The leader of Chechnya dismissed claims Wednesday that the Islamic State group has opened branches in the predominately Muslim North Caucasus republic, reported Tass, the Russian government's news agency. Despite numerous regional reports that mercenary fighters from Chechnya were driving the Islamic State group forward and responsible for most of its gains, the president of the de facto independent state, Ramzan Kadyrov, made it clear that the group has no place in his country.
"I want to assure you that these shaitans have nothing to hope for," Kadyrov said, using a word that means "devils." "The Chechen Republic will never have their bases, branches and even smell." He added: "Their organized groups will never come here and if they risk to, this will be the last thing they do in their life.”
It has been reported that thousands of fighters from Russia’s North Caucasus, and other Russian speaking regions, have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL. While not the largest group of fighters in the region, the battle-ready Chechen soldiers, who have survived almost two decades of war with Russia, are certainly playing an outsized role in the fighting, experts say.
“I think that’s a reason why the Islamic State has been as successful as they’ve been,” said Bill Roggio, founder of the Long War Journal, a website that tracks jihadi groups, to Voice of America in an interview last year. “The fighters from the Caucasus, they have experience in fighting professional militaries, the Russians, they’ve been doing guerrilla warfare for decades and this experience is translating to the battlefield. They tend to be tactically proficient.”
However, Kadyrov, who has been president of the country since 2007, says that the Islamic States’ only desire is to "hamper the ongoing peaceful processes" by any means. “That’s why we are also acting preventively to protect the Chechen Republic, which is a territory of peace and creation," he said.