Georgian authorities are investigating a video allegedly produced by the Islamic State showing Georgian-speaking men in Syria issuing threats against their homeland.
In the 12-minute video, the four Georgians are seen holding AK-47 rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and calling on Muslims in Georgia to join the "caliphate."
According to Georgian media, three are from the Guria region and the fourth is from neighboring Ajara region, an area heavily populated by Muslims. Both regions are in the southwestern corner of Georgia on the Black Sea.
In the video, the men denounce Muslim clerics in Ajara and vow to behead "infidels" in Georgia.
“God willing, time to cut off your heads will come very soon,” said Badria Iremadze, 32, who left an infant son behind in Georgia. “You think we are too far from Georgia, and the caliphate will not reach you. Let me tell you that it will happen very soon indeed. God willing, we’ll try and bring you to justice.”
Dozens of Georgian nationals have joined IS in Syria and Iraq, authorities say, driven by a conservative Muslim ideology while fleeing poverty in Georgia.
Expanding IS 'horizons'
Analysts said the video shows how IS is trying to spread influence and terror.
“It is a clear signal that the organization is continuing to expand its strategic horizons farther and farther away from Iraqi and Syrian battlefields where they have a potential and interest to subvert political structures,” said Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington.
“What we have seen in the last several weeks in places like Paris and elsewhere is that the fight against IS is no longer contained in the Middle East,” Berman told VOA. “It’s increasingly spreading out to different regions, including Europe as well as Eurasia." He added that what Georgia does in support of operations against IS, not within its own borders but outside, "will have benefits because it will limit the group’s ability over time to reach places in the Caucasus and Eurasia, like Georgia.”
Misinterpreting the Koran
The four men in the video come from impoverished families, and most of them were jobless, according to media reports in Georgia. In addition to Iremadze, the group includes Roin Paksadze, 20, from the village of Zoti in the Guria region. Mamuka Antadze, 23, and Iremadze are both from a village of Nasakirali, also in Guria. Khvicha Gobadze, 22, is from the village of Didadjara in the Ajara region.
Muslim clerics in Georgia say disenfranchised citizens who left to join IS are misinterpreting the Koran and have a distorted view of Islam that is portrayed in the latest video released by the Georgian IS fighters.
“It is absolutely unacceptable to have separate ayats [verses] quoted as independent texts,” said Adam Shantadze, a deputy mufti of Georgia. “It is unacceptable to draw conclusions about the Koran after reading excerpts from separate ayats only. Texts in Koran are part of a single book. And each and every ayat has its place in this book.”
Islam was introduced in Georgia in 654, and Georgian Muslims make up about 10 percent of the population.