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Umarov Names New Daghestan Front Commander

Magomedali Vagabov (right) was killed on August 21 after only five weeks in command.

Magomedali Vagabov (right) was killed on August 21 after only five weeks in command.

Self-styled leader of the Caucasus emirate Doku Umarov named a commander from southern Daghestan on August 30 to succeed Magomedali Vagabov (aka Seyfullakh Gubdensky) as emir of the Daghestan front. Vagabov had occupied that post for only five weeks before being killed on August 21 in a counterterrorism operation in the village of Gunib in central Daghestan.

Vagabov's successor is Israpil Velidjanov (Emir Khasan), whom then-Daghestan Interior Minister Lieutenant General Adilgirey Magomedtagirov identified in March last year as one of the republic's four most experienced militant leaders.

Velidjanov was named emir of the Derbent jamaat in southern Daghestan in October 2008. That fighting unit came to prominence only during the early months of that year. In July 2009, they launched a high-profile attack on the Derbent city police headquarters, killing two police officers and injuring four more.

To judge from a video clip of Velidjanov and his fighters posted in the spring of this year, he is in his early 40s and definitely a soldier's soldier. Vagabov, by contrast, clearly sought to promote an image of himself not just as a military commander, but also as a legal and theological authority, and thus as the logical successor to Umarov -- or even as the Imam Shamil of the 21st century.

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.