Tag Archives: Dagestan

Russia: We warned the Yanks about Islamic State

A joke making the rounds among Russian officials and hacks who take a keen interest in what is going on in the Middle East these days goes something like this: How will the Yanks deal with the Islamic State group?

They will create “Islamic State 2”, a bigger and better armed group, and let it deal with the original Islamic State group. And what happens when “Islamic State 2” turns against them as it happened with the original Islamic State? They will create “Islamic State 3”, and so on.

But seriously, the rise and spread of the Islamic State group is no laughing matter. Now that the US and its allies have finally woken up to the dangers of the spread of the extremist group, the worry in Moscow is that the hotheads in the Pentagon and at Nato headquarters in Brussels will decide to start hitting Islamic State positions in Syria along with “other targets” there as well – for instance, Syrian army positions.

US President Barack Obama has already announced his plan to deal with the group, promising to lead a “broad coalition” that will “roll back this terrorist threat”. In Moscow, the fear is that the US will seize this opportunity to intervene in Syria.

The Libyan scenario

According to Valeriy Fenenko from the Moscow Centre for International Security, the US can actually use the presence of the Islamic State group in Syria as a pretext to implement the “Libyan scenario”.

“The Americans are bound to try to compensate for their failure last fall,” he says. “At first, it will be air strikes against terrorists and then, in parallel, it may amount to helping the moderate opposition. The US may start a creeping interference, like it happened in Bosnia,” he said.

In any event, Russian diplomatic efforts are in full swing. According to one Russian source, Moscow is trying to prevent possible air strikes in Syria by the US, UK and others, in the same way it did last year when the danger of air strikes was growing by the day.

“Our people in Arab and European capitals were desperately trying to find some sort of solution last year,” he said. “The threat of a regional war that could escalate into a world war was taken very seriously by the Kremlin. And this scenario is in the cards again.”

The feeling in Moscow is that the recent Nato summit in Newport, Wales, missed out on a great opportunity to involve Russia in finding a solution to the spread of the Islamic State group and other militant groups associated with it across Iraq and the Middle East generally. Not to mention, the very real threat of these violent men entering European countries, and even reaching the US.

“The Russians have been warning the Americans ever since the civil war broke out in Syria that it was very dangerous to arm the opposition there,” one former Russian general who was in charge of anti-terrorist operation told me. “There was no chance that the arms destined for the so-called moderate opposition would not end up with the likes of the Islamic State. Not to mention that lots of it was coming as well from ‘liberated’ Libya.”

The same bandits

What worries Russian officials is the stubborn refusal of the Obama administration to talk to President Bashar al-Assad’s government about a possible joint effort in defeating the Islamic State group in Syria.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said recently, it doesn’t make sense for the West to help the Iraqi government to fight the Islamic State group but deny cooperation to Assad who is fighting “the same bandits”.

Some Russian analysts are saying that the bigger problem of the current crisis is that the Islamic State group runs its recruitment campaigns not just in the Middle East but in Europe as well.

Different figures are cited over the number of Europeans who have joined the ranks of the group in the past several months, but if you consider that the number of fighters has risen – according to Russian estimates, from about 6,000 in June to over 30,000 at present – it can be assumed that we are talking about thousands of young Muslims travelling from Europe to fight in what they believe is a holy war.

The senseless war in Gaza has probably indirectly boosted the Islamic State group’s recruitment campaign, making it easier to claim that the West and Israel are hellbent on wiping out the Muslims in the Middle East. It remains unclear as to why Israel’s armed forces attacked Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and conducted blanket air strikes that were bound to take a heavy toll on the civilian population.

In the opinion of Russian experts, this looked more like a smokescreen for US failures in Iraq and Libya rather than an attempt to wipe out Hamas’ arsenal and top commanders. From a military point of view, Benjamin Netanyahu’s war achieved absolutely nothing, except perhaps giving Hamas a boost in popularity.

The danger for Russia from the Islamic State group is that some of its members come from Chechnya and Dagestan, the two Muslim republics in the south of Russia, and there is a risk that the group can find sympathisers and supporters there and even start to build a network across the Caucasus.

That is why Moscow is now calling on all parties to make a joint effort to destroy the Islamic State group before it becomes truly international.

However, as the president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems Konstantin Sivkov points out, the military option is only part of the solution in tackling the Islamic State group.

He says that air strikes would not be enough and that it’s crucial to also fight its ideology and cut off its finances that are now flowing through perfectly legal banking channels.  The war against the Islamic State group is fraught with dangers. It might get out of control and drag the whole region into a much wider conflict.

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Islamic State Declares Foothold in Russia’s North Caucasus

The Islamic State terrorist group announced the creation of a new “governorate” Tuesday that it says will span several regions of Russia’s North Caucasus, a U.S. think tank said in a report.

The report by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War cited Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, a spokesman for the fundamentalist group, as naming Abu Mohammad al-Qadari the leader of the newly created entity and congratulating “the soldiers of the Islamic State” in the Caucasus.

The announcement came two days after an audio statement was circulated on Twitter in which Islamic State supporters from the Russian regions of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia — which all have large Muslim populations — pledged allegiance to the group.

These areas are also claimed by the al-Qaida-affiliated Caucasus Emirate group, which was first declared in 2007 and whose aim is to establish a state there based on sharia law. In recent months several militant commanders from the Caucasus Emirate have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State.

The Caucasus Emirate has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks in Russian cities, including the 2011 bombing of Domodedovo Airport that killed 37 people.

Up to 2,000 Russians are fighting for the Islamic State abroad, Yevgeny Lukyanov, deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, told Interfax on Wednesday.

“The [future] return to Russia of militants who are nationals of our country will also be a problem,” he said. “And they are already returning.”

The Grozny warlord reminding Moscow who is boss

A Chechen special forces officer rides atop an infantry fighting vehicle with a flag portraying Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov during Victory Day parade in central Grozny, on May 9, 2013. Fighter jets screamed over Red Square and heavy tanks rumbled over its cobblestones as Russia flexed today its military muscle on the anniversary of its costly victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Smaller Victory Day celebrations were held on the central squares of cities across Russia as well as at Moscow's Black Sea port of Sevastopol on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. AFP PHOTO / ELENA FITKULINA (Photo credit should read ELENA FITKULINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Men with guns are everywhere in Grozny. They stand on street corners, hang out in hotel lobbies and swagger through shopping malls, Uzis hanging from the waist.

They are Kadyrovtsy, the fighters who became policemen after Ramzan Kadyrov, their militia leader, became head of the Chechen Republic under a deal with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

The Kadyrovtsys’ distinctive tight black uniform with a Chechen flag patch on the right arm and a Russian one on the left reflect how many Russians regard today’s Chechnya: a rival power base to parts of the Russian security state.

Tensions between Moscow and Grozny came to the fore after the murder in February of Boris Nemtsov, the opposition politician, for which three former Chechen security officials were arrested.

This week, after security forces from the neighbouring Stavropol region shot dead a Chechen man in Grozny, Mr Kadyrov felt compelled to remind Moscow who was boss in Chechnya.

Mr Kadyrov instructed his security officials: “If someone appears on our territory without your knowledge — no matter if a Muscovite or someone from Stavropol — I order you to shoot to kill.”

The Chechen government insists the Stavropol officials had come as paid assassins and lacked documents for a legal operation. But Mr Kadyrov’s aggressive response raises a bigger political question: his regime may have stabilised war-torn Chechnya, but could it now weaken the Russian state as a whole?

“Kadyrov has tried to build a state within the state for a long time,” says Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya, a Caucasus expert at International Crisis Group. “He only listens to Putin, and nobody else.”

While other republics in the North Caucasus exchange intelligence on the Islamist insurgency with which the restive region struggles, the Chechen arm of Russia’s Federal Security Bureau, the successor to the KGB, refuses to do so.

“It shares what it feels like sharing with Moscow, and lets the centre decide what it sends back down south,” says Mark Galeotti, an expert on the Russian security services at New York University and author of a book on the Chechen wars.

Chechnya’s warlord rulers have clashed over their claim to special status with other parts of the security apparatus before. So far, they have had their way.

In 2013, Mr Putin replaced his top investigator in Chechnya after only seven months on the job following a run-in with Chechen officials.

Sergei Bobrov, a highly decorated general at the Federal Investigative Committee, had pressed on with an investigation into the murder of three women in the Chechen village of Geldagan even after his staff received threatening phone calls telling them to stop.

Two people from Geldagan said their village belonged to the area of influence of Magomed Daudov, a former fighter under Mr Kadyrov’s father and now the republic’s prime minister. “No investigator can build a case without asking him what to do,” said one of the two.

The same year Mr Bobrov was forced out, the Federal Investigative Committee released several Chechen men with links to Mr Kadyrov whom the FSB had detained on charges of extorting, kidnapping and torturing other Chechens in Moscow.

In Chechnya, some believe that Mr Kadyrov ordered Mr Nemtsov’s murder just steps from the Kremlin walls because he thought this would be a service to his political overlord.

“That man is getting really worried what will happen to him if Putin is no longer there,” said a government critic in Grozny who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. “With the criticism from the west, the economic crisis and rumours about disagreements in Putin’s circle, he realised that Putin will not be there for ever. Once Putin is gone, he loses everything.”

Others see the Nemtsov murder as a result of infighting. In Grozny, speculation is rife whether Mr Daudov or Adam Delimkhanov, a Duma member and brother of the commander of interior ministry troops in Chechnya, have ambitions to replace Mr Kadyrov.

True or not, these theories point to the precarious nature and the built-in risks of Mr Putin’s solution for Chechnya. But the Russian president does not appear to share such concerns.

He considers Chechnya a model that can be applied elsewhere. Last November, he suggested to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, that Ukraine pacify its eastern Donbass region by buying it off with money and autonomy as he had done in Chechnya.

Chechen special forces fficers ride atop an armoured personnel carrier during Victory Day parade in central Grozny, on May 9, 2013. Fighter jets screamed over Red Square and heavy tanks rumbled over its cobblestones as Russia flexed today its military muscle on the anniversary of its costly victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Smaller Victory Day celebrations were held on the central squares of cities across Russia as well as at Moscow's Black Sea port of Sevastopol on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
The Kadyrovtsy who enforce the will of the Chechen leader

That is more than an abstract idea. Moscow is bringing other parts of the North Caucasus in line with some of Chechnya’s draconian practices. In 2013, Mr Putin replaced the head of Dagestan, who had tried to counter the creeping Islamist insurgency through dialogue with Salafi Muslims.

Since then, Dagestan has cracked down on Salafism as Chechnya has. Dagestan authorities have also started using Mr Kadyrov’s practice of punishing insurgents’ families by destroying their houses and expelling them.

Vladislav Surkov, a Kremlin adviser on Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Ukraine for Mr Putin, this year negotiated treaties for a far-reaching integration of the two Georgian breakaway regions with Russia in exchange for more economic aid.

As far as Mr Kadyrov is concerned, the deal is very clear. “If you entrusted this region to me, I must ensure security [here]. If not, please be so good and fire me.”

Gasan Magomedov: Anzhi youth team player shot dead in car

Gasan Magomedov

Gasan Magomedov, a 20-year-old footballer for Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala, has been shot dead near his home in Russia’s North Caucasus.

Magomedov was driving on Saturday when his car was hit with machine-gun fire and he died from his wounds while being transported to hospital, Anzhi said.

No arrests have been made and the motive is unclear, the club added.

Anzhi sent “deepest condolences” to the family of Magomedov, a midfielder in the club’s youth and reserve teams.

There were no reports of any other casualties.

Anzhi chief executive Sergey Korablev said: “We grieve together with everyone who was dear to Gasan.

“I hope the police quickly find the killers and they suffer just punishment.”

The region of Dagestan, where the attack took place and where Anzhi Makhachkala are based, has become the focus of Islamist militant activity in the North Caucasus.

Gun battles between rebels and Russian security forces are not uncommon.

Anzhi challenged for the Russian Premier League title in recent years, but were relegated to the second tier last season after billionaire owner Suleyman Kerimov withdrew his financial backing.

For several years the club had a policy of basing star players – among them former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o – in Moscow to avoid Dagestan’s security risks.

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