The Russian village that sent 20 men to wage jihad in Syria

NOVOSASITLI, RUSSIA — In 2013, a quiet 23-year-old from Russia named Ahmed decided to travel to Syria to fight with an Islamist battalion against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Two years later, now a veteran of Syria’s civil war and on parole from a Russian prison, he looks back on that moment with a kind of dazed regret.

“It was a sickness,” the native of Dagestan, a mostly Muslim region in southern Russia, said in an interview in his home town this month.

“It was an epidemic.”