Meeting with senior federal Interior Ministry officials, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov has indirectly confirmed a report posted on the insurgency website KavkazCenter that unknown perpetrators painted a black jihadi banner on a wall in his home village of Tsentoroi (Khosi-Yurt) during the night of February 8-9. He said local police apprehended those responsible within 24 hours.
According to Kavkazcenter, the entire village was cordoned off on February 9 after a black jihadi banner was painted on a wall, together with the words, in English, "Khosi-Yurt is support ISIS." (ISIS is one of the acronyms used for the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.)
Kavkazcenter quotes unnamed village residents as saying that Kadyrov, outraged by the incident, immediately fired all his closest advisors on security issues, together with his chief of staff Magomed Daudov. There has been no official confirmation of any such dismissals, however. He reportedly also fired all police personnel who live in Tsentoroi.
Kadyrov's version of what happened is slightly different. He said that on discovery of the "artwork," police living in Tsentoroi immediately suspended themselves from duty pending dismissal and set about tracking down the perpetrators, who were apprehended within 24 hours.
Kadyrov did not identify the culprits or say how many there were. According to the Chechen leader, the entire village then gathered at the local sports stadium to express their support and approval of the police, whose letters of resignation Kadyrov said he has asked Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov to disregard.
It remains impossible to gauge with any degree of accuracy the extent of support within Chechnya for Islamic State, and whether that support derives from wholehearted acceptance and approval of IS ideology, tactics, and strategy, or primarily from the perception that it is the sole force capable of putting an end to Kadyrov's strong-armed rule.
-- Liz Fuller