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North Caucasus Insurgency Head Resurfaces


Chechen insurgent Doku Umarov in a screen grab from a YouTube video

Chechen insurgent Doku Umarov in a screen grab from a YouTube video

A new video address by self-styled Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov was posted two days ago on YouTube. The short address -- 3:39 minutes -- was filmed in the Muslim month of Sha'ban that began on June 10.

As usual, Umarov is shown seated in front of the black jihadi banner. His "naib," or deputy, Aslan Byutukayev (Emir Khamzat) is seated on his left, and a younger fighter (possibly Emir Islam) on his right.

Umarov expresses his condolences to the surviving relatives of all insurgents killed fighting, not only in Chechnya, but also in Daghestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria. First and foremost, he names Emir Adam (Dzhamaleyl Mutaliyev), the commander of the Ingush insurgency wing who was killed in a special operation on May 21 after special forces surrounded the house on the outskirts of Nazran where he was staying. Hunafa.com. the website of the Ingush insurgency wing, had formally confirmed Mutaliyev's death on June 26. Mutaliyev had been reported killed once before, in January 2012, but within days, the authorities clarified that the dead fighter was a different man with the same name.

Second, Umarov mentions the Gakayev brothers, without naming them individually, noting that "this family will for long years be written into the chronicle" of the North Caucasus insurgency. Khuseyn Gakayev, Umarov's second naib, and his brother Muslim were killed in January 2013 after an informer infiltrated into the insurgency ranks betrayed their whereabouts, a detail that Umarov fails to mention. Two of their four brothers had been killed in the 1994-96 war, the third in 2001, and the youngest in 2003; one of their sisters was abducted in 2006 and vanished without a trace.

Umarov did not praise the Gakayevs in the same glowing terms as Mutaliyev, possibly because Khuseyn Gakayev together with three other senior commanders withdrew their allegiance to Umarov in 2010, accusing him of acting in an authoritarian manner without consulting them. True, the feud was papered over in July 2011. But in one of his last addresses, Gakayev admitted that there were still unspecified divisions and animosity within the Chechen insurgents' ranks.

Umarov also expresses his sorrow at the death of fighters engaged in jihad elsewhere across the Muslim world, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Somalia. At the same time, he said he prays that Allah will not leave the Caucasus bereft of "true Muslims who will always be ready to lay down their lives to defend the word of Allah," and that there will always be "proud fighters ready to defend the honor of their homeland."

The address was the first Umarov has made since November. His protracted silence had led some Russian officials to question whether indeed he was still alive or whether the perceived threat he and his fighters pose to the safe conduct of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February 2014 had been averted.

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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