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This image made from an undated video shows Tarkhan Batirashvili, known as Omar al-Shishani, among a group of Islamic State fighters (AP Photo/militant social media account via AP video).

Syria Jihadi Role Puts Georgia’s Extremists in Spotlight

Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

As militants from the so-called Islamic State (IS) advance across Syria and Iraq, the battlefield exploits of a 28-year-old field commander known as Omar al-Shishani—“Omar the Chechen”—have become a prominent narrative in the conflict. Born Tarkhan Batirashvili, the IS fighter is increasingly credited by observers as a superlative tactician who has overcome the group’s disadvantages in size and equipment to score a string of recent victories in Iraq.

Batirashvili is an unlikely war hero for the radical Islamist brigades. Only a few years ago, after serving as a sergeant in the Georgian army during the 2008 war with Russia, Batirashvili was wasting away in a Georgian prison on illegal gun charges that his father claims were trumped up by the government. ...

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