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'Help A Militant, Avoid Burning In Hell' -- Al-Qaeda's New Fund-Raising Campaign

Photo from social media showing Uzbek militant and Liwa al-Muhajireen leader Abu Ubayda al-Madani lecturing militants in Syria.
Photo from social media showing Uzbek militant and Liwa al-Muhajireen leader Abu Ubayda al-Madani lecturing militants in Syria.

"Do you think you're safe from the fires of hell? Give yourself a chance -- help mujahedin on the path of God!"

Thus reads a new fund-raising advertisement published on the VKontakte social network this week by the Russian-speaking battalion of Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front.

The fund-raising campaign is fronted by Abu Rofik, 23, a self-described "publicist and blogger" who operates as a fund-raiser and trainer for Nusra's Uzbek-led, Russian-speaking battalion, known as Liwa al-Muhajireen or Katiba Sayfullah.

The main thrust of the campaign is to raise money to help wannabe militants in Russia who have signed up to join Nusra but who cannot afford the travel costs to get to Syria.

'We're Not Millionaires!'

To motivate donors, Abu Rofik accuses Nusra supporters who have not given generously of not caring about "jihad."

"Brothers who wanted to come to us, and who needed support, could not come because of our lack of zeal in the way of God, because of indifference," the campaign reads.

"[There are those] who say, 'Why can't the emir [commander] of your battalion help,' as if we work with millionaires and there's enough [money] left to send to brothers for tickets."

Unlike in past efforts, the Nusra fundraising campaign does not openly include details of how potential donors can give money. Previously, both Russian-language Nusra and Islamic State (IS) militants openly used the QIWI Koshelek service in Russia.

Openly Recruiting

The fund-raising campaign asking Nusra supporters to fund travel costs for new militants suggests that Nusra's Russian-speaking battalion is undertaking a recruitment drive.

The recruitment activity follows a period when IS and Nusra social-media accounts warned that it had become harder for would-be recruits to cross into Syria from Turkey.

In another post on November 2, Abu Rofik wrote that "several brothers have successfully arrived here, thank God. There is a route, God willing...."

The Al-Qaeda publicist asked would-be militants not to contact him openly on VKontakte. "Don't post your details and photos here and don't write everything openly," Abu Rofik adds, advising recruits to contact him via the Telegram messaging service instead.

Telegram, which claims to be more secure than other messaging apps like WhatsApp, appears to be becoming more popular among Russian-speaking militants in Syria as concerns about spying and infiltration from security services increase.