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Almost 10,000 Caucasus natives are fighting for ISIL: expert

Akhmet Yarlikapov. Photo: kavpolit.com

Recently, ISIL (a terrorist group banned in Russia - EADaily) has suffered a number of serious defeats in Syria and Iraq and it looks like the end of the “Caliphate” is near. So, the question is what the thousands of ISIL fighters from Russia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will do once that end comes.

In an interview to EADaily, researcher at the Center for Problems of the Caucasus and Regional Security and MGIMO’s Institute of International Studies Akhmet Yarlikapov specified how many Caucasians are fighting for ISIL and what changes that organization has made in its tactics.

ISIL has suffered serious defeats of late. They have lost Mosul and may shortly lose Raqqa. Has this caused any change in the number of Caucasian fighters? Are they going back home?

Most of those who have fled Syria and Iraq are now in Turkey and are moving farther. Some of them have already reached Ukraine. Some others may go to Russia, Central Asia and the South Caucasus. It is not a big wave but this is a matter of time.

Are those people disappointed with ISIL’s ideas or will they continue their terrorist activities?

It’s a good question. Some of them are disappointed. But in 2015, ISIL’s commanders instructed their men to create networks outside the Middle East. So, some of the fighters may have this goal in mind.

How many Caucasians are there in ISIL now?

Experts say that some 8,000 men are from the Russian Caucasus. Some 2,000 men are from Azerbaijan and Georgia. So, we have a total of 10,000 Caucasians fighting in the Middle East.

Half of them may have already been killed. But as many as 3,000 fighters may try to go back home.

Are there any state programs for reintegrating former fighters or all of them are regarded as terrorists and there will be no dialogue with them?

Before 2015, Russia had tried to return such people and some 10% of them had come back to Chechnya and Dagestan. They have served some terms in jail and are now under supervision.

In 2015, Russia stopped receiving former fighters and one of the reasons why the Russians are fighting in the Middle East is to liquidate them there.

And what about the number of those going to fight in the Middle East? Is it decreasing?

Since 2014, it has been decreasing. ISIL has lost lots of territories in Syria and is no longer able to recruit fighters there. Besides, its priority now is to create networks outside the Middle East.

Are Russia’s law enforcers ready to react to the new tactics?

They are well aware of this change but I can’t say if they are ready to respond to it.

Interviewed by Hayk Khalatyan

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