Incorporation Of Radical Islamic Beliefs Into The Chechen Insurgency High Likely To Increase Over The Next Twelve Months

Executive Summary:

Following the assassination of Abdul-Halim Sadulaev on 17 June 2007, Dokka Umarov assumed the presidency of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and proceeded to continue incorporating radical Islam with the traditional Chechen Islamic teachings into the resistance movement. Thus, despite the existence of a separatist-nationalist faction in the ChRI resistance movement, it is highly likely that Dokka Umarov continues to incorporate radical Islamic beliefs into the Chechen insurgency due to his desire to create a Sharia-Based Caliphate in the North Caucasus, the promotion of Anzor Astemirov to the Head of the Sharia Court, and the continued alignment of the ChRI with the International Jihad movement.


The assassination of Aslan Maskhadov, who was the third president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), on 8 March 2005 by
Abdul-Halim Sadulaev
Russian security forces ended the Kremlin’s only chance at negotiating with a secular leader of the resistance. Upon Maskhadov’s death, Abdul-Halim Sadulaev assumed the presidency, uniting the decentralized insurgent groups of Chechnya and across the North Caucasus, while at the same time, introducing traditional Chechen Islamic teachings into the resistance movement. However, Russian security forces also assassinated Sadulaev on 17 June 2006, at which time Dokka Umarov became the fifth president of the ChRI in Chechnya.

Under Umarov’s command the ChRI resistance movement is seeking the creation of a Sharia-ruled Caliphate in the North Caucasus based on the foundations set forth by the radical Islamists of the International Jihadist movement to obtain it. Currently, Umarov is working to unite the Wahhabi Islamic followers with the traditional Chechen practice of Sunni Islam. With the introduction of Anzor Astemirov as the Head of the Sharia Court in the ChRI through a decree by Umarov on 4 September 2007 replacing Mansur Yevmirzaev, who is a Chechen Islamic theologian, shows Umarov’s attempt to incorporate regional leaders within the High Command of the resistance. Additionally, by declaring the North Caucasus resistance as one unified movement under his command, Umarov is attempting to dispel the remaining distrust between the Chechen fighters and Caucasian mujahideen. This distrust arose during the Beslan crisis in 2004 when the former Chechen warlord Shamil Basaev claimed in a letter sent to Russian president Vladimir Putin that if Russia recognized Chechen independence he would disband all insurgent groups in
Anzor Astemirov (Seyfullah)
the Russian republics.

According to a video released by Umarov on 5 March 2007 (see videos below), he openly admits his lack of knowledge regarding the Islamic faith and defers all questions about Islam to the former Head of the Sharia Court, Mansur Yevmirzaev. In the video, Umarov states, “be patient, increase your eemaan (honor), read the Qur’an, perform the prayer, and perform the night prayer (tahajjud)” and continued on to profess his ignorance about actually knowing the night prayer himself. Also, Umarov said that, "thousands of young people" seek to participate in the jihad against Russia, however, the resistance cannot afford the resources to recruit and train them all.

In his most recent video, released in October 2007, Umarov proclaims himself the “Emir of the North Caucasus,” and “the sole legal authority on all the territories where mujahedin have sworn the loyalty to me as leader of the jihad. In addition, he strongly confessed that, “those who attack Muslims are our common enemies; our enemy is not only Russia, but also America, England, and Israel - all those who conduct war against Islam and Muslims. This proclamation gives credence to Umarov’s desire to align the North Caucasian Islamic resistance with the International Jihadist movement.
Akhmed Zakayev

Despite Umarov’s increasing reliance on Islam to further the ChRI resistance, a secular opposition, headed by moderate separatist-nationalist leader Akhmed Zakayev, still exists within the ChRI from its former leaders in exile. However, since the end of the first Chechen war with Russia in 1996, the ardent nationalists lost strength and key former leaders like Akhmad Kadyrov, who was the father of current pro-Kremlin Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, defected to the Russian side before the beginning of the second Chechen war in 1999. In response to Umarov’s declaration of Jihad against the West, Zakayev stated that Umarov fell under the influence of “provocateurs,” forgot his responsibilities as president, and “committed a ‘crime’ that undermines the legitimacy of the ChRI.

Additional Comments:

In order to understand Dokka Umarov and the current strategy of the ChRI, it is important to watch the 5 March 2007 three- part video posted below.

Source Reliability: 8.5
Analytic Confidence: 8

Christopher Anderson

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