Terrorism & Insurgency

Small Russian factions continue to play key specialised role in opposition offensives in Syria’s Idlib

04 March 2020

Key Points

  • Russian-speaking fighters from Malhama Tactical (MT), a small, independent brigade, were deployed for reconnaissance gathering as part of the operation by Turkish-backed fighters to recapture Saraqib in Idlib governorate, MT leader Ali Shishani told Jane’s on 27 February.
  • Similarly, Chechen snipers from the independent Jamaat Ajnad al-Kavkaz were deployed against Syrian government forces in Jabal Zawiya, according to a 1 March report by Russian-speaking media activists in Idlib.
  • These deployments are part of a continuing trend of battlefield coalitions in which large Syrian factions mobilise small foreign fighter groups for specialised operations.

Ali Shishani, the leader of the independent Malhama Tactical brigade, told Jane’s on 27 February that Malhama Tactical (MT) fighters had been deployed to undertake reconnaissance as part of a counter-offensive, led by Turkish-backed militants, to recapture Saraqib in Idlib governorate from Syrian loyalist forces. These militants had claimed to have recaptured Saraqib earlier that day. Also on 27 February, Shishani posted an undated video to his Facebook page showing an MT fighter with a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), purportedly in Saraqib, for reconnaissance purposes, confirming to Jane’s on 1 March that the UAV was a Mavic Pro.

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