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North Caucasus Insurgency Leader Predicts 'Results' From Spring Offensive


A screen grab of Chechen insurgent Doku Umarov in a recent interview posted on YouTube

A screen grab of Chechen insurgent Doku Umarov in a recent interview posted on YouTube

A new 20-minute video clip has been posted on YouTube in which self-styled Caucasus Emirate head Doku Umarov answered questions about the current state of the North Caucasus insurgency.

The footage, posted on April 11 and dated last month, was apparently shot indoors with the usual Caucasus Emirate banner as a backdrop.

Umarov was not, for once, wearing combat fatigues and he looked remarkably well and relaxed: not like a man of nearly 50 who has spent the past 10 winters in a dugout in the forest.

The first request addressed to Umarov concerned the split in the insurgency ranks in August 2010 and the reconciliation 10 months later. Umarov admitted that the "fitna" had been "quite painful for the Muslims of the Caucasus," and expressed relief that it was resolved without bloodshed or losses.

Second, Umarov was asked to list by name the various emirs who had repledged their loyalty to him, which he did not do. Instead, he stressed that all amirs have done so, and that no importance should be attached to the absence of some amirs from the shura in the summer of 2011 at which the reconciliation took place.

Notable Absentee

RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service noted at the time that there was no sign of Tarkhan Gaziyev at that session, at which his fellow emirs -- Khusein Gakayev and Aslambek Vadalov -- were both shown swearing baiat, or allegiance, to Umarov.

The most logical explanation for Gaziyev’s absence was that his fighters staged 14 or 15 attacks in the uplands southwest of Grozny between mid-April and late June last year.

The third question was about the hypothesis -- espoused by Akhmed Zakayev, the leader in exile of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria -- that Russia's Federal Security Service provided $500 million to fund the so-called Caucasus Emirate.

Predictably, Umarov denied this. Without mentioning Zakayev by name, Umarov also denied that Movladi Udugov played any role in the proclamation of the North Caucasus Emirate.

Zakayev had identified Udugov as the ideologist behind the idea of proclaiming a pan-Caucasus Islamic state. Umarov said it was he who proclaimed the Caucasus Emirate, with the backing of Anzor Astemirov (a.k.a. Seyfullakh), who headed the Kabardino-Balkaria insurgency wing.

In a statement last year, however, Umarov gave a far more detailed and rather different account of the sequence of events that led to this proclamation of the Caucasus Emirate in late 2007.

He disclosed that the debate among senior fighters about whether to proclaim an Islamic state dated back to 2002. He also said that after the death in 2006 of radical field commander Shamil Basayev, Astemirov threatened to proclaim the Caucasus Emirate himself if Umarov continued to hesitate.

Umarov said he went ahead and did so to avoid a split within the insurgency ranks, given that the fighters in Daghestan and Ingushetia would have sided with Astemirov.

'Increasing Cost' Of Jihad

The fourth question was about the military situation elsewhere in the North Caucasus. Umarov said the cost of waging jihad was increasing, and there were no Islamic states in the vicinity ready to provide help.

At the same time, he said "we are always ready to welcome mujahedin who are ready to embark on jihad." Six years ago, in the spring of 2006, Umarov told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service in an exclusive interview that because of financial problems he could not accept all the volunteers who wanted to join the ranks of the resistance.

Umarov admitted that there is currently a lull in fighting as "we are tired and we have sustained heavy losses." But he said the upcoming spring campaign "will bring results."

The final question touched on the U.S. State Department’s inclusion of Umarov in May 2010 on its list of wanted terrorists and the offer of a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Here either Umarov’s memory is faulty or he deliberately misconstrues the sequence of events. He claimed the announcement was meant as an incentive to those emirs who had split with him and the objective was to undermine unity within the ranks of the insurgency. But the fitna occurred only in August -- months after the State Department announcement.

In conclusion, Umarov stressed that jihad is obligatory for all Muslims. He acknowledged that the insurgency has lost many fighters "to whom we were close" over the past year, and affirmed that the survivors pray they will die an equally glorious death.

Among the insurgent fronts that have suffered the most serious losses in recent months is Daghestan. Umarov has not yet named a successor to Ibragimkhalil Daudov (Emir Solikh), who was killed in February.

Nonetheless Daudov’s first deputy, Abu Mukhammed, has assumed the role of acting commander of the rebel Daghestan front.

In recent video footage posted on the website Vdagestan, Mukhammed is shown with 11 fellow fighters reaffirming his sworn allegiance to Umarov.

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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