Muhannad. Image from Kavkaz Center
Russian security forces killed a Saudi who commanded the foreign fighter contingent in the Islamic Caucasus Emirate and served as a key link to al Qaeda.
The commander, who is known as Muhannad, was killed by Russia counterterrorism forces during a raid yesterday in Chechnya. His death was confirmed by Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.
Muhannad, who is also known as Yusuf Mohammed al Emirat, was a Saudi citizen who entered Chechnya in 1999, according to Kavkaz Center. “Before arriving in Chechnya Mohannad participated in the jihad in Bosnia, Kosovo, the Philippines and Afghanistan,” Kavkaz Center stated.
Muhannad fought in Chechnya with the “Islamic Battalion,” the unit comprised of Arab and other foreign fighters. It is also known as the International Islamic Battalion. The senior leaders of the Islamic Battalion include al Qaeda commander Ibn al Khattab (killed in 2002); Abu al Walid (killed in 2004); and Abu Hafs al Urduni (killed in 2006). Muhannad was appointed the commander of the International Islamic Battalion after Urduni’s death. In that role, he served as a key link to al Qaeda’s central command.
Muhannad also served as the “Deputy Military Emir” of terrorist forces in Chechnya, according to Kavkaz. As the deputy military emir in Chechnya, he also commanded local Chechen forces.
Russian officials told CNN that Muhannad was “directly involved in virtually every suicide terrorist attack committed in the Russian Federation over the past few years.”
Muhannad was one of two commanders led a group of Islamic Caucasus Emirate fighters during the Aug. 29, 2010 assault on the village of Tsentoroi, the birthplace of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Police ultimately defeated the assault after several hours of heavy fighting. Twelve fighters and five policemen were killed during the clash.
In the summer of 2010, Muhannad was the center of a controversy surrounding the resignation of Doku Umarov, the emir or leader of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate. Muhannad and three other commanders are said to have pressured Umarov to resign, but Umarov later retracted his resignation.
Umarov accused Muhannad of being “the main organizer of fitna (split/discord) among the Mujahideen in the Province of Nokhchicho (AKA Chechnya / Ichkeria)” and called for him to re-affirm his allegiance. Umarov is said to have relieved Muhannad from command, but the Arab fighter continued to fight in Chechnya.
Muhannad is the second senior leader of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate killed by Russian forces in the past month. On March 28, Russian commandos killed Emir Supyan, the deputy emir of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.