"Malhama Tactical" - so-called"Islamic private military company" ... Myth and reality

Abu Rofiq: the chef of Jihad

By @TVjihad (telegram)

Original (in Russian) :

Foreign Policy called them " The Blackwater of jihad"

We weren't sure if we should add this article to our "Sofa Mujahideen" series. Unlike the heroes of previous articles, who are at least somewhat related to jihad, this guy is just a line cook posing as great jihadi militant. His name is Abu Rofiq al-Tatarstani, the founder of the so-called "Islamic private military company Malhama Tactical".

Jihad on the path of QIWI wallet

We’ve known our great hero since 2014, when he just started his adventure in Syria. Upon arriving there he joined the group of the well-known Seyfullah "fear nothing, in sha Allah" Shishani. But on 06.02.2014 during the sixth attack in a row on a prison on the outskirts of Aleppo, Seyfullah was killed, and members of his group almost stopped taking part in military operations (not that Abu Rofiq himself ever took part in any battle). They dispersed on territory which in those days was under FSA control, mostly in Idlib, Aleppo and Hama. Abu Rofiq was enjoying Aleppo and its outskirts, specifically around the al-Zahra area, devoting his time to recording hysterical audio messages and taking selfies.

Upon his arrival in Syria Abu Rofiq realized that he prefered Internet jihad over battlefield jihad, so he launched a VK group called "Mujahid of Sham". In the first half of 2014 this group was a magnificent collection of fairy tales by our "mujahid" -- but he also used it for crowdfunding. For example, he once told his supporters that he was trying to raise enough money to buy a Mosin-Nagant rifle with optics. Usually, when the required sum was almost raised, Abu Rofiq would make up a story about a new issue that also required him to donate money to his "brothers", so he had an excuse to continue leeching funds. Once, he claimed to have spent $200 for new tires for some of his "brothers" and asked his supporters to reimburse him for that expenditure.

Even back in these early days, Abu Rofiq was posing as a former commando with experience in an elite Russian military unit, claiming that he served in GRU special forces and therefore deserved a Mosin-Nagant with optics. This detail of his image helped him to leech funds more effectively from his naive fans, using both QIWI and The most interesting thing here is that his main sponsors weren't fellow Islamists, many of whom viewed Abu Rofiq as an apostate, but Ukrainian radicals, thinking that any enemy of Russia is their friend, even if he was avoiding actually stepping onto any battlefield himself.

Once a day Abu Rofiq visited our group in VK and promised to stab us all to death and then take a picture with our severed heads. Nice!

It's highly likely that the person who inspired Abu Rofiq to start his "crowdfunding jihad" in social networks was Israfil Yılmaz, a very well-known foreign fighter from the Netherlands, who launched the era of "Instagram jihad" (you can find more about him yourselves via Google). Abu Rofiq met Israfil at least once, and that Dutchman of Turkish origin even took a selfie with our hero, posting it in his Instagram account and making Abu Rofiq feel very excited and proud:

Dropping the mask

Abu Rofiq wears a mask on all of his pictures and videos from Syria. Obviously he's doing that so that one day, he will be able to leave Syria for some other destination when the situation gets too tough for him. We think that hiding your own face from public is shameful if you're waging jihad for Turkish interests in Syria. So, we would like to reveal that Abu Rofiq's real name is Suhrob Muratovich Baltabaev. He was born on 10.08.1993 in the town of Karasu in Osh province in Kyrgyzstan. Whenever he spoke about his ethnic background, our hero claimed to be a Tatar, a Kyrgyz and even a Meskhetian Turk. But in reality (a place where Abu Rofiq rarely lives) he is an Uzbek, and there's nothing to be ashamed of in that, but he is trying to hide this fact for some reason.

We happened upon a picture of his face several years ago, downloading it from a Skype cache of his account. Here you can look at it, but in bad resolution.

Also we managed to get hold of Suhrob's old passport application from back in Russia:

Sahawat paradise with houris

Idlib area is a paradise for moderate jihadists even today, but in 2014-2016 it was even more fun. Any Uzbek line cook could live there, avoiding taking part in fighting. But switching from a "mujahid" to a "madani" (civilian) is considered somewhat wrong. Especially if you're Abu Rofiq, and you get a significant part of your income from naive Ukrainians. Our Abu Rofiq considered himself a mujahid, even though his comrades from Seyfullah Shishani’s jamaat used to make fun of him for avoiding battle at all costs. But if you don’t want to fight, there are some other options: one can become "an instructor" to teach your fellow jihadis to release their gun’s safety catch before shooting, or you can even become a "media activist" who tells others about "jihad".

Abu Rofiq, ever an entrepreneur,  tried both options: he posed as "an instructor and a publicist" on his accounts in social networks. His actions as a "media mujahid" were in vain, though, as news reports from a semi-literate halfwit are not really interesting. After a while, he realized that being an “instructor” is simply more profitable both for his personal fame and to obtain more cash. And so, Abu Rofiq kept on collecting money via social media, making up stories about buying equipment for his comrades, food, or helping new jihadis that he had recruited himself.

But even in moderate Jihadi paradise there are some issues. Even in the Caliphate, a lot of muhajireen (foreign fighters) claimed that Syrians often steal - if you forget something somewhere, that item instantly changes its owner. In ISIS, they tried to fight theft by cutting off the perp’s hands according to Sharia law, but Idlib Shariah has some specific exemptions, like smoking and stealing. Thus, Abu Rofiq was a victim of local "Muslims" at least twice: once his motorbike was stolen and next time a thief simply entered the ruins of Abu Rofiq’s bombed house and stole everything he could. By the way he quitted his "publicist" business right after his bike was stolen, due to it being his only transport.

"Sniper from GRU"

So after two years spent convincing teenage recruits to the moderate Jihadis of his "training" skills our Abu Rofiq decided to broaden his business, starting "Malhama Tactical" in May 2016.

But before telling you about "the first Islamic private military company" we need to devote some time to discussing Abu Rofiq’s so-called army years. This is important, because we need to compare the legend he created around himself with his real image to understand what kind of service you can get from him (and no, that's not training fighters).

So according to information we managed to find, and which we are able to prove with documents, Abu Rofiq aka Sukhrob was conscripted to service in Russia on 14.05.2012 via the military conscription office of the Vahitovskiy and Privolzhskiy districts of Kazan. He was recruited to the 45th Guards Independent Reconnaissance Regiment in Moscow oblast. But just two weeks after starting his service, poor Abu Rofiq was admitted into hospital, staying there from 28.05.2012 through 10.06.2012, and then was transferred to another hospital until 27.07.2012 after which his military service was terminated due to health issues.

So according to official medical records, Sukhrob aka Abu Rofiq has a long list of illnesses which were diagnosed during treatment in military hospitals:

As a result, Abu Rofiq served only two weeks in the army. That absolutely contradicts the information he has made up about himself, i.e. the legend of being an elite sniper in the GRU special forces. Though it’s entirely possible that a week and a half of bootcamp training (after which the army does not assign recruits a military speciality, and let’s not forget that Sukhrob did not even finish bootcamp!) are equal in Abu Rofiq’s warped imagination to real special forces experience. However, rookies do not become snipers after basic bootcamp training, and certainly not after just two weeks: they're selected during training, based on the results of firing tests.

Considering the facts above, not to mention the fact that Abu Rofiq hasn't taken part in a single battle since he turned up in Syria in 2014, hiding right at the rear and visiting the front only after any real fighting ended in order to take selfies or record an audio asking for donations for his "sofa jihad" we doubt that he's able to train anyone in anything except cooking pilaf.

Line cook and IT specialist

By the way, speaking about pilaf: let’s devote several lines to Abu Rofiq’s activities in Russia, apart from wasting time malingering in military hospitals. After he moved from Kyrgyzstan to Russia in 2010, for several months he served as a line cook in a military unit in Rostov oblast (we suppose he got his unique, elite wooden spoon handling skills there, which allowed him to claim he was a GRU special forces sniper). Following that, he moved to Kazan, where he worked as an IT specialist, reinstalling pirate Windows on infidels' PCs till 2012 when he was conscripted. After returning from the army he worked as a cook again in one of Kazan’s famous Uzbek cafes, while he continued freelancing as a webmaster, but it seems that his pilaf cooking did not work out. Finally in April 2013 he registered a company with one of his customers. "Potok" LLC made websites and promoted them. Abu Rofiq and his partners rented an office at 31 Moscow street, Kazan, and he became the CEO. The company was in operation until February 2014 when Sukhrob decided to change something in his life and moved to Syria.

By the way, let's take a look at his relationship history: in 2011 he married an Uzbek woman from Kyrgyzstan. A year later, this lucky lady gave birth to his son, Muhammadrofiq. But quiet family life meant little to our hero so he simply dumped his wife and child, leaving for the more important world of sofa jihad. Meanwhile Rofiq’s loyal wife registered QIWI wallets for him so Sukhrob could raise money for his Mosin-Nagant with optics. As "an instructor" in 2015 he married another woman in Syria and had a daughter with her. The fact that he was married twice didn't stop him from chatting with young girls in social networks, which is wrong according to Islamic rules.

Private catering company

The main activity of "Malhama tactical", if you believe our hero Abu Rofiq, is military training Syrian and Malaysian jihadis all over moderate Jihadi-controlled areas (currently only Idlib province). Training is obviously not free - the Uzbek line cook used to get money from the gangs sending him fighters for training. Nowadays all the stuff is financed by HTS. Abu Rofiq is training any kind of fighters: from snipers to machine gunners, but the only military specialty Malhama tactical is able to really train for is that of line cook. Here is how a typical ad looks (let’s not ask why Abu Rofiq is advertising his training camps on Telegram, in Russian, and why he gives away so much detail of content and location. You may have noticed that other, more experienced jihadis don’t reveal the secret details of their secret training camps):

Lately Abu Rofiq and his private catering company claim to cover most basic training programs: how to use machine guns, rocket launchers etc. He has apparently stopped training in assaulting and storming buildings, despite the fact that previously, this was his special thing as he had watched plenty of videos on YouTube on the topic and decided to try it out for himself. From those videos we can see that his skills are lower than that of an average teenage airsoft player. People with actual military training who watched them even assume that Abu Rofiq is a Russian secret service agent in charge of keeping militants' skills as low as possible.

As a true business project, Malhama Tactical is based on Abu Rofiq’s talents for PR and media positioning. And we cannot deny Sukhrob's skills here. But in reality, this wasn't all down to his own publicist skills but due to Western journalists hungry for any sensational stories about Syria. He got real media attention in Western media around a year after registering his private catering company. In February 2017 "Foreign Policy" published an article with the exciting clickbait headline "The Blackwater of Jihad" describing a powerful organization training real professionals. One could read almost the same in any other interviews with Abu Rofiq and articles about Malhama Tactical. Almost all "journalists" and "analysts" without any doubt kept repeating the same legend of an ex-Airborne special force soldier who is training Idlib jihadists and dreaming of going to help the oppressed Muslims in China and Myanmar. No one bothered to ask for any proof for Rofiq’s fairytales. All the free publicity in the Western press definitely helped Rofiq with his business as jihadists thought that Malhama Tactical is the real deal so they joined that adult boy scout camp, while donors handed over cash.


A lot of those familiar with Abu Rofiq are likely wondering why we haven't mentioned his death in February 2017. Simply because it never happened.

According to Malhama Tactical's “official” statement Abu Rofiq was killed in an air raid in Idlib on 07.02.2017. We believed that at first as well. But still there were some doubts, even though with ISIS, when brothers announced a death, especially if it was that of an ISIS member, they were usually honest.

Abu Rofiq decided to break all the rules.

Obviously he decided to pretend being dead because he was being hunted both by infidels and Muslims. The Russian Air Force raided all places he blabbed about so freely in social networks, and even the ISIS security service which is usually focused on blowing up jihadists all over Idlib paid attention to this well-known collector of jizya from Ukrainians. And they had a reason - Abu Rofiq was posting anti-ISIS materials in social networks since 2014, claiming that they are Khawarij while HTS etc are real Muslims.

Usually after a pseudocide (faking one's death) attention decreases, so it's possible to move somewhere else and start a new life. For example, to Finland as Abu Rofiq explained that he wanted to do once in comment section on YouTube. Or to Sweden as he also would like. But that requires money and earning money requires being a public persona. That's why in May 2017, Malhama Tactical issued a statement about their new leader, “Abu Salman al-Belorussi.” One might imagine a Belarusian cooking top notch potatoes instead of pilaf but no, Abu Salman is just plain old Abu Rofiq. From the beginning “Abu Salman” did his best to avoid being caught on camera. But knowing that business success relies on popularity, and also having an ego the size of a planet, he stopped hiding and started publicizing interviews and his own videos about Malhama Tactical’s amazing activities. In some videos, another person was pretending to be Abu Salman, but his accounts on social networks always belonged to Abu Rofiq.

Abu Salman Rofiq didn't put much effort into constructing a convincing image of his alter-ego, simply copying everything from his previous image. According to his press release, "after shahada of our brother Abu Rofiq a new leader of MT has been elected. Abu Salman Belorussi, ex-sergeant major in 103th Airborne brigade stationed in Vitebsk, special forces of Belorussian army". We'll remind you that the 103th brigade of the Belarusian army is more or less similar to the Russian 45th brigade, where Abu Rofiq served. Abu Rofiq-Salman claimed to be a Belarusian Uzbek. Imagine the incredible coincidence -  in Idlib, there are TWO Uzbeks, both of them served in very similar elite units in their respective armies, then came to Syria to train jihadis! Imagine, also, that Belarus does not have that many Uzbeks, so if one really did serve in its 103th Airborne brigade in Vitebsk and then ran away to Syria, Minsk would be able very easily to figure out who that was?  It's highly likely that picking Belarus as his alter-ego's motherland was an attempt to get more donations from Ukraine, as they would help a Belarusian Uzbek more than a regular Uzbek from the Russian army.

Initially, Abu Salman Rofiq called himself "al-Belorussi". Clearly the Uzbek Stirlitz from Kyrgyzstan didn't know that Belarusians call their country "Belarus". Obviously, someone hinted to our line chef that he botched, so Abu Rofiq renamed himself "al-Belarusi".

Those who don't believe yet, can compare these photos:

Unfortunately Abu Rofiq stopped taking photos with uncovered head after his "death" which doesn't allow for a even more convincing comparison. Even despite that it's clear, Sukhrob Baltabaev, Abu Rofiq al-Tatarstani and Abu Salman al-Belorusi are all aliases of one person.

For those thinking that all Uzbeks look alike especially if they're masked there's another proof. Voice. Here you can listen to Abu Rofiq's audio message recorded before his "death" and Abu Salman's audio message from "Plov Tactical".

It's clear both belong to the same person.

Only Allah knows the reason for making up all those stories about being a Belarusian Uzbek (except for making it easier to get Ukrainian funding). As the Quran says, "And the disbelievers planned, but Allah planned. And Allah is the best of planners". As a moderate Jihadi apostate Abu Rofiq is definitely out of Allah's jurisdiction not being hidden by Him so it wasn't difficult for us to make everything about him clear.

Virtual jihad

Being an instructor is a perfect reason to avoid fighting. Other moderate Idlib Jihadis take part in fighting at least from time to time, but Abu Rofiq doesn't do that at all, especially since the foundation of Malhama Tactical. He's always finding a bunch of excuses, sometimes very exotic ones. So once MT couldn't get to battlefield due to lack of transport. Then they found it, then it got into car accident (brothers were tipsy, shit happens) thus they need money to repair their car thus expecting funding from eager Ukrainians.

Sometimes some unique fighters pretend to conduct terrifying raids against infidels. For example, recently Abu Rofiq posted such posts on his channel, claiming that they had attacked some Syrian army camp in night which had resulted in killing 30 troops (both Syrian and Russian) without a single shot fired:

There's nothing to add here, Abu Rofiq made up a raid of his trainee teenage cooks who even left a red bandana there (decoration of so-called elite units in HTS). 25 were killed (in a day they claimed 30), the bandana was left there but for some reason they didn't have time to make photos or videos.

The main English-speaking propagandist of Idlib - Bilal Abd al-Karim even visited Abu Rofiq to discuss "the attack". Bilal considers himself "an independent journalist" and speaks perfect English, he didn't request any proof either and was just complimenting the cook for the entire interview. There simply couldn't be any proof because Abu Rofiq makes up the entire operations of his chefs and their dishwashers. There were no real fights, as Sukhrob could have turned the tide of Syrian war several times with his airborne experience (we jest) but in 2016 he just ran from the Aleppo countryside several months before the battle. That's because you have to justify Ukrainian investments.

After all, Abu Rofiq deserves some tribute, few people can keep tricking both HTS and Ukrainian investors for so long time. Clearly it requires some skills he acquired while executing all his virtual jihad deeds.

Some Western journalists, also seeking to make a career out of interviewing and fawning over the elite sniper commando who wants to save the oppressed, recently described Pilaf Tactical as “like a charity” rather than a private military (catering) company, and said that poor Rofiq Abu Salman al-Tatarusi only made $200 “after months of campaigning.” Abu Rofiq deserves credit for enlisting such credulous Westerners as campaigners.

"Fight for the sake of Allah with your property"

So you've just finished reading an adventurous story of an Uzbek line cook who has achieved some success, and the moral of this story is as follows:

The so-called superprofessional terrorist private military company/charity doesn't exist at all. It's just an Uzbek line cook pretending to be a commando leeching money for pilaf to his QIWI wallet.

A personal message to Abu Rofiq: we hope you finally meet with ISIS’s amniyah or get hit by a bomb from an SU-34. Amen!