Ingushetia's Emir Adam was killed in late January, and Daghestan front commander Ibragimkhalil Daudov (Emir Salikh) two weeks later.
Security forces surrounded the house where Zankishiyev was holed up early on March 27, and fetched his wife, Madina Sozayeva, who sought unsuccessfully to persuade him to surrender. From the contradictory media reports, it is not clear whether Zankishiyev was killed when he detonated a grenade that apparently set the building ablaze, or shot by security personnel.
Zankishiyev was born in March 1982 in the village of Verkhnyaya Zhemtala in the southern Cherek district. He was a Balkar, like Asker Dzhappuyev (aka Abdullakh), whom he succeeded as emir. His name was entered on the federal wanted list in 2006, which suggests he may have been one of the surviving participants of the ill-fated multiple attacks on police and security facilities in Nalchik in October 2005.
Zankishiyev is believed to have participated in the killing in November 2007 of a group of hunters, and may have been Dzhappuyev‘s accomplice in the killing in January 2008 of senior Kabardino-Balkaria Interior Ministry official Anatoly Kyarov. Dzhappuyev himself is on record as saying he and two other fighters killed Kyarov, but he did not name them.
Self-styled Caucasus Emirate head Doku Umarov named Zankishiyev last September to replace Dzhappuyev, who was killed in April 2011 with nine other insurgents and support personnel after the wife of one of them betrayed their whereabouts to the security forces.
Zankishiyev in turn appointed five younger fighters to command the various sectors. Whether one of them will be named to succeed him is not clear; an alternative possible candidate is the Kabardian Hadzhi-Murat Bekov, who in late 2010 was already one of Umarov's inner circle.
The large number of successful special operations against fighters in Kabardino-Balkaria and Daghestan can partly be attributed to informers. But the fighters would not run the risk of detection and betrayal if they remained in the mountains, the way their Chechen brothers in arms do, rather than head for the republican capitals. Umarov, the most-wanted man in Russia, has after all successfully avoided capture for years.
The fact that the security personnel were reportedly almost certain from the start of the operation that the man they had trapped was Zankishiyev suggests that they may have intercepted calls from his mobile phone and identified him from a voice print. Again, senior Chechen commanders avoid the use of mobile phones precisely because of the security risks involved.
It is conceivable that the fighters in Kabardino-Balkaria do not have at their disposal such an extensive network of bases and foxholes as do the Chechens -- especially after the sealing in the fall of 2010 of all known entrances to the molybdenum mine at Tyrnyauz that reportedly served them as a hiding place. But that does not excuse elementary security violations such as Dzhappuyev and two of his most senior deputies spending the night under the same roof.