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Over the past two years, the authorities in Daghestan have reported the death of seven Kazakh citizens fighting in the ranks of the North Caucasus insurgency, and the arrest of four more would-be Kazakh recruits. Just how many Kazakhs have joined the insurgency in Daghestan and elsewhere in the North Caucasus and why remains unclear, however.

The first indication of Kazakh involvement was the killing in July 2009 on the outskirts of Makhachkala of five "mercenaries" who reportedly had Kazakh passports. The Kazakh Embassy in Moscow failed to confirm they were indeed Kazakh citizens. Erlan Yusupov, 30, from Aqtau was shot dead in a special operation in Makhachkala last October after he refused to surrender.

Sabit-Bai Amanov, 28, died the same way early this morning after security personnel surrounded the house in Makhachkala where he was hiding. According to the National Counterterrorism Committee, Amanov travelled to Russia in 2007 after undergoing military training in Pakistan.

After fighting for a while in Ingushetia alongside Caucasus Emirate ideologue Said Buryatsky, he is said to have travelled in 2008 to Daghestan and risen to head a militant group in Makhachkala after the death late last fall of its leader, Magomed Sheikhov. There is no way to check the veracity of that information.

Four Kazakhs who reportedly arrived in Daghestan early this year with the aim of joining the insurgency were apprehended in February in Makhachkala. They subsequently admitted the error of their ways at a special session of Daghestan's commission to assist repentant fighters adapt to civilian life.

Reports of the session portray the four men as naive victims of jihadist propaganda. One of them, Raimbek Erzhanov, was quoted as telling how he had found information on various Islamic websites that "Daghestan is waging a war against Muslims." But when he arrived in Makhachkala, Erzhanov continued, he discovered that "there is a huge number of mosques, and no one pressures Muslims."

A second, Albert Abdulkerimov, said he watched countless video clips in which speakers, including self-styled Caucasus Emirate head Doku Umarov, argued that it is imperative to join the jihad. Abdulkerimov admitted that he "had been deceived," as did the others.

The commission has formally filed a request to the republic's prosecutor-general and Supreme Court to show clemency to the four men.

The Russian news agency Regnum has interviewed several experts who cited various factors that could help shed light on why young Kazakhs seek to join the North Caucasus militants' ranks. Murat Telibekov, chairman of the Union of Muslims of Kazakhstan, pointed to the presence in western city of Zhanauzen of a large number of oil-sector workers from Daghestan. But one of the four young Kazakhs apprehended in Makhachkala in February, Seilkhan Daulbaev, said the four originally planned to travel to Chechnya to "fight for their faith," and only ended up in Daghestan because they discovered there were no trains to Grozny from Astrakhan.

Sociologist Gulmira Ileuova noted a rise in Islamic sentiment in western Kazakhstan, which she attributed to huge differences in income levels.

Retired Federal Security Service (FSB) Lieutenant Colonel Aleksei Filatov told Regnum that the Kazakh fighters account for only a minuscule percentage of those fighting under the Caucasus Emirate banner. He also discounted the possibility that the North Caucasus insurgents use Kazakhstan as a rear base, pointing out that it is far more convenient for them to travel to other regions of Russia to rest and recuperate.

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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