We don't know if this is true, but the claim sheds some light on Russia's motivation (or at least justification) for its intervention in Syria. The Long War Journal reports Oct. 3, citing social media postings, that a small group of Crimean Tatars and other militants from the Russian-annexed peninsula, calling themselves the Crimean Jamaat, has pledged bayah (allegiance) to the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's Syrian franchise. The pledge was apparently announced by Nusra sympathizers on Twitter, and on the official social media site of Nusra's Sayfullah Shishani Brigade, which is largely comprised of Chechens. "Kataib Crimean Tartars under the leadership of Emir Ramadan al Krim [Crimean] pledged allegiance to al Qaeda in Sham and joined the Al Nusrah Front," read a statement on White Minaret, the Sayfullah Shishani site. The page is said to also include pictures of the group, reportedly based in Hama governorate.
Long War Journal finds: "While it is likely a small group, the Crimean Jamaat did run a training camp in rural Hama Province. Russian speaking militants, as well as local Syrians, were shown in a video highlighting the training camp earlier this year. The video also showed Russian-speaking children being trained to fire weapons, including sniper rifles."
The Crimean Jamaat pledge of allegiance to Nusra apparently comes just days after the predominantly Uzbek group Katibat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad did the same. It also comes just weeks after Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, comprised mainly of foreign fighters, also pledged allegiance to Nusra. So we can imagine Kremlin apparats viewing this and fearing hardened jihadists returning home from Syria to Crimea, the Caucasus and post-Soviet Central Asia to stir up trouble. We can also imagine them hyping this threat to lubricate an intervention that actually serves other aims in the Great Game for regional and global primacy. (Claims of a Uighur group entering Nusra's orbit have similarly served Beijing's propaganda needs.)
Which brings us to the question of authenticity… As is usually the case with jhadist material reported by anti-jihadist websites to have been posted to other websites, the report does not actually link to the original source websites. Nor do they come up when we search for the quoted text on Google. So we ask again: Is Google intentionally suppressing these sites at the behest of authorities, or to avoid liability? How do the sites' jihadist readers find them? Or are they all (ironically) reading these jihadist pronouncements at anti-jihadist sites like Long War Journal…? Can someone please explain to us how this works?
A rather critical question, given that these claims (whether true or not) are very convenient to Russian war propaganda.