From left to right: Khamzat, the commander of the Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyr Brigade; Doku Umarov, the leader of the Caucasus Emirate; and Saifullah, the suicide bomber of the deadly Jan. 24 suicide attack at Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow that killed 35 people.
Today under Executive Order 13224, the US State Department added the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, or Imarat Kavkaz, to the list of terrorist organizations. The designation allows the US to freeze the terror group’s assets, prevent it from using financial institutions, and prosecute members for terrorist activities.
“Imarat Kavkaz uses bombings, shootings, and attempted assassinations to provoke a revolution and expel the Russian government from the North Caucasus region,” according to a statement released by the US State Department announcing the designation.
“The designation of Caucasus Emirate is in response to the threats posed to the United States and Russia,” Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, the Department of State’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism, was quoted as saying in the press release. “The attacks perpetrated by Caucasus Emirate 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.”
The US indicated that additional actions would be taken against the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.
“This designation represents just one phase of the United States Government’s response to the threat posed by Caucasus Emirate,” the press release stated.
The designation of the Caucasus Emirate takes place 11 months after the terror group’s leader, Doku Umarov, was added to the US’ list of foreign terrorists. Umarov has admitted to planning and executing numerous terror attacks in the Caucasus and in Russia since he declared the establishment of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate in November 2007.
Two of the most deadly attacks claimed by Umarov have occurred in Moscow. Umarov took credit for the deadly Jan. 24, 2011 suicide attack at Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow that killed 35 people and wounded scores more. Umarov also claimed responsibility for the March 29, 2010 suicide attack by two female bombers that killed 39 people in the Moscow metro.
Umarov has repeatedly vowed to continue attacks inside of Russia. Most recently, in a interview with Kavkaz Center, the terror group’s propaganda arm, Umarov said he considers “the Caucasus Emirate and Russia as a single theater of war.” The interview was released on May 17.
“Today, the battlefield is not just Chechnya and the Caucasus Emirate, but also the whole Russia,” he continued. “The situation is visible to everybody who has eyes. The Jihad is spreading, steadily and inevitably, everywhere. I’ve already mentioned that all those artificial borders, administrative divisions, which the Taghut [false leader or liar] drew, mean nothing to us. The days when we wanted to secede and dreamed of building a small Chechen Kuwait in the Caucasus are over.”
The Islamic Caucasus Emirate has close ties to al Qaeda. Some members of the group have fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Meanwhile, the International Islamic Battalion, the unit comprised of Arab and other foreign fighters that fights in the Caucasus, has been led by senior al Qaeda leaders. The top leaders of the International Islamic Battalion have included al Qaeda commander Ibn al Khattab (killed in 2002); Abu al Walid (killed in 2004); Abu Hafs al Urduni (killed in 2006); and and Muhannad (killed in April 2011).
For more information on the Islamic Caucasus Emirate and its war with Russia, see LWJ report, 35 killed in suicide attack at Moscow airport.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.