Homeland Security

Blackwater-Style Firm for Jihadists Opens Training Camp with Donor Help

The first known private military contracting and consulting firm catering just to jihadists issued a new online fundraising appeal for help in arming fighters while also noting this week that donors came through to build a training camp for jihadists in Syria.

“We have finished our project about the building new training camp for brothers and I am so glad. And we are going to start the new lessons after a few days, inshallah, special courses for shooters of PKM and RPG,” Malhama Tactical leader Abu Salman Belarus said in an English-language video posted to his Twitter account Wednesday, thanking those who “supported our project.”

“We have completed the construction of a training camp, thank you for all and may Allah accept from you my dear brothers and sisters, we have done it together, with your help and donations my brothers,” he tweeted.

The new fundraising drive for equipment includes a desire to purchase airsoft guns to use in training exercises. The group has encouraged the use of Bitcoin for donations.

Malhama Tactical, referred to as Blackwater for jihadists, offers trainers who hail from Russia’s Caucasus region and the former Soviet states. Excerpts of training videos are frequently posted online.

Their contracting clients have included Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, the umbrella group known as al-Qaeda in Syria that includes the former al-Nusra Front. Then-leader Abu Rofiq, an Uzbek who said he was a veteran of the Russian military, told Foreign Policy magazine last year that territorial setbacks for jihadist groups didn’t dampen their business demand, yet they were also considering new regions to branch out their business.

Malhama Tactical launched in May 2016 and by the end of that year was advertising on Facebook for trainers to come join their “fun and friendly team” with vacation allowance and a day off per week. The group also manufactures and supplies certain equipment to jihadist groups.

After the death of Abu Rofiq last year the business dropped off the radar for a bit, but resurfaced online late this past spring. Firearms analysts noted that new footage from the group featured more Glock 19s, red dot sights, and American weapons that have fallen into unintended hands.

Abu Salman Belarus, who joined Malhama Tactical in 2016, said in an interview published a month ago that his group is “primarily instructing insurgents in battle tactics, giving medical aid, working with armored vehicles, mortars, sniper activity, and weapons modifications.”

“We do not engage ourselves in teaching how to conduct terrorist attacks or killing peaceful civilians, however,” he claimed. “We have never worked and will not work against civilians, regardless of their nationalities or religions.”

He boasted that while Malhama Tactical trainers bring lots of former military experience to the outfit, “quite a few of our students have become instructors, already working independently in different places.”

“We don’t accept all units, we take former soldiers or talented and purpose-driven people, so that they would be motivated and follow our visions and goals,” said Abu Salman, who added that “we don’t only accept Russian speakers.”

In August, he tweeted “we stand with” Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham; two weeks later he tweeted “we are independent instructor team and not part of #HTS.”

At the beginning of this month, Abu Salman tweeted a poll asking the main language of his followers. Forty-one percent said Turkish, 38 percent said English and 19 percent said Russian.