Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Russian village that sent 20 men to wage jihad in Syria

By Andrew Roth October 27 at 5:39 PM WashPost

NOVOSASITLI, RUSSIA — In 2013, a quiet 23-year-old from Russia named Ahmed decided to travel to Syria to fight with an Islamist battalion against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Two years later, now a veteran of Syria’s civil war and on parole from a Russian prison, he looks back on that moment with a kind of dazed regret.

“It was a sickness,” said the native of Dagestan, a mostly Muslim region in southern Russia, in an interview in his home town this month . “It was an epidemic.”

Ahmed is one of at least 20 men to have fought in Syria who came from Novosasitli, a village of 2,000 people in Dagestan where many have embraced Salafism, an ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam that has spread in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.

When Russia launched airstrikes in Syria last month, President Vladimir Putin in part justified the campaign as a preemptive strike against thousands of Russian-born militants fighting in Syria who could soon return home to spread terror, a fear shared by many Western countries. But as Russia puts on a show of force abroad, potent sources of extremism remain unaddressed at home.

(More here.)

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