While al Qaeda in Chechnya and the greater Chechnya rebel movement has suffered a serious setback over the past two years, a nucleus of the terror movement remains. Doku Umarov, one of the last remaining original leaders of the Chechen rebellion and a close associate of al Qaeda, has declared an Islamic emirate in the greater Caucasus region.
On November 22, the Kavkaz Center, an al Qaeda-linked website promoting the jihad in Chechnya, published Umarov’s declaration of the Caucasian Emirate. Umarov, who is now the “Amir of Mujahideen in Caucasus,” emphasized the importance of implementing sharia, or Islamic law, and the responsibility of Muslims to “fight the infidels.”
“We, the Mujahideen, went out to fight the infidels not for the sake of fighting but to restore the Sharia of Allah in our land,” said Umarov. “I declare ethnic, territorial and colonial zones carrying names of ‘North-Caucasian republics’, ‘Trans-Caucasian Republics’ and other such terms as outlawed.”
Umarov goes beyond the border of Chechnya and includes the small Russian Republics bordering Georgia and Azerbaijan. “All lands in Caucasus, where Mujahideen who gave bayah (oath) to me wage Jihad, I declare states of the Caucasus Emirate including Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Ossetia, the Nogay steppe and the combined areas of Kabardino-Balkana and Karachay-Cherkessia,” he stated, while leaving the boundaries open to interpretation. “I do not believe it is necessary to draw the borders of the Caucasus Emirate.”
The goals of the Chechen jihadis are twofold: first, expel non-Muslims and implement sharia; second expand the jihad beyond the Caucasus. “First, because Caucasus is occupied by infidels and apostates and it is Dar al-Harb, the territory of war. … Our first task is to make the Caucasus Dar al-Islam, establishing the Sharia throughout the land and expelling the infidels,” he stated. “Secondly, after expelling the infidels we must reclaim all historical lands of Muslims, and these borders are beyond the boundaries of Caucasus.”
Later in the statement, Umarov declared his support of al Qaeda and Palestinian terrorists worldwide. “Today in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Palestine our brothers are fighting,” he said. “Those who attack Muslims are our common enemies wherever they are. Our enemy is not Russia only, but also anyone who wages war against Islam and Muslims.”
Doku Umarov and al Qaeda
In the past, Umarov denied having connections with al Qaeda and rejects terrorist attacks against civilians. But last year, Abu Hafs al Urduni, al Qaeda’s former leader in Chechnya, stated the Chechen jihad was being reorganized under the command of Doku Umarov after the deaths of Shamil Basayev and a large contingent of the Chechen leadership.
Al Qaeda lionized Basayev after his death with a video tribute. Basayev took credit for the Beslan school massacre in Ingushetia, where 344 civilians were killed, 186 of them children.
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, large numbers of Chechen fighters took advantage of an amnesty program. Over 350 Chechen fighters surrendered after the amnesty was announced during the summer of 2006. In November 2006, 35 of Umarov’s cadres, including some holding “high-ranking positions,” gave up the fight, and another 28 surrendered soon after. Umarov’s brother surrendered to Russian authorities in August.
In November 2006, Umarov was wounded after Russian forces conducted an assault on his hideout. He escaped the Russian assault. Just days later, Abu Hafs, al Qaeda’s Emir of Chechnya, was killed by Russian security services. Russian intelligence believed Abu Hafs was preparing to leave Chechnya “given the lack of prospects for jihad in the North Caucasus.”