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Ingush Cleric Denounces Republic Head, Prominent Sufi Brotherhood

Ingushetia's leader, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, is accused of protecting a Sufi brotherhood that has attacked a top Muslim cleric.

Yet another new protagonist has come forward with damaging allegations against Republic of Ingushetia head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.

Ingush Muslim cleric Sheikh Salekh Khamkhoyev has accused Yevkurov of complicity with a Sufi brotherhood he believes is responsible for attacks on his home or property and appealed for protection to Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov, with whom Yevkurov is engaged in a protracted low-level feud.

Khamkhoyev, 58, belongs to the generation of Chechens and Ingush born in exile in Kazakhstan to parents deported in 1944. He graduated from the Bukhara madrasah (religious school), one of two functioning in Uzbekistan during the late Soviet period. In 1990, he founded an Islamic institute in Nazran, of which he served as rector. Between 1990 and 1997 he also worked as an adviser on religious affairs to Ruslan Aushev, the first president of the Republic of Ingushetia; as a consultant to the Russian Nationalities Ministry; and as an adviser to the chairman of the Russian State Duma.

Khamkhoyev was one of 34 candidates who sought to register for the April 2002 early presidential election occasioned by Aushev's resignation. A spokesman recently confirmed that he is currently Ingushetia's representative to the Council of Muftis of Russia, but a search of that organization's website does not yield a single mention of him.

Khamkhoyev claimed in late June that his armored Mercedes had been blown up outside his Moscow home. But Moscow police denied this, saying the vehicle may have caught fire as a result of a short circuit.

Khamkhoyev, however, construed the incident as the latest in a series of attempts by the Sufi Batal-hadzhi vird (brotherhood) to intimidate and pressure himself and members of his family. (The plot of John le Carre's 1994 novel "Our Game" hinges on the clandestine influence wielded by Ingush Sufis in Moscow.)

In January 2013, unidentified perpetrators subjected Khamkhoyev's home in Nazran to machine-gun fire.

In addition, Khamkhoyev wrote in a July 1 telegram to Kadyrov, a scanned authenticated copy of which has been posted on the opposition website, that members of the Batal-hadzhi vird have tried to extort $10 million from him, physically attacked his two sons, and threatened to kill him -- apparently because they believe he furnished Colonel General Sergei Chenchik, head of the Russian Interior Ministry's Main Directorate for the North Caucasus Federal District, with evidence of their involvement in criminal activities.

The Batal-hadzhi vird is named after Batal-hadzhi Belkhoroyev, an Ingush who was a murid (disciple) of Kunta-hadzhi Kishiyev, the 19th-century Chechen Sufi preacher who has been elevated to cult status within the framework of Kadyrov's concept of "traditional Chechen Islam." After Kunta-hadzhi's death in 1867, his followers split into four virds, of which the Batal-hadzhi vird is one.

The Belkhoroyev extended family continues to play a prominent role both within the Batal-hadzhi vird and in republican politics. Ingushetian opposition parliament deputy Akhmed Belkhoroyev, who recently went public with criticisms of corruption and mismanagement within the republican leadership, is a member of that clan.

Khamkhoyev subscribes to the view that, as he informs Kadyrov, the Batal-hadzhi vird "no longer bears any relation to the great sheikh Batal-hadzhi or to the true murids of that vird." He says the brotherhood has split into two parts, of which one has made Yevkurov its puppet, while the second has "found refuge" with Kadyrov, presumably meaning in Chechnya. Professing to be a follower of Kunta-hadzhi, Khamkhoyev demands that Kadyrov protect him from the Batal-hadzhi vird, warning him that in the event that he ignores that request, "I reserve the right to testify against you on the Day of Judgment."

If, as Khamkhoyev claims, Kadyrov has indeed come to an accommodation with some members of the Batal-hadzhi vird, possibly with a view to using them as a tool in his feud with Yevkurov, then the chances he will respond positively to Khamkhoyev's veiled threat are minimal. One blogger even claims that the Batal-hadzhi vird has acknowledged Kadyrov as its spiritual leader.

In addition, Khamkhoyev tells Kadyrov that he earlier appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for protection from the Batal-hadzhi vird, naming specifically Yakub Belkhoroyev, former mayor of the Ingushetian capital, Magas, and Yevkurov's brother-in-law; Yakub's nephew, Ingushetian Deputy Minister of Communications Ibragim Belkhoroyev; Ingushetian Deputy Minister of Sport Daud Alkhazurov; and three more members of the Belkhoroyev and Alkhazurov families.

Putin, however, passed that appeal to Yevkurov, who in turn passed it on to the brotherhood. (A scanned copy of Khamkhoyev's telegram to Putin, dated March 7, is also posted on Given that Kadyrov never passes up an opportunity to profess his loyalty to Putin and sing his praises, it is unlikely he would take any action that would call Putin's judgment into question.

Indeed, Putin is not the only senior Russian official to whom Khamkhoyev has appealed. On May 18, he contacted Chenchik, having learned that the Batal-hadzhi brotherhood has decided to kill him after receiving from Chenchik what purported to be a letter (which Khamkhoyev denies ever having written) apparently containing incriminating evidence against them. Khamkhoyev asks Chenchik to try to trace the provenance of that letter.

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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