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Ingushetia Proposes Measures To Crack Down On IS Recruitment, Blowback

  • Joanna Paraszczuk

Ingushetia's leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov wants to revoke the citizenship of Russians who join Islamic State. (file photo)

Ingushetia's leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov wants to revoke the citizenship of Russians who join Islamic State. (file photo)

Yunus-bek Yevkurov, the Kremlin-appointed head of the Russian republic of Ingushetia, proposed measures this week intended to crack down on Islamic State (IS) recruitment and blowback.

The first proposal, made on September 10, was for the government to create a special group to counter IS's Internet propaganda and recruitment.

The group's main task, according to Yevkurov, would be to expose IS's extremist ideology, which the Ingush leader said was disguised as a "struggle for freedom and the protection of religious and national values," according to the TASS news agency.

Several days earlier, Yevkurov called for the government to revoke the citizenship of Russians who leave to fight alongside IS, as a way to combat blowback and to prevent recruitment.

Such a move would "sharply stop the outflow of young people" to IS, Yevkurov was quoted as saying on September 6.

Ingush In IS

Yekurov's proposals are a sign of increasing concern in Ingushetia that residents are being recruited by IS, and these concerns are valid.

There is evidence that a number of ethnic Ingush are fighting alongside IS in Syria and Iraq.

A number of IS militants whose noms de guerre indicate that they are ethnic Ingush maintain accounts on social media, particularly the VKontakte network.

One of the militants, Sayfuddin Ingushi, says he is fighting alongside IS and is based in the Syrian town of Manbij.

Ingush militant Sayfuddin Ingushi says he is fighting alongside IS in Manbij, Syria.

Ingush militant Sayfuddin Ingushi says he is fighting alongside IS in Manbij, Syria.

Several Ingush militants have been reported killed in recent weeks.

In July, a pro-IS VKontakte account posted photos of several men, at least five of whom are Ingush militants killed fighting in Syria and Iraq.

One of the militants was named as Jundullah Ingush, and was reported killed in Hasakah province in July.

IS In Ingushetia

Yekurov's proposals may in part also reflect ongoing concerns in the republic about Ingushetia's domestic insurgency.

Local militants have shifted their allegiance from the local Islamist insurgent group, the Caucasus Emirate, to IS. In June, IS's leadership accepted pledges of allegiance from militants in the North Caucasus, including in Ingushetia, and declared an IS "province" in the region called Wilayat al-Qawqaz.

In reality, IS's North Caucasus "province" has not led to an uptick in militant activity in the area.

However, security forces in Ingushetia say they have cracked down on IS-affiliated militants.

Federal Security Service (FSB) special forces claimed in August to have killed eight militants "from IS" in a mountainous area of the republic's Sunzha district. One of those killed was Adam Tagilov, who the FSB said was involved in the December 2014 terror attack in the Chechen capital, Grozny.

Will Countermeasures Be Successful?

Russia has already attempted to crack down on IS's use of the Internet to recruit new militants and gain support.

Last year, Moscow's prosecutor-general ordered the closure of a handful of pro-IS VKontakte accounts.

But these measures have proved ineffective. The IS militants behind the accounts have simply opened up new ones on VKontakte and have moved to other platforms, particularly Facebook.

In reality, IS's Russian-language propaganda network has expanded in recent months. In the summer, North Caucasian militants launched Furat Media, IS's official Russian propaganda channel, which produced at least 20 videos from mid-July through mid-August.

Meanwhile, several countries, including Australia, have said they would revoke the citizenship of nationals who fight alongside IS.

But these proposals have attracted considerable criticism from terrorism researchers and legal professionals, who have said that stripping citizenship would not mitigate the threat posed by foreign militants and could harm social inclusion.

It appears Russia is unlikely to go down the route of stripping citizenship from IS militants.

In response to Yevkurov's proposal, Andrei Klishas, the head of Russia's the Committee on Constitutional Legislation under the Federation Council, said such a move would be unconstitutional.

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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