DAMASCUS, SYRIA (10:40 P.M.) – Uzbek jihadist group ‘Imam Al-Bukhari Battalion’ (IBB) announced appointment of new commander, a Tadjikistani citizen known as ‘Abu Yussouf’. This comes in a week after previous leader of the group, Akmal Jurabaev (known as ‘Sheikh Salaheddine’), was assassinated in Idlib province.
According to Uzbekistani opposition media, Ozodlik Radiosi (Uzbek branch of Radio Liberty), Abu Yussouf is appointed as an “acting” commander who will be responsible for the operations until the group decides on choosing a permanent leader.
“There is not so much information about this guy,” Istanbul-based Ozodlik correspondent said.
“It is known that he was commanding several operations against both Syrian government forces and several rebel groups in Idlib province. He won authority among militants as a military strategist. He also possesses religious knowledge,” the reporter concluded.
IBB is one of the three Uzbek jihadist groups present on the battlegrounds of Syria and Iraq. It was formerly an integral part of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), large Central Asian jihadist organization that pledged allegiance to the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) in 2015 resulting in discord and splitting into several groups.
Leaders of IBB stayed loyal to Afghan islamist movement, Taliban, reasserting their allegiance in July 2016 when Taliban appointed a new leader.
Another splinter of IMU, Kataebat Al-Tawheed wu Al-Jihad, pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in 2014 and is currently aligned with Ha’yat Tahrir Al-Sham.
Finally, there is Khorasan jihadist group which has been a part of ISIS since 2015. It was a Khorasan member who had shot Sheikh Salaheddine on April 27.
Overall, the estimated 2,000 militants of Uzbek descent are currently taking part in battles on Syrian and Iraqi soil.