Chechen Al-Shishani was appointed commander of ISIS’s northern operations last year and is widely considered one of their most powerful military leaders.
QAMISHLI, Syria - The Islamic State leadership has ordered a prominent Chechen commander to Kobane, according to a Rudaw source inside ISIS-controlled territory.
The source, in the town of Tepke in the Islamic State’s heartland of Syria’s Raqqa province, said Abu Omar al-Shishani, a known Chechen fighter, has been ordered to leave Shingal area in Iraq, where ISIS forces are currently laying siege to thousands of Yezidi civilians protected by Yezidi brigades and Kurds from Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
Al-Shishani was appointed commander of ISIS’s northern operations last year and is widely considered one of their most powerful military leaders.
The source said Abu Hamza Bormi would be his replacement in Shingal, where ISIS is seeking a victory to compensate for heavy casualties in defeats at Rabia and Zumar, both strategic towns situated along a highway connecting northern Syria to Mosul and the rest of Iraq.
He reported a large number of ISIS fighters have massed in Raqqa for deployment to Kobane—where the militants have laid siege to Syrian Kurdish fighters for over a month—as well as to various fronts in Iraq.
Referring to recent infighting within the organization, the source said foreign fighters, known as Muhajirin, were complaining that their Syrian counterparts were not bearing the brunt of the organization’s high-casualty attacks. Analysts note that foreign fighters are often used in suicide attacks in strategically important battles, such as the offensive against Mosul in June.
According to Rudaw’s source in Tepke, the ISIS leadership will send reinforcements to Idlib province, southeast of Aleppo, to try to dilute the concentration of US-led coalition airstrikes in Kobane.
Another shift in strategy would be to remove heavy weapons and artillery from near Kobane, in order to avoid airstrikes. At the same time ISIS planned to increase the number of car bomb and motorcycle suicide attacks in Kobane.
A Rudaw team on the Turkish border reported three rounds of coalition airstrikes in Kobane beginning Saturday between 10pm and 2 am. There was also fighting east and southeast of the city, giving way to relative calm on Sunday morning.
Fighting erupted again on Sunday between ISIS and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian Kurdish force defending the city, when coalition airplanes bombed an ISIS target at approximately 12:30pm.