US designates Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov a global terrorist


Doku Umarov, the leader of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Caucasus, from a videotape in which he took credit for the March 29 suicide attacks on the Moscow Metro.

Dokku Umarov, the leader of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Caucasus, was thought to have been killed last fall but has since reemerged. You can read a translation of his latest statement here, or watch his video here.

Two days ago, the US State Department designated Doku Umarov, the top leader of the al Qaeda-linked Caucasus Emirate, as a global terrorist under Presidential Executive Order 13224. The designation allows the US to freeze Umarov’s assets, prevent him from using financial institutions, and prosecute him for terrorist activities.

Umarov has been instrumental in uniting Chechen jihadists with other terror groups in the Russian republics in the North Caucasus. Umarov, a Dagestani, created the Caucasus Emirate in 2007. Its borders encompass the Russian republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachay-Cherkessia, and the federal region of Stavropol .

“The emergence of Umarov as the leader of the Chechen insurgency intensified the split between national separatists and radical jihadists and led to a movement seeking to create an Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus with Umarov as the Emir,” or leader, the State Department press release said.

“The designation of Umarov is in direct response to the threats posed to United States and Russia,” Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, State’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism, was quoted in the press release. “The recent attacks perpetrated by Umarov and his operatives illustrate the global nature of the terrorist problem we face today. We stand in solidarity with the Russian people in our condemnation of these deplorable terrorist acts.”

Umarov has reignited the terror insurgency in the Caucasus and has backed suicide attacks throughout the region and even inside Russia. On a videotape released on the Internet, Umarov claimed credit for the March 29 double suicide attack on the Moscow Metro that killed 39 people, and vowed to conduct further strikes in Russia.

Background on Russia’s battle against al Qaeda and allied groups in the Caucasus

Over the past two decades, al Qaeda has fought alongside Chechen rebels during two brutal wars against the Russians that are thought to have resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 civilians and thousands of Russian soldiers and Chechen fighters. The bulk of the Chechen resistance was smashed after the Second Chechen War, but al Qaeda and allied Islamist groups continued to operate, and managed to radicalize many of the remaining nationalist rebels.

Russian security forces, backed by local forces in the Caucasus, have had success in decapitating the top leadership of al Qaeda and radical Chechen forces. After killing Ibn al Khattab in 2002, security forces eliminated his successors; Abu Walid al Ghamdi was killed in 2004, and Abu Hafs al Urdani was killed in 2006.

Russian security forces also killed Saif al Islam al Masri, a member of al Qaeda’s shura and a chief financier, in 2002; and Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Saif al Tamimi (also known as Abu Omar Saif) in 2005. Tamimi served as second in command to Shamil Basayev, the military commander for the Islamic Army in the Caucasus. In 2006, Basayev and much of his leadership cadre were killed by Russian security forces.

After Basayev’s death in 2006, the Chechen and Caucasus jihadists united under the command of Doku Umarov, one of the last remaining original leaders of the Chechen rebellion and a close associate of al Qaeda. Prior to 2006, Umarov had denied having connections with al Qaeda and rejected terrorist attacks against civilians. But in 2006, Abu Hafs al Urduni announced that the Chechen jihad was being reorganized under the command of Doku Umarov after the death Basayev. By November 2007, Umarov had declared an Islamic emirate in the greater Caucasus region and named himself the emir, or leader. Russian security forces thought Umarov was killed during a raid in November 2009 that killed several of his close aides, but he has since resurfaced.

But the insurgency in the Caucasus largely went dormant after Basayev’s death in 2006. In the spring of 2009, Umarov reignited the insurgency by launching a wave of suicide attacks in the Caucasus. In April 2009, Umarov revived the Riyad-us-Saliheen martyr brigade, which has spearheaded the assault.

“Riyad [the Riyad-us-Saliheen martyr brigade] is believed to be descended from two other Chechen terrorist organizations led by Basayev, the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR) and the International Islamic Brigade (IIB),” according to the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism database. “It has even been suggested that Riyad is simply the result of the marriage of these two groups.”

The Caucasus Emirate’s most recent high-profile suicide operations include: the double suicide attack in Moscow’s Metro on March 29 (39 people killed); a double suicide attack that targeted police in the city of Kizlyar in Dagestan on March 31 (13 people killed); and a suicide attack at a concert in Starvopol on May 26 (seven killed).

Russia’s Federal Security Service has targeted the Caucasus Emirate’s top leaders during raids this year. Four top commanders have been killed or captured since February, including two foreign leaders.

On Feb. 2, the FSB killed Mokhmad Mohamad Shabban during a raid in a mountainous region in Dagestan. Shabban, an Egyptian who is better known as Saif Islam or the Sword of Islam, was one of the founders of al Qaeda in the Caucasus.

On March 2, FSB commandos killed Said Buryatsky and five other terrorists during a raid in Ingushetia. Buryatsky was the mufti, or religious leader, for the Caucasus Emirate, and has been described as Russia’s Osama bin Laden.

On June 9, the FSB captured Emir Magas, the military commander of the Caucasus Emirate. Magas was a longtime associate of Basayev and Ibn al Khattab. One day later Russian forces killed Yasir Amarat, a wanted terrorist commander from Jordan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Infidel4LIFE says:

    i have to give the russians credit. They are merciless, they may be like a bull in a china shop, but you mess w/the bull you get the horns. The Russians have been pretty successful lately. I wish both russians & americans realize we are fighting the SAME enemy.

  • Atiyyatullah says:

    If you wipe out one in every eight people in a given region, then you should not be surprised when they occasionally respond in a similar manner. I think the civilian toll now stands at roughly 250,000 Caucasians and roughly 700 Russians by their own tallies. Addition and subtraction should be taught in foreign policy classes, because there is no excuse for anyone supporting Russia in this war.

  • Jimmy says:

    Great to see the Russian and US patching things up. Its time Russia, US, NATO, EU, India, East Asia (S.K, Japan) and liberal Muslim countries get together to deal with China and its proxies – NorthKorea and Pakistan – to the finish! We have to break up these countries – no other option. We must not deviate from our goal otherwise the future will not forgive us.
    History shows that in the face of extreme danger – for example, Nazis during WWII) these very countries have collaborated to collectively preserve their freedom. Come on World!! Why can’t that happen again in the face of this ugly, deadlier than Nazism, enemy – Communism+Jihadism?

  • Gaz says:

    Kill a few dozen people a year (many of whom are members of the Russian miltary or intellgence services) and you are a global terrorist.
    Kill a couple hundred thousand people, level cities like Grozny to the ground and install a thuggish semi-literate 30 year old gangster as the leader of your puppet regime and you are a statesmen.

  • John Abraham says:

    Far more than addition and subtraction is taught in foreign policy classes.
    Don’t worry about 250,000 (if that’s right).
    Look at these numbers
    Look at the table which gives numbers from 1955-2001 i.e less than 50 years.
    There are genocides elsewhere is the world as well, but Muslims killing Muslims(or non_muslims) far exceeds anything else. And Muslims killing others(and their own) is disproportionately high compared to their numbers in the world.
    The number is 5-10 million. Of course we still need to include the numbers from 2001-2010, esp in Sudan. Also add 9/11 victims etc.

  • kp says:

    Jimmy: Have you forgotten the Soviet-Nazi non-aggression treaty in 1939 that was used (with its secret additions) to carve up Poland.

    Read up about that attack on Grozny too in the Chechyn War. Their approach to taking cities is straight out of Marshall Zukhov’s manual: flatten the place with artillery then move in.

    The moral of WW2 (and the Cold War that followed) is not to trust any totalitarian regimes: communist, Fascist, kleptocrat or Islamist. Whilst I’m happy when the FSB selectively kill important Islamists I can’t agree with their general approach and worldview of “kill ’em all and then you get the bad ones”. It’s an odd mix of Communist and Czarist Totalitarianism with an oligargarchy to back it all up and nationalism (whose?) to justify it all.

  • Joshua says:

    It seems the Russians and the West have the same problem.Still though Russians seem notorious for breaking treaties.Just ask Poland.I gotta agree with KP above.We remain ever watchful of the Russians as they have a long way to go before they earn our countries trust and cooperation.


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