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Terrorist Attacks Escalate After New Militant Leader Named In Kabardino-Balkaria

The site where KBK leader Anzor Astemirov (Seyfullakh) was killed in a counterterror operation in Nalchik on March 24

The site where KBK leader Anzor Astemirov (Seyfullakh) was killed in a counterterror operation in Nalchik on March 24

Compared with Ingushetia and Daghestan, there have been relatively few militant attacks in Kabardino-Balkaria in the past three years. In 2009, there were 10 explosions, 12 armed clashes, and 13 attacks on police and security forces that killed 23 police and eight civilians. In Daghestan, 58 police were killed last year; in Ingushetia, the figure was closer to 100.

But over the past two months, since Asker Jappuyev (nom de guerre Emir Abdullakh) took over as commander of the Kabardino-Balkar-Karachai (KBK) jamaat after the death of its leader, Anzor Astemirov (aka Seyfullakh), in a counterterror operation in Nalchik on March 24, the group has perpetrated almost 40 attacks and bombings, killing at least nine, according to a press release posted on its website. By contrast, between January 1 and early April, there were just seven attacks on police.

Virtually all of the attacks in April-May targeted police or security personnel, either in drive-by shootings or by concealing remote-controlled bombs under police vehicles. The most high-profile was the bombing at the Nalchik racecourse on May 1 that killed one person and injured 30, including former KBR Interior Minister Khachim Shogenov.

The current strength of the KBK jamaat and its ethnic composition are not known with any certainty. In mid-January, Kabardino-Balkaria Republic Deputy Interior Minister Naurbi Zhamborov estimated it at about 50 fighters. The true figure is almost certainly higher. A video clip of the jamaat's various amirs dated April 20 showed eight commanders, including Jappuyev. The website caucasustimes on June 6 put the figure at 700.

Nor is it possible to estimate what percentage of the jamaat's fighters come from which ethnic group. Jappuyev himself is a Balkar.

Over the past month, Islamdin has posted two video clips, each approximately 20-25 minutes long, of statements by Jappuyev. His rhetorical style combines Russian military-technical jargon (when describing the bomb attacks the jamaat has perpetrated) with impassioned but dogmatic and long-winded appeals for unity among believers regardless of their ethnicity.

In the first, Jappuyev announces that he was chosen by Seyfullakh as his successor. He praises Seyfullakh, noting that "people spoke only good of him," and affirms that despite Seyfullakh's death and that of Said Buryatsky, the Russian convert to Islam who became briefly the North Caucasus insurgency's main ideologist, the jihad will continue.

Jappuyev denies that the deaths of those leaders have demoralized a single insurgent, young or old. He says every fighter remains true to his oath to Allah and his sworn allegiance to Doku Umarov, the self-styled leader of the Caucasus Emirate. He goes on to list operations conducted between late March and April 7.

In the second statement, Jappuyev claims responsibility on behalf of the KBK jamaat for the May 1 Nalchik bombing, stressing that it was intended to kill only government officials and not civilians. Jappuyev says that his fighters will answer to Allah for their actions, all of which he says are grounded in Shari'a law.

In that context, Jappuyev repeated earlier warnings to the republic's civilian population to avoid police stations and similar security facilities that could be targeted by the insurgency at any time. He says the jamaat cannot accept responsibility for injuries sustained by members of the civilian population who ignore such warnings.

Jappuyev further reminds his co-religionists of their obligation to join the jihad, arguing that in conditions of armed jihad, the concept of "peaceful civilians" does not exist.

Islamdin has also posted footage showing young KBK jamaat fighters explaining why they joined the jihad; sorting and cleaning weaponry; preparing a meal; engaging in physical training; and digging a new hideout. Most of the fighters shown appear to be aged between 18-25.

Since the beginning of this month, police and security forces in Kabardino-Balkaria claim to have detected and defused six bombs planted by insurgents -- one near a Nalchik police station, four in or near the mountain town of Tyrnyauz, and one on June 6 at a gas distribution station in Nalchik. A gas pipeline in Nalchik was damaged by an explosion on June 4.

The caucasustimes website reported on June 6, quoting an unnamed source in one of the republic's security agencies, that up to 2,000 troops have been deployed to Nalchik in recent days and that servicemen and GRU operatives in plain clothes are patrolling the city streets.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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