The Syrian war is giving a headache to both Azerbaijan and Armenia, with jihadists heading into Syria from Azerbaijan and refugees heading out of Syria into Armenia. Most recently, Azerbaijani news outlets have reported that the leader of an Azerbaijani militant group has been captured by the rebel Al-Nusra Front, which recently took control of the ethnic Armenian town of Kessab, and allegedly sentenced to death.
As often happens, though, details are sparse. The individual in question, Agil Gajiyev, supposedly headed an Azerbaijani Islamist group called Sumgait Jamaat, but some news services say he was embedded with the Syrian rebel group Jund Al-Sham.
Most Azerbaijani Islamist militants travel to Syria to support the rebel forces and it is unclear why Gajiyev was sentenced to death. Facing crackdowns at home, Azerbaijan’s radical Islamists, not believed to be a particularly numerous group, long have heeded the call for jihad in places like Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq.
For Azerbaijan’s sworn enemy, Armenia, the Syrian war also carries significance, as a déjà vu of the fate of Middle Eastern Armenians at the turn of the 20th century. Syria’s ethnic Armenians, many of them descendants of the survivors of the 1915 massacre in Ottoman Turkey, have been heading to Armenia (as well as to Turkey) to escape the fighting. Struggling to provide for the arrivals, Yerevan has dispatched some of them to Nagorno Karabakh, the breakaway region from Azerbaijan which is under ethnic-Armenian-separatist control.
That brings Azerbaijan back into the picture.
Baku has condemned the resettlements in Karabakh, territory which Azerbaijan has vowed to reclaim at any cost. Ignoring warnings from Baku, Kavkazsky Uzel reports, 12 Syrian Armenian families were given apartments in the Karabakhi town of Kovsakan on April 10.