“Abu Omar al Shishani, as he’s now known, had been born Tarkhan Batirashvili 27 years earlier in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, a tiny enclave of ethnic Chechens, known locally as Kists, whose roughly 10,000 residents represent virtually all of the Muslims in predominantly Orthodox Christian Georgia. But analysts of extremist groups said Batirashvili’s impact has been far greater than the small numbers of Muslims in Georgia would suggest. Since he swore allegiance to the Islamic State in 2013, thousands of Muslims from the Caucasus have flocked to Syria to join the extremist cause. ‘More than anything else, Batirashvili has legitimized ISIS in the Caucasus by the power of his exploits, which is amplified by slick ISIS propaganda,’ said Michael Cecire, an analyst of extremism for the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute.”
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