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The Czech Interior Ministry announced today the arrest on April 6 in Prague and elsewhere in the Czech Republic of eight persons from Bulgaria, Moldova, and Daghestan suspected of providing false identity documents and weaponry to Daghestan's Jamaat Shariat. Their identity and ethnicity has not been made public. The arrests were not reported on Jamaat Shariat's eponymous website.

The group had reportedly been under surveillance since 2008, when German police alerted their Czech colleagues that some members had moved from Berlin to Prague.

Jamaat Shariat was established in 1999 by Rasul Makarsharipov, an Avar who had undergone training in 1997-98 at the camp in Serzhen-Yurt run by Jordanian commander Khattab. Makarsharipov accompanied Khattab and renegade Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev on their successive incursions into Daghestan in 1999 that served as the catalyst for the second Chechen war. Between then and his death in July 2005, Makarsharipov molded Jamaat Shariat into a deadly and effective fighting force that relentlessly targeted police and government officials. After two failed attempts, one of its snipers shot Daghestani Interior Minister Adilgirey Magomedtagirov dead on the street in Makhachkala in June 2009.

A spokesperson for Jamaat Shariat told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service by e-mail in 2007 that its objectives are to create an Islamic state and establish Sharia law throughout the North Caucasus. The spokesperson described Jamaat Shariat as a military subdivision of the Caucasus front, and said its members have sworn allegiance to then Chechen President Doku Umarov. Its fighters reaffirmed their loyalty to Umarov, now self-styled head of the Caucasus Emirate, after a group of veteran Chechen commanders split with him last year.

Asked why they had opted for armed rather than political struggle, the Jamaat Shariat spokesperson said that jihad "is the duty of all Muslims when land belonging to Muslims has been seized." He rejected the idea of political struggle as "a farce."

Jamaat Shariat has become synonymous with the Daghestan Front of Umarov's emirate, and is subdivided into geographical sectors (Northern, Central, Mountain, Makhachkala and Kaspiisk, Southern) that function semi-autonomously under their own commanders. Israpil Velijanov, supreme commander of the Daghestan insurgents, was intercepted by police and killed in a shootout on April. Umarov has not yet named his successor.

Whether Umarov formally gave the green light for the activities of Jamaat Shariat's support personnel in the Czech Republic can only be guessed at.

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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