transcaucasia region. It was regarded as the first European war of the 21st century.

Syrian Civil War Ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria

The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria fought between the Ba'athist Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad, along with domestic and foreign allies, and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the Syrian government and each other in varying combinations. The war is currently the 2nd deadliest of the 21st century.

The US Treasury Department added Batirashvili to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists on 24 September 2014, [12] and seven months later the US government announced a reward up to US$5 million for information leading to his capture. [13] [14] There were several reports of his death throughout 2015 and 2016. ISIL confirmed he was killed in July 2016 as a result of a US airstrike. [15]

Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) is a designation authorized under US Executive Order 13224, among other executive orders, and Title 31, Parts 595, 596, and 597 of the US Code of Federal Regulations, among other US laws and regulations. People or entities are designated as "Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT)s" under Executive Order 13224 by the United States Department of State or the US Department of the Treasury.

Early life

Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili was born in the Georgian SSR, Soviet Union (now Georgia) in 1986. His father, Teimuraz Batirashvili, is an ethnic Batsbi of Chechen origin, which are orthodox Christians. His mother was a Muslim Kist—an ethnic Chechen subgroup from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge—of the Mastoy clan. [3] [16] [17]

Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic union republic of the Soviet Union

Georgia, formally the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, was one of the republics of the Soviet Union from its inception in 1922 to its breakup in 1991. Coterminous with the present-day republic of Georgia, it was based on the traditional territory of Georgia, which had existed as a series of independent states in the Caucasus prior to annexation by the Russian Empire in 1801. Independent again as the Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1918, it was annexed by Soviet forces, who invaded it in 1921. The Georgian SSR was subsequently formed, though from 1922 until 1936 it was a part of the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, which existed as a union republic within the USSR. From November 18, 1989, the Georgian SSR declared its sovereignty over Soviet laws. The republic was renamed the Republic of Georgia on November 14, 1990, and subsequently became independent before the dissolution of the Soviet Union on April 9, 1991, whereupon each former SSR became a sovereign state.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Kist people Ethnic group

The Kists are a Nakh ethnic group in Georgia. They primarily live in the Pankisi Gorge, in the eastern Georgian region of Kakheti, where there are approximately 9,000 Kist people.

Batirashvili grew up in the largely Kist-populated Christian village of Birkiani, located in the Pankisi Gorge in an impoverished region of northeast Georgia. He was one of three sons, all of whom would convert to Islam against their father's wishes later in life. During his childhood, his father was rarely present, as he spent long periods of time working in Russia, and the children were mostly raised by their mother. [18] In his youth, he worked as a shepherd in the hills above the gorge. Later in the 1990s, the Pankisi Gorge was a major transit point for rebels participating in the Second Chechen War, and it was there that Batirashvili reportedly came into contact with the Chechen rebels moving into Russia. [19] According to his father, a young Batirashvili secretly helped Chechen militants into Russia and sometimes joined them on missions against Russian troops. [4]

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is by a considerable margin the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.80 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the second largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

Second Chechen War war

Second Chechen War, also known as the Second Chechen Сampaign or officially Counter-terrorist operations on territories of North Caucasian region, was an armed conflict on the territory of Chechnya and the border regions of the North Caucasus between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, also with militants of various Islamist groups, fought from August 1999 to April 2009.

Service in the Georgian Armed Forces

After finishing high school, Batirashvili joined the Georgian Army and distinguished himself as master of various weaponry and maps, according to his former commander Malkhaz Topuria, who recruited him into a special reconnaissance group. [4] His unit received training at the Krtsanisi National Training Centre, which included training with US special forces. Batirashvili was reportedly a "star pupil". [20] He rose to the rank of sergeant in a newly formed intelligence unit, and during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War he served near the front line in the Battle of Tskhinvali, spying on Russian tank columns and relaying their coordinates to Georgian artillery units. [4] According to Business Insider , Batirashvili's unit inflicted serious damage on the Russians, and among the actions they participated in was an attack on a column of the Russian 58th Army during which the commander of the 58th Army, General Anatoly Khrulyov, was wounded. [20]

Georgian Land Forces land warfare branch of Georgias military

The Georgian Ground Forces are the land force component of the Defense Forces of Georgia. They are the largest branch of the military and constitute the bulk of the DFG.

Krtsanisi National Training Centre

The Training and Military Education Support Centre "Krtsanisi" is a major training facility for the military of Georgia, located at the Krtsanisi settlement, outside Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi, at the foothills of the Iaghluja mountainous range. It is operated by the Georgian Defense Forces General Staff Military Training and Education Command. Established in April 1997, the unit was known as the Krtsanisi National Training Center until 2016. It was also referred to as the Krtsanisi Training Area (KTA), especially in the United States sources.

Battle of Tskhinvali only major battle in the Russo-Georgian War

The Battle of Tskhinvali was a fight for the city of Tskhinvali, capital of South Ossetia. It was the only major battle in the Russo-Georgian War. Georgian ground troops entered the city on early 8 August 2008, after an artillery assault. Their advance was stopped by South Ossetian militia and members of the Russian peacekeeping force stationed in the city. Russian combat troops began entering South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel. After being initially forced to withdraw, the Georgian troops made several attempts to retake the city. Due to the difficult logistics of the terrain, the arrival of Russian reinforcements was slow. After fierce fighting, Georgian troops were finally forced to withdraw from the city on the evening of 10 August. On 11 August, all Georgian troops left South Ossetia. Parts of Tskhinvali were devastated in the three-day fighting.

Batirashvili was never decorated for his military service. [3] He was due to be promoted to become an officer, but in 2010 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After spending several months in a military hospital, he was discharged on medical grounds. He tried and failed to re-enlist. [4] [19] Upon returning home, he applied for a job in the local police force and was rejected. Around this time, his mother also died of cancer. According to his father, he became "very disillusioned". [4]

Islamist militant activity

According to the Georgian Defense Ministry, Batirashvili was arrested in September 2010 for illegal possession of weapons and sentenced to three years in prison. [4] He was allegedly released after serving about 16 months in early 2012 and immediately left the country. According to an interview on a jihadist website, Batirashvili said that prison transformed him; "I promised God that if I come out of prison alive, I'll go fight jihad for the sake of God", he said. [4]

Batirashvili reportedly told his father that he was leaving for Istanbul, where members of the Chechen diaspora were ready to recruit him to lead fighters inside war-ravaged Syria; an older brother had already gone to Syria some months before. [4] In an interview, Batirashvili said that he had considered going to Yemen and briefly lived in Egypt before ultimately arriving in Syria in March 2012. [21] [22]

Muhajireen Brigade

His first command was the Muhajireen Brigade, an Islamist jihadist group made up of foreign fighters that was formed in the summer of 2012. His unit became involved in the Battle of Aleppo, and in October 2012, they assisted al-Nusra Front in a raid on an air defense and Scud missile base in Aleppo. [10]

In December 2012, they fought alongside al-Nusra Front during the overrunning of the Sheikh Suleiman Army base in Western Aleppo. In February 2013, together with the Tawhid Brigades and al-Nusra Front, they stormed the base of the Syrian Army's 80th Regiment, near the main airport in Aleppo. [23]

In March 2013, Kavkaz Center reported that the Muhajireen Brigade had merged with two Syrian jihadist groups called Jaish Muhammad and Kataeb Khattab to form a new group called Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, or Army of Emigrants and Helpers. [24] The group played a key role in the August 2013 capture of Menagh Air Base, which culminated in a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) driven by two of their members killing and wounding many of the last remaining Syrian Armed Forces defenders. [25] A branch of the Muhajireen Brigade was involved in the 2013 Latakia offensive. [26]

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

In May 2013, Batirashvili was appointed northern commander for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, [27] with authority over its military operations and forces in northern Syria, specifically Aleppo, Raqqa, Latakia, and northern Idlib Provinces. By late 2013, he was the ISIL emir (leader) for northern Syria and was operating in and around Aleppo Province. He was also in charge of fighters from Chechnya and elsewhere in the Caucasus. [28] Units under his command participated in major assaults on Syrian military bases in and around Aleppo, including the capture of Menagh Airbase in August 2013. [4] He was considered "one of the most influential military leaders of the Syrian opposition forces". [3] By mid-2014, Batirashvili was a senior ISIL commander and Shura Council member based in Raqqa, Syria. [28]

In August 2013, Batirashvili released a statement announcing the expulsion of one of his commanders, Emir Seyfullah, and 27 of his fighters. Batirashvili accused the men of embezzlement and stirring up the animosity of local Syrians against the foreign fighters by indulging in takfir—excommunication—against other Muslims. [29] However, Seyfullah denied these allegations and claimed that the dispute was due to his refusal to join ISIL with Batirashvili. [30] In late 2013, Batirashvili was replaced as leader of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar by another Chechen commander known as Salahuddin, as most of the Chechen members of the group did not support Batirashvili's support of ISIL, due to their preexisting oath to the Caucasus Emirate militant group and its leader Dokka Umarov. [3] [8] By mid-2014, Batirashvili was a senior ISIL commander and Shura Council member operating in Raqqa, Syria. [27] During this time, Batirashvili came to be known for using swarming and human wave tactics, most notably during the Siege of Menagh Air Base and Battle of Al-Tabqa airbase. He would use raw recruits for assaults, reasoning that the enemy would eventually be overwhelmed or run out of ammunition regardless of the casualties among ISIL fighters. Regional expert Joanna Paraszuk sarcastically remarked that Batirashvili's approach was based on the belief that "everyone want[s] to be a Shahid" (martyr). [31]

According to his father, Batirashvili called him once since he left for Syria to tell him that he was now married to a Chechen woman and had a daughter named Sophia. [16] As of mid-2014, Batirashvili lived with his family in a large villa owned by a businessman in the town of Huraytan, just northwest of Aleppo. [32] He is said to have overseen the group’s prison facility near Raqqa, where foreign hostages may have been held. [33] By 2016, Batirashvili led special battalions of the ISIL, in particular a unit named "the group of the central directorate", which appears to be the primary special forces strike force of the group. [34]

Death

Batirashvili has been reported as being killed on numerous occasions. In 2014, there were reports that he had been killed in various parts of Syria and Iraq in May, June, August and October, all of which proved to be untrue. [35] On 13 November 2014, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov posted on his personal Instagram account that Batirashvili had been killed, and posted a photo of a dead ginger-bearded man. However, the man in the photograph was not Batirashvili, and Kadyrov later deleted the post. Before the post was deleted, the statement was picked up and reported on by many media outlets around the world. [35] The US Treasury Department added Batirashvili to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists on 24 September 2014. [12] On 5 May 2015, The U.S. State Department Rewards for Justice Program announced a reward up to US$5 million for information leading to his capture. [13] [14]

There were further reports of his death in 2015: in May, [36] June [37] and October. [38] On December 27, Russian News Agency TASS, quoting EIN news, claimed that American special forces had captured Batirashvili near Kirkuk in Iraq. [39] This report was denied by a US Department of Defense spokesman. [40]

In March 2016, several unnamed U.S. officials told CNN that Batirashvili may have been killed in a targeted airstrike on 4 March near the Syrian town of al-Shadadi; however, they were unable to confirm his death. Other officials said that he had been "critically injured" in the strike, and that U.S. military intelligence were assessing whether or not he had died. [41] [42] On 12 March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Batirashvili had become clinically dead following the U.S. airstrikes, with the ISIL commander in a critical condition and unable to breathe without the use of life-support machines. [43] [44] On 14 March 2016, two U.S. officials told CNN that there was confirmation that Batirashvili had died after the airstrike. [45] [46] A U.S. military spokesman erroneously "confirmed" that Batirashvili had died outside ISIL's main stronghold of Raqqa in Syria. [47] ISIL's media wing Amaq News Agency in a released statement denied that he had been killed. [48]

On 13 July 2016, ISIL announced that Batirashvili had died during battle in the town of Al-Shirqat in Iraq. [15] The U.S. admitted that their previous claim of killing Batirashvili was incorrect and that they had targeted him again on 10 July 2016. [49] They were still trying to verify whether Batirashvili had been really killed this time. [50] U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed Batirashvili's death during a press conference a month later. [51]

Aftermath

On 19 July 2018, Turkish authorities announced that they captured five ISIL suspects on 4 July in Istanbul including Seda Dudurkaeva, wife of Batirashvili, whose father is Asu Dudurkaev of Chechen origin and clan Mulko/Chanti, a former Chechen minister, who was sacked by Ramzan Kadyrov from his position due to his failure to prevent his daughter from travelling to join her first husband, Hamzat Borchashvili, [52] in Syria. [53] [54] On 24 July, Batirashvili's older brother, Tamaz Batirashvili, died from his wounds after being injured by a US-led airstrike in town of al-Shadadi four months earlier. [55] [56] [57]

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