Russian security forces are on the hunt for the new Chechen jihadi leader
The Russian Army is conducting major combat operations in the hunt for new Chechen terrorist leader Doku Umarov. The Scotsman reports that a source within Umarov’s organization stated “large numbers of Russian troops had surrounded Umarov and his forces in a forest near the village of Yandi-Katar on the border between Ingushetia and Chechnya.” A Russian security operative confirms the report. The village has been surrounded, and Russian artillery and helicopters have been pounding the region for three days straight. The “Chechen Committee for National Salvation” released a statement that Umarov has been wounded.
Umarov is one of the last senior leaders of the Chechen jihad. He fought the Russians in Chechnya during the start of the fighting in 1994, and rose through the ranks to become the southwestern field commander of the Chechen resistance and Vice President of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria. Umarov became president after Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev was killed in June of 2006. Umarov subscribes to the idea that the fight against the Russians should be expanded into the states of the North Caucasus.
Doku denies having connections with al Qaeda and rejects terrorist attacks against civilians, but Abu Hafs al-Urduni, al Qaeda’s leader in Chechnya, stated the Chechen jihad is being reorganized under the command of Doku Umarov after the death of Shamil Basayev. Al-Qaeda lionized Basayev after his death with a video tribute. Umarov is said to have been complicit in the Beslan school massacre in Ingushetia, where 344 civilians were killed, 186 of them children.
Chechnya has been one of the positive fronts in the Long War in a year that has seen major setbacks in the tribal regions of Pakistan and in south and central Somalia, with Iran’s nuclear advances, with Hezbollah’s success against Israel, with the potential downfall of the anti-Syrian Lebanese government, and the rise of sectarian violence and the potential U.S. withdrawal in Iraq. Despite the Russian’s brutal tactics and human rights violations, the Chechen jihad was largely defeated when the leadership was decapitated and the rank and file lost its direction.
After Russian security services killed Basayev and most of his senior staff, Chechen fighters have been laying down their weapons and taking advantage of the amnesty program. Over 350 Chechen fighters have surrendered since the amnesty was announced late last summer. On Wednesday 35 of Umarov’s cadres, including some holding “high-ranking positions,” have given up the fight, and another 28 surrendered today. Umarov’s brother surrendered to Russian authorities in August.