By Thomas Grove and Mariam Karouny
MOSCOW/BEIRUT | Wed Mar 6, 2013 2:23pm EST
(Reuters) – Flanked by almost 20 men with rifles, Omar Abu al-Chechen kneels on a carpet and delivers a rousing speech urging fellow Muslims to support the ‘jihad’ against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Dressed almost entirely in black, the militant from Russia’s Chechnya region declares an Islamist state is within reach. Fellow fighters from the brigade of foreign militants he leads translate his Russian words into Arabic.
His recently distributed video highlights the role militants from the volatile North Caucasus region now play in Syria’s civil war, fighting a government that has been backed by Russia and staunchly protected by President Vladimir Putin.
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