Saturday, August 27, 2016


Tatarstan Attacks Spark Fears That Islamist Threat Is Spreading

Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov (left) visits Mufti Ildus Faizov in hospital after the cleric's car was rocked by powerful bomb blasts on July 19.
Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov (left) visits Mufti Ildus Faizov in hospital after the cleric's car was rocked by powerful bomb blasts on July 19.
By Daisy Sindelar
In some parts of Russia, brazen daytime assassination attempts on religious leaders might not seem so unusual.

In the past four months alone, for example, two Muslim clerics and a prominent Islamic scholar have been killed in the restive North Caucasus republic of Daghestan.

But no such violence had ever been witnessed in Muslim-majority Tatarstan, a relatively peaceful, prosperous republic with a reputation for cultural diversity and religious tolerance. 

That all changed on the morning of July 19 with twin attacks on the republic's two leading Muslim clerics.

Mufti Ildus Faizov was hospitalized with moderate injuries after his car was rocked by three powerful bomb blasts on a broad, sun-lined street in the capital, Kazan.

An hour earlier, Faizov's powerful former deputy, Valiulla Yakupov, had been shot dead outside his home in a different neighborhood of the city.

LATEST: Four suspects arrested over attacks

No one has claimed responsibility for the dual assaults, the first terrorist-style attacks in the republic, which come a day before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

But the clerics' pro-Kremlin, anti-Wahhabi stance has stirred speculation that they may have been targeted by hard-line Islamists looking to break Moscow's grip on Russia's second-largest religion.

Islamist Insurgency Spreading?

Rais Suleimanov, an ethnic and religious affairs expert who heads a pro-Moscow think tank in Kazan, has suggested that the attack could signal that the Islamist insurgency in Russia's restive south could be spreading north -- with potentially disastrous consequences.

"We see a North Caucasus scenario unfolding in Tatarstan now, and it's spreading across the Volga region," he said. "Traditional Muslim leaders who were speaking up against so-called 'pure Islam' pushed by the Wahabbis were also getting killed 10 years ago in Daghestan.

"Tatarstan's politics are based on [projecting a good image of Tatarstan], while the secular authorities are weak. It's even possible that a Beslan-style tragedy may happen [here]. I mean, a hostage-taking or similar action."

It's an assessment that may send a chill through federal authorities who over the last decade have roundly failed to quell what they see as a growing Islamist threat in the troubled North Caucasus.

Tatarstan police search the wreckage of Mufti Ildus Faizov's bombed-out car.
Tatarstan police search the wreckage of Mufti Ildus Faizov's bombed-out car.

In a statement, Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee said it was exploring a number of motives behind the attacks, including the work of the Tatarstan Mufti's Office "to counter the spread of radical religious ideas across the republic's territory."

Special attention has focused on the 49-year-old Yakupov, a veteran member of Tatarstan's Muftiyat, or Spiritual Board.

Openly Opposed To Extremism

Yakupov, who spent two decades as deputy mufti before moving to head the Muftiyat's religious education department, had long been seen as a powerful figure with close ties to federal authorities and a willingness to act as an agent of restraint in Tatarstan's Muslim affairs.

He had consistently sought to limit the number of Tatars studying in foreign madrasahs, suggesting a homegrown religious education could better create moderate Muslims prepared to peacefully coexist with Russia's Orthodox majority.
Valilulla Yakupov had been a veteran member of Tatarstan's Spiritual Board.Valilulla Yakupov had been a veteran member of Tatarstan's Spiritual Board.
Valilulla Yakupov had been a veteran member of Tatarstan's Spiritual Board.
Valilulla Yakupov had been a veteran member of Tatarstan's Spiritual Board.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion sponsored by RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service the day before his death, Yakupov criticized what he called the "miserable psychology" of internationalism and altruism and called on Tatars to "fight for ourselves."

Irek Murtazin, a Kazan-based journalist and the former press secretary to the republic's ex-president, Mintimer Shaimiyev, maintains that Yakupov's open opposition to Wahhabism and Salafism may have prompted the attack.

"I knew [Yakupov] as a fighter against the Wahabbization of Islam in Tatarstan," he said. "It is possible that this was the Wahabbis' revenge against the Muslim Spiritual Directorate, which has been preventing Wahhabism from spreading across Tatarstan's mosques."

Despite serving in a lesser post, Yakupov was seen as more powerful than Faizov, whose first career was as an actor and who was only appointed to the post in January 2011.

But Faizov, 49, is seen as equally accommodating when it comes to Kremlin concerns about centralizing control over Muslim authorities.

He quickly moved to consolidate Tatarstan's Muslim communities by creating regional councils and screening the selection of local imams.

This ran counter to the work of Faizov's predecessor, Gusman Iskhakov, who was seen as presiding over a largely unregulated and liberal network of Muslim institutions.

Tatarstan, which enjoys substantial oil wealth, is home to a number of lavish mosques, including the Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan. This year, it also became the latest point on the globe to claim ownership of the world's largest printed Koran, an 800-kilogram tome decorated in gold, malachite, and jasper.

But while many Tatars identify with their Muslim heritage and enjoy the celebrity of their mosques and Korans, few are seen as religiously devout. And there are disagreements about how far Wahhabism has, or could, spread in Tatarstan.

In November 2010, three alleged Wahhabists were shot dead by police after reportedly seeking to assassinate local officials.

Moscow May Tighten Controls

But few such incidents have been reported in Tatarstan, and the threat of Wahhabism has not been used as a pretext for police roundups of local youths, as it has been in the North Caucasus.

The dual attacks on July 19, therefore, are seen as a deeply unwelcome surprise for both local and federal officials.

This is particularly true as the country looks ahead to two major international sporting events that will present massive security concerns. Kazan will host the Universiade, the Student Sports Olympics, in 2013; Russia follows with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The high-profile assassination plots have raised concerns among some observers that Moscow may use the attacks as an opportunity to tighten security controls on a region that has long enjoyed a degree of freedom from federal scrutiny.

On July 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled a readiness to intervene when he made critical remarks about how "no preventive measures" had been taken to prevent the Tatarstan plots and said the attacks sent a "serious signal" to authorities.

Pavel Salin, a political analyst at the Center for Political Assessments in Moscow, agrees that the Kazan attacks are doubtless a "serious worry" for the Kremlin.

But he downplayed suggestions that Tatarstan, as a largely peaceful and compliant Russian republic, would be the target of a full-scale Kremlin crackdown -- even at a time when Putin is moving briskly to consolidate his own political authority.

"Responsibilities are being transferred from the center to the regions," he said. "The center is not taking on all the volume of responsibilities that it took on in the 2000s. Also, if we look at Tatarstan specifically, this republic has not posed problems for the federal center in the last 10 years, as opposed to, say, Bashkortostan."

Correspondents Tom Balmforth and Natalya Dzhanpoladova contributed to this report from Moscow; Alsu Kurmasheva contributed from Prague
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
July 20, 2012 13:19
As in all things Russian, I’m guessing that there are no superficial answers as to what prompted this attack. Listening to the comments of Mr. Yakupov on the clip, one gets the impression that he was advocating greater Tatar autonomy. Is this true? If this is the case, could his death be a targeted assassination by the Russian authorities? I doubt it, but with so many unsolved crimes over the past twenty years, it’s easy to fall victim to conspiracy theories.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 20, 2012 14:57
Why did you even come up with that crap?
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 21, 2012 05:05
Crap is all yours, Anonymous Rashka.
Crap of ignorance is yours, Barbara from NJ.
Crap is all yours, from US, Jack's Russian blyashka.
The Question is the race hate of Varanga-Prussia migits.

Or their masters. Like evil plant Plantagenot they are bists
Of treachery. White Tatars where and are like Welsh,
Edward IV secret weapon, genocidized-twisted,
Before and after being used and belched.

Tatars don't mind, Barbara, be in RSFSR
As equals and their national identity intact,
But evil nazi Russia turn everybody serfs.
Russia organize the assassinations, fact,
To down them, not for dissloyalty to state.

The same as in Georgia. They planed too
Since 1954-56 again - repopulate houses
By ethnic Russians, used as terrorist boo
"Oboroten's" and army in buletprof bluses.
Russia was asked help, replied genocide.

The same in Caucasus, Russian army go
As invaders and cleansers of populations,
After "oboroten's" unleash the terror blows.
Sometimes terror is just missguided youth,
But even than it is masterminded by Russ.
In Response

by: Barbara from NJ from: NJ
July 20, 2012 16:04
I was in Kazan for 6 weeks last winter and found the Muslin population not interested in religion and a very few people nationalistic, or interested in the creation of their own state. There was only one active NGO advocating statehood. Most people felt that they were doing well under Russia.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
July 20, 2012 18:58
Russian and Tatar people live together for centuries and there is a lot of intermixing between them. US propaganda tries to instigate hatred and religious warfare, like that in Syria and Lybia.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
July 20, 2012 19:57
The preceding comment was not by me but by a knee grow RFE/RL staffer who cannot spell Libya.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 21, 2012 00:09
It is not a coincidence
that RFE has a special section
dedicated to the Tatar-Bashkir .....
In Response

by: Shamil from: Tatarstan
July 21, 2012 03:08
You stayed in Kazan. Kazan is a Russian occupied colony. Half of Kazan are Russians some are Orthodox Christian Tatars. Minority are Muslim Tatars. Try to visit the periphery next time. Majority of Muslim pro-independence Tatars live there.
In Response

by: rick from: Milan
July 21, 2012 11:34
"""occupied colony""" by who ????

Yes , because about one thing we can be sure

tatar people is not originary of this corner of the world

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 21, 2012 06:32
"Islamist Insurgency Spreading" in Russia :-))). I mean, nothing is too absurd for the RFE/RL to publish :-))). You know, "one more place where the Islamist Insurgency is spreading is Boulder, Colorado, where one Islamic militant killed several people who went to see a Batman movie in the cinema the other day" - that's what an RFE/RL article would sound like if they were not financed from Washington but from some anti-US source.
In Response

by: Rick from: milan
July 21, 2012 11:41
Yeah !

I want an article on RFE like the one after the flood of south russia :

""" For Many, COLORADO a Fresh Opportunity To Ask Why USA Protect Its Citizens """
In Response

by: Rick
July 22, 2012 13:15
ops , i deleted to much from original RFEs title .
obviously must be there a "can't"

"""For Many, COLORADO A Fresh Opportunity To Ask Why USA Can't Protect Its Citizens """

by: Lenar from: Tatarstan
July 21, 2012 18:27
Hello I live in Tatarstan, on the outskirts. my comments to your words:
1) The Tartars do not want to secede from Russia, but Putin has destroyed the boundaries of our republic, to combine several regions
2) a huge percentage of the revenue produced Tatarstan oil goes to Moscow
3) in Tatarstan, an increasing number of Wahhabis, they walk the streets, handing out leaflets, books, magazines, recruit people who made ​​explosives.
can ask me questions.
P.S. Sorry, I translate with Google translator.
In Response

by: Pindos from: Pindostan
July 24, 2012 22:35
Wahhabis walk the streets?
I know Russians hate Saudia Arabia which destroyed the USSR by lowering the oil prices. Still why do you, personally, hate Saudis? Are you some kind of Russian or their loyalist?
In Response

by: Lenar from: Tatarstan
July 25, 2012 12:00
I hate the Wahhabis, who staged this terrorist attack, but the tolerant attitude to Saudi Arabia. These terrorists are attracting more people to carry out their treacherous plans.
The first time I hear that the Russian hate Saudi Arabia.

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