Earlier in October, Azerbaijani news media reported the death of a professional Azerbaijani wrestler, Rashad Bakhshaliyev, who was killed in Syria while fighting for the Islamic State. The news, which came as a surprise to many in Azerbaijan, underscores an emerging security threat for Azerbaijan.
Hundreds of Azerbaijanis are known to have joined Islamic State (IS) forces in Syria. Concern is starting to build that these battle-hardened jihadists could one day set their sights on challenging President Ilham Aliyev’s administration in Azerbaijan. Some prominent militants now fighting in Syria, most notably field commander Hattab al-Azeri, have already started verbally attacking the Aliyev government for its secularism and corruption.
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Eldar Mamedov is a political adviser to the Socialists & Democrats Group in the European Parliament. He writes in his personal capacity.