|Participant in Insurgency in the North Caucasus|
Flag of the Caucasus Emirate
|Active||31 October 2007 – present|
|Leaders||Dokka Umarov † (2007–2013)
Ali Abu Mukhammad (2014 – Present)
|Headquarters||bases in North Caucasus|
|Originated as|| Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar
|Opponents|| Russian Federation
North Caucasian Republics
|Second Chechen War
Insurgency in the North Caucasus
The Caucasus Emirate (IK Chechen: Имарат Кавказ Imarat Kavkaz;Russian: Кавказский Эмират Kavkazskiy Emirat), also known as theCaucasian Emirate, is a militant Jihadist organisation active in Russia. Its objective is to expel the Russian presence from the North Caucasusand to establish an independent Islamic emirate in the region.Caucasus Emirate also refers to the self-declared, unrecognized statethat the group seeks to establish. Partially a successor to the secessionist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, it was officially announced on October 31, 2007, by former President of Ichkeria Dokka Umarov, who became its first emir.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Russia became an independent nation. Chechen nationalists, led by Dzhokhar Dudayev, declared the secession of Chechnya from Russian as an independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI). Following two devastating wars with the Russian Federation in the nineties, the ChRI fought an insurgencyagainst the Russian forces and their Chechen allies from 2000, initially under the leadership of Aslan Maskhadov. Although the ChRI was largely founded by Sufi Muslims motivated by nationalism, over time the literalist Salafist form of Islam became increasingly popular with some Chechens, leading to a schism between nationalists and Salafists. As many of the original nationalist figures were killed by Russian forces, the insurgency took on an increasingly Salafist tone embodied by commanders like Shamil Basayev and the Arab fighter Khattab. Many of the surviving nationalists gave up the fight, and by the time Dokka Umarov was declared President of Ichkeria in June 2006, Islamists held increasing influence in the movement.
On 31 October, 2007, the separatist news agency Chechenpress reported that the President of Ichkeria Dokka Umarov had proclaimed an Emirate in the Caucasus and declared himself its Emir, thereby abolishing the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriaand its presidency. The declaration of the Caucasian Emirate was quickly condemned by Akhmed Zakayev, Umarov’s own minister of foreign affairs; Zakayev, who lives in exile in London, called upon all Chechen separatist fighters and politicians to pledge allegiance directly to his government in exile in an attempt to isolate Umarov from power. Zakayev also expressed regret that Umarov had caved in to pressure from “provocateurs” and committed a “crime” that undermines the legitimacy of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Umarov said that he did not need any sanction from the Majlis-ul-Shura (the council of rebel field commanders) or anybody else to declare the Emirate, as it is “his duty as a Muslim” to establish an Islamic state “as required by Sharia.”
Anzor Astemirov, a top rebel leader from the Russia’s Kabardino-Balkar Republic (KBR), took credit for the idea of establishing the Emirate. He said he had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Chechen rebel commander Shamil Basayev to do this in Nalchik in 2005, but Basayev strongly declined and instead he demanded the KBR rebel leaders pledge an Oath of Allegiance to the Chechen President Abdul-Halim Sadulayev in return of the Chechen assistance in the Nalchik uprising attempt; supposedly, Basayev’s death in 2006 paved the way for the declaration of the Emirate.
On 1 August 2010 Kavkaz Center, the official web site of the Emirate, distributed a video where Dokka Umarov indicated that he had stepped down from his position as Emir and appointed Aslambek Vadalov to became his successor.However, on 3 August 2010, the original announcement had been replaced by one which stated, that Umarov only “proposed to appoint” Vadalov his successor. A few days later Umarov said he had no intention of stepping down and called the video announcing his resignation a fabrication. The announcements drove the emirate into a state of turmoil, with several key rebel leaders resigning their loyalty to Umarov. According to STRATFOR Umarov had prerecorded a stepping down message to be used in case of his disappearance, which was most likely leaked prematurely. In July 2011, a sharia court ruled in favour of Dokka Umarov. This combined with the death of Muhannad is believed to have paved the way for Hussein Gakayev, Aslambek Vadalov and Tarkhan Gaziyev to re-affirm their allegiance to Umarov.
The Caucasus Emirate is claimed to be composed of the following Vilayats(provinces):
- Vilayat Nokhchicho (Chechnya)
- Vilayat Galgaycho (Ingushetia and North Ossetia)
- Vilayat Cherkessia (Adygea and southern part of Krasnodar Krai)
- Vilayat Dagestan (Dagestan)
- United Vilayat of Kabarda, Balkaria and Karachay (Kabardino-Balkaria and the greater part of Karachay–Cherkessia)
- Vilayat Nogay steppe (northern part of Krasnodar Krai and Stavropol Krai)
- Vilayat Iriston (North Ossetia) was abolished in 2009 in a decree issued by Umarov that subsumed it into Vilayat Galgaycho
In August 2008 Movladi Udugov, an ideologue and a spokesman for the Caucasus Emirate, said that “as Dokka Umarov very accurately observed, this Islamic state does not yet have any borders. It’s not correct to say that we want to build some sort of enclave on the territory of these North Caucasus republics. No, today many Muslims living in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan,Buryatia, Russians from the most widely differing regions of Russia who have accepted Islam, swear an oath of allegiance to Dokka Umarov as the legitimate leader of the Muslims. And wherever he is – in Moscow, Blagoveshchensk, Tyumen – when a Muslim swears that oath, he becomes a fighting unit. Just because these people are not visible in their cities just now and are not active, that doesn’t mean that they won’t become active in the future.”
In a May 2011 interview posted on the pro Caucasus Emirate Kavkaz Center website, Umarov stated “Now we know that we should not secede, but must unite with our brothers in faith. We must recapture Astrakhan, Idel-Ural, Siberia and indigenous Muslim lands.”
Professor Gordon M. Hahn of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, described the Caucasus Emirate to be a decentralized organisation, but structured hierarchically with Emir Dokku Umarov appointing the Emirs of each Vilayat or Province, who in turn swear him a bay’at or oath of allegiance. Each vilayat contains multiple Fronts or Sectors, which in turn contain multiple Jamaats or units. The vilayats, sectors and local jamaats independently raise funds, recruit members and carry out operations, while following the overall strategy as set by the Emirate’s leadership.
In May 2009, Umarov established a ruling consultative body, or Majlis al Shura, for the Caucasus Emirate consisting of his top commanders. At the time of the announcement, the positions and the individuals holding them were:
- Supyan Abdullayev – Naib (Deputy) Emir – deceased 28 March 2011
- Akhmed Yevloyev – Military Emir and Emir of Vilayat Galgaycho – arrested 9 June 2010
- Anzor Astemirov – Qadi and Emir of the United Vilayat of Kabarda, Balkaria and Karachay – deceased 24 March 2010
- Umalat Magomedov – Emir of Vilayat Dagestan – deceased 31 December 2009
- Aslambek Vadalov – Emir of the Eastern Sector of Vilayat Nokhchicho
- Tarkhan Gaziyev – Emir of the South-Western sector of Vilayat Nokhchicho
- Muhannad – Emir of the Ansar – deceased 21 April 2011
The Caucasus Emirate maintains a Supreme Sharia Court, which is headed by a Qadi. This position has been held by Anzor Astemirov (killed in March 2010), Magomed Vagabov (killed August 2010), and Ali Abu Muhammad al-Dagestani.
In early 2009, Dokka Umarov announced the revival of the shahid suicide attackers unit Riyad-us Saliheen Brigade of Martyrs, which has been led by Said Buryatsky (killed March 2010) and Aslan Byutukayev.
In the same October 2007 statement in which Umarov proclaimed the Caucasian Emirate, he also described the United States, Great Britain and Israel as common enemies of Muslims worldwide. However, on November 20, 2007, Anzor Astemirov, then head of the Vilayet KBK, said that “Even if we wanted to threaten America and Europe every day, it is clear for anybody who understands politics that we do not have any real clashes of interests [with the West]. The people in theWhite House know very well that we have nothing to do with America at the moment.” In his statement, Astemirov not only described the Caucasian rebels’ threats against the West as empty, but also even asked the United States for assistance in their fight against “Russian aggression.” Following its criticism, many rebel websites removed the phrase that regarded Western countries as enemies.
Reaction to the 2008 South Ossetia war
On August 9, 2008 in response to the conflict between Georgia and Russia, Movladi Udugov stated that “for the time being neither Tbilisi nor Washington has appealed to us with any requests or offers” to fight alongside Georgian forces against the Russian forces. Udugov also noted: “But I clearly can say that the command of the Caucasus Emirate is following with great interest the development of the situation.”
Syrian Civil War
A number of Chechen and other North Caucasian volunteers travelled to fight in the Syrian Civil War against the government of Bashar al-Assad. Dokku Umarov released a video in November 2012 expressing support for all those trying to install Sharia law in Syria, but rebuked those who had weakened the Jihad in the North Caucasus by leaving to fight there. However, as the war went on and North Caucasians took an increasingly prominent role in the fighting owing to their combat experience, those who went to fight in Syria were viewed increasingly positively by the Emirate’s websites and supporters.
In 2013, a Chechen known as Emir Salauddin was appointed as the official representative of the Caucasus Emirate in Syria. In December 2013, the Chechen led Syrian Jihadist group Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar split away from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and appointed Salauddin as their new commander, emphasising that they wished to continue respecting the Oath of Allegiance they had made to the Caucasus Emirate’s Dokku Umarov. Following his appointment as the Emirates new leader, Ali Abu Mukhammad advised the North Caucasians in Syria to remain independent rather than align with other groups. He also voiced support for Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and criticised Abu Omar al-Shishani, the Chechen commander who formerly lead the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar before joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Designation as a terrorist organization
Both the Russian Federation and the United States have designated the Caucasus Emirate as a terrorist organisation.The United States government offered US$5 million for information leading to the capture of the group’s leader, Dokka Umarov. On 29 July, 2011, the United Nations Security Council Al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee added the Caucasus Emirate to the list of entities associated with Al-Qaeda. In December 2013, the Caucasus Emirate was listed as a terrorist group by the United Kingdom and Canada.
Claimed and alleged attacks
- The Caucasus Emirate claimed responsibility for the 2009 Nevsky Express bombing in an online statement describing it as an “act of sabotage”, and part of a series of operations targeting strategic sites in Russia.
- The 2010 Moscow Metro bombings which left 39 people dead, and over 100 injured were ordered by Doku Umarov
- In December 2010, Austrian police arrested a Chechen refugee on suspicion of planning a militant attack on NATO targets. “Belgian authorities suspect a group of Chechen extremists, who were seeking to set up a religious state in northern Chechnya, planned to attack NATO facilities in Belgium,” Interior Ministry spokesman Rudolf Gollia said.
- The Caucasus Emirate claimed responsibility for the Domodedovo International Airport bombing, which killed at least 36 people.
- The group was the prime suspect in the 2012 Makhachkala attack that occurred on 3 May 2012 and killed at least 13 people
- After it was revealed that the perpetrators in the Boston Marathon bombings were ethnic Chechens, the Command ofVilayat Dagestan denied any link to the bombing or the Tsarnaev brothers and stated that it was at war with Russia, not the United States. It also said that it had sworn off violence against civilians since 2012. The statement said “The Command of the Province of Dagestan indicates in this regard that the Caucasian Mujahideen are not fighting against the United States of America. We are at war with Russia, which is not only responsible for the occupation of the Caucasus, but also for heinous crimes against Muslims. Also, remember that even in respect to the enemy state of Russia, which is fighting the Caucasus Emirate, there is an order by the Emir Dokku Umarov, which prohibits strikes on civilian targets.In July 2013, Doku Umarov released a video message rescinding his prior directions not to attack civilians, declaring that the Russians had construed the declaration as a sign of weakness and had stepped up attacks in the North Caucasus.
- The October 2013 Volgograd bus bombing was blamed on the group
- A statement and video claiming responsibility for the December 2013 Volgograd bombings was placed on the website of the Caucasus Emirate’s Vilayat Dagestan. The suicide bombings killed 34 people overall
List of Emirs of the Caucasus Emirate
|Emirs of Caucasus Emirate|
|1||Dokku Umarov||31 October 2007 – 1 August 2010|
|2||Aslambek Vadalov||1 August 2010 – 3 August 2010|
|3||Dokku Umarov||3 August 2010 – 7 September 2013 (deceased)|
|4||Ali Abu Mukhammad||18 March 2014 – Present|
*Note: There was confusion as to who was Emir, as Umarov issued a second video a few days later saying he had not stepped down.