The Jaysh al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (The Army of Emigrants and Helpers) was officially formed at the end of March, 2013. It began as three different groups, including the Kataeb al-Muhajireen (The Brigade of Emigrants), the Kataeb al Khattab (The Brigade of Khattab), and the Jaysh Muhammad (Army of Muhammad). The latter two were Syrian groups, while the first consisted of Chechens, Turks, Tajiks, Pakistanis, French, Egyptians, Moroccans, and others. A group of jihadists, including Chechens and Bangladeshis, were arrested in London in October 2012, planning to join the Muhajireen Brigade, and in March, a Swedish jihadist known as Abu Kamal as Swedee was killed while fighting with the Brigade.
The Muhajireen Brigade first became visible in early 2013, led by a veteran Chechen commander known as Abu Omar al Chechen, or Abu Omar al Shishani. While Chechen fighters had been spotted on Syrian battlefields for months, it wasn’t until February that there was any official mention of the Muhajireen Brigade. That was when Abu Omar appeared in a video with 19 other jihadists on Kavkaz Center‘s website.
The Brigade, and the Army after it, have had no official propaganda arm. All information on them and their operations has come second hand, usually from Russian language sites.
The Brigade, while not named as such at the time, assisted the Al Nusra Front in its assault on the Sheikh Suleiman Base in Aleppo in December. There was mention of a “Muhajireen group,” but since “muhajireen” simply means “emigrant,” all it really conveyed was the fact that there were a significant number of foreign jihadists operating in Syria.
In mid-February, the Brigade again aided Al Nusra in taking the 80th Regiment’s headquarters in Aleppo. In fact, most of the Muhajireen Group/Brigade/Army’s operations have been in the vicinity of Aleppo.
Kavkaz Center, which is the propaganda arm of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, officially announced the merger of the three Brigades into the Muhajireen Army on March 26th. Abu Omar al Chechen remains the overall commander of the unit.
Another commander, identified in the March video as Emir Saifullah, declared the global nature of the jihad, claiming that, “To us, there is no difference between Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Caucasus, any place.” Doku Umarov, the Emir of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, has also declared his support for the mujahideen fighting in Syria.
Abu Omar al Chechen, originally from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, is believed to be a veteran of both the First and Second Chechen Wars against the Russians.
The Muhajireen Army is still operating near Aleppo, using a number of suicide attacks on Minnigh Airport, in Aleppo. One of the recent attacks, in June, utilized a BMP packed with explosives. The Muhajireen Army, Al Nusra Front, the FSA, and other jihadist groups have been besieging the airport for months. As part of the siege, they have also shot down multiple aircraft with MANPADs.