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Two Pankisi youth turned IS fighters call home from Syria: ‘We are fine’

by | Apr 14, 2015
Two teenage boys seated, dressed in military fatigues with machine guns, IS flag in background

(ICK.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Two Georgian boys who recently went to Syria to join Islamic State have called their parents in Pankisi Gorge and sent home their first picture.

Muslim Kushtanashvili (16) and Ramzan Baghakashvili (18) said they are fine and haven’t seen any fighting yet.

They left Georgia on April 2 and went first to Turkey, and then on to Syria.

They were attending school in Pankisi before their unexpected departure.

The youth told their parents that they are going through training.

Relatives who spoke with journalists said that one of the youth asked his parents for help getting back home.

“He wants to go back,” Tina Alkhanashvili, grandmother of Kushtanashvili told Channel 1. “He really wants to go back, but I don’t know what will happen.”

The news website Information Center of Kakheti (ick.ge) published a photo of the two seated, dressed in military fatigues and holding machine guns, with a black flag in the background carrying the symbols of Islamic State.

Pankisi locals are convinced that there is a group in Pankisi recruiting youth to go to Syria, which they think is dangerous and needs to be stopped.

At least ten fighters from Pankisi have so far died in the Syrian war. Most locals accuse the IS commander Tarkhan Batirashvili, also known as Abu Omar al-Shishani, of recruiting youth from Pankisi, his home valley.



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