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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Blackwater-Style Jihadist Training Firm Teases ‘Many Operations’ in the Works

A Blackwater-style contracting and consulting firm focused on jihadist clientele stressed in its latest propaganda video that they “have planned many operations” moving forward.

Clients of Malhama Tactical, which posts slick online training compilation videos featuring their masked Belarusian leader, include Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, which originated as the al-Nusra Front or al-Qaeda in Syria. Trainers largely hail from the Caucasus region and former Soviet states; Malhama also claims that a number of former students have gone on to become independent trainers.

Last October, the group appealed online for fundraising help, saying that while donors had generously ponied up the cash to build a new training camp in Syria they needed more aid — preferably in the form of Bitcoin, they said — to supply trainees with equipment such as airsoft guns for training, and camps with basics such as mattresses and generators.

“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 back then in an English-language video posted to his Twitter account.

“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.

Malhama Tactical launched in May 2016 and was soon advertising on Facebook for trainers to apply and join their “fun and friendly team” with the perks of vacation allowance and one day off per week. Abu Salman Belarus said in an interview last fall that they “don’t only accept Russian speakers” as trainers and favor “former soldiers or talented and purpose-driven people”; having noted online that his followers mainly speak English, Russian or Turkish, he said he wanted to reach out to a French-speaking customer base as well.

While “primarily instructing insurgents in battle tactics, giving medical aid, working with armored vehicles, mortars, sniper activity, and weapons modifications,” he insisted that “we do not engage ourselves in teaching how to conduct terrorist attacks or killing peaceful civilians.”

Abu Salman Belarus’ active promotion and fundraising for Malhama Tactical on Twitter was cut off in November when his account was suspended. Before getting the boot from the social media platform, he had boasted of training foreign fighters including from China’s Xinjiang province and the Maldives.

Last month, new photos showed Abu Salman Belarus in northern Hama armed with an AK-103 rifle with attached Fortuna thermal optics. Malhama Tactical has also been fundraising to buy reconnaissance drones.

“We will continue our work and we have planned many operations, and hopefully will not let any occupation forces remain here,” Abu Salman Belarus says in the new Malhama video circulated online. “There are many examples of those who were small in numbers but fought and history did not forget them. We hope history will remember us as those who fought to protect the weak against evil.”

The video gives a Telegram — a favorite platform of jihadists — point of contact for people “to help our projects.”

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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