Militants Likely To Increase Instances Of Violence In Dagestan; Islamic Jihad Likely Growing Force Behind Insurgent Activity

Executive Summary:

It is likely that insurgent activity will continue in Dagestan and likely to remain at the current level of violence. It is also likely that Islamic Jihad is the main reason behind the increasing violence in Dagestan. Russian Special Forces having located and killed the leader of the Dagestani insurgency, Rappani Khalilov, in September 2007, and considered by the Russian forces as a great victory against the rebels. In the fall of 2007, terrorists intensified their activity, posting video statements to the internet. These videos cite Osama bin Laden, Imam Mukhtar, Imam Shamil, and Shamil Basaev as having influenced the insurgents' activity. The videos also state radical Islamic beliefs, followed by nationalist and separatist motivations behind the insurgent activity.


Dagestan’s President, Mukhu Aliyev, reported in August 2007 that the number of terrorist attacks and attacks against law enforcement has decreased in Dagestan. As stated by Aliyev, “"The main goal of these criminals is to weaken our operational and investigative staff and influence its morale and authority. But these illegal elements will not succeed. It is no exaggeration to say that brave and courageous people work in our law-enforcement agencies. They are repelling criminals and terrorists, but in doing so they often become targets for the
Rappani Khalilov
enemies of the state." However, contradicting reports claim that Aliyev has not been effective in combating the root causes of the insurgency, including the economy and corruption within the republic, and in fact terrorist attacks are on the rise in Dagestan. Central Asia Caucasus Institute reports Dagestan as the second most dangerous region in Russia, with the number of armed encounters against insurgents passing that in Chechnya. Jane's Information Group reports that in 2007, militant attacks increased in Dagestan, with attacks mainly against security forces and state officials. The cited reasons including lack of attention of socio-economic issues in the region and while there is a growing trend of Jihadist violence, local issues and policies continue to play a major role in the growing militancy. It is likely that these issues are the leading contributing factors behind the recent rising number of terrorist incidents.

Russian Special Forces reported the death of the militant leader in Dagestan, Rappani Khalilov on 17 September 2007. Khalilov reportedly was responsible for more than 60 terrorist attacks on the Federal Security Service. Since 2006, Khalilov commanded the entire Dagestani Islamic insurgency. In 1999 Khalilov called for unification of Dagestan and Chechnya and separation from Russia. Viewed as a martyr, Khalilov's death is likely to incite his followers and fellow rebels to commit even more strongly to the cause in the upcoming months. The death of Khalilov, for the Russian Special Forces, is considered a victory, as they killed one of the most elusive insurgents throughout the Caucasus region.

Insurgent groups, in which Khalilov commanded, totaled over 500 people, often act in liaison with Chechen rebels due to the large border between Dagestan and Chechnya that allows the insurgents to move from one republic to the other. Rebels crossed back and forth during the first Chechen war (1994-1996) and also during the second Chechen war (1999-present). During the second war Russian troops stationed in both
Dagestan's Shared Border With Chechnya
Dagestan and Chechnya totaled between 150-160,000 , however, since 2005 the number decreased to approximately 80,000, therefore allowing more Chechen fighters to cross into Dagestan where safe haven environment exists. According to Jane's Information Group, the recent violent outbreaks and growing violence in the republics of both Dagestan and Ingushetia, point to trends which claim that the Chechen insurgency is relocating in neighboring republics. In 2005, terrorist attacks reportedly occurred once every three days.

In the fall of 2007, The Jamestown Foundation stated that Dagestani rebels are intensifying propaganda efforts including posting video statements and testimonies from commanders or guerrilla insurgents in the region onto pro-insurgent internet sites. Kavkaz Center posted two videos including Khalilov calling to Dagestani Muslims to join the Jihad's fight and the second video portraying Dagestan's underground Islamic rebel group Sharia Jamaat. In addition, another video shows four armed Dagestanis expressing their own opinions and motivations for their involvement in the insurgency. Ultimately, each of these fighters believe that every Muslim that gives his or her life for the Islamic faith become martyrs and will go to heaven after they sacrifice their lives. The rebels mention in the video Dagestan's anti-Russian uprisings under "Jihadist slogans" and one rebel states, "We are proud of such heroes as Imam Mukhtar, Imam Shamil, Shamil Basaev, Khattab and Osama bin Laden and we will follow their path". Both Mukhtar and Shamil fought against the Russian empire in the 19th century as Dagestani leaders and both Basaev and Khattab are Chechen rebel warlords.

Through these videos, it is clear that the driving force behind the Dagestani insurgency derives from various sources including radical Islamic beliefs, aligned with both nationalist and separatist motivations in resisting Russian of the republics of the Caucasus region . Khalilov's recorded statement provides proof of the insurgents resistance to Russian rule when he proclaimed, "Dagestanis cannot be called men as long as they are under the control of Moscow." In addition, reports from Jane's Information Group claim that militant groups in Dagestan, such as Shariat Jamaat and Ingush Jamaat Shariat, while seeking to create an Islamic state, concern themselves with fighting the Russian occupation of the republic.

One of Dagestan's most important terrorist organizations is Sharia Jamaat. This group's ideology is deeply rooted in Islamic philosophy. The group's official communications frequently references the Koran and Mohammed. In fact, postings on the internet by members of Sharia Jamaat claim rationale for terrorist attacks include, "In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful! Thanks to God, Lord of the worlds, peace and blessings to the Amir of all the mujahedin, the Prophet Mohammed, his family and followers, and all who have followed them in a jihad to the Day of Judgment!" The group refers to the Russian occupational forces in Dagestan as "infidels" and "non-believers" and the main goal is stated as "offensive jihad". As quoted by the group, 'The relentless destruction of ideological opponents -- this is Sunna! we say to you loathsome lackeys of Satan: We have no weaknesses, we soldiers of Allah, and having begun on the path of jihad, we have sacrificed our lives, property, shelter, families, and relatives in exchange for HEAVEN!'" Specifically, Sharia Jamaat demands the establishment of Sharia law throughout Dagestan, with a strong ideology toward Islam. Operationally, Sharia Jamaat utilizes a number of different tactics in order to carry out its terrorist activity including, drive-by shootings, roadside mines and improvised explosive devices, car bombs near buildings, and "air attacks". This groups organizations proves it very difficult to track down operating cells or members of the group. An individual cell of the organization typically includes only three terrorists, who only know each other and do not know any other members of any other operating cell.

Additional Comments:


Source Reliability: 7.5
Analytic Confidence: 6.5

Kathryn A Connelly

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