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January 8, 2010

by Gordon M. Hahn


Abu Muhammad Asem al-Maqdisi and the Caucasus Emirate

The Dzhaniev Affairs



Abu Muhammad Asem al-Maqdisi and the Caucasus Emirate

By Gordon M. Hahn


Contrary to the view of many, there is no longer a ‘Chechen separatist movement.’  What was the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) and is now the Caucasus Emirate (CE) came under the control of jihadists in 2002 and soon thereafter became fully committed to the creation of a salafist Islamist state in the Caucasus and elsewhere in Russia and Eurasia.  In short, the CE is now part and parcel of the global jihadi movement spearheaded by such elements as Al-Qa`ida (AQ), elements of the Taliban, Islamic Jihad, and other groups.  Indeed, CE amir Doka (Abu Usman) Umarov’s declaration of the emirate also included a declaration of jihad against all those fighting against mujahedin in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, or anywhere in the world. (“Ofitsial’nyi reliz zayavleniya Amira Dokki Umarova o provozglashenii Kavkazskogo Emirata,” Kavkaz tsentr, 21 November 2007, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2007/11/21/54480.shtml.) This was no less than a declaration of jihad against the U.S., Great Britain, Israel, and all allied countries fighting the mujahedin of the global jihadi social movement.

Correspondingly, the CE’s ideology emerges from the very same ideological and theological sources that permeate the global jihadi movement.  This was clearly reflected in amir Umarov’s s April 2009 post-Shura statement in which he enunciated the CE’s clearly Islamist theological-ideological approach once more: “Today we try to bring up every Mujahid, every young man from the Caucasus, on following criteria: the first is Tawhid (strict monotheism), the second is Sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, the third is al-Wala’ wa-al-Bara’, it is love toward your brother for Allah’s sake, and hatred toward the enemy for Allah’s sake, the fourth is to command good and forbid evil, so that a person would do good and so that a person would forbid evil, and the fifth is so that every young man who is striving today after Islam, a man who feels himself inside Islam, so that he believes in four previous points, and so that he practices them from the heart, with pure intentions, and so that he is sure after that, that Allah will grant him victory, that Allah will lead him to that goal, which he has at heart.” (See the video “Majlis al-Shura of the Caucasus Emirate – 25 April 2009,” You Tube, accessed 10 and 23 October 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQQKPNfmo1U. For the English translation of Umarov’s post-Shura declaration with a link to his downloadable video statement in Russian, see “Emir Dokka Abu Usman: ‘This Year Will Be Our Offensive Year’,” Kavkaz tsentr, 17 May 2009, 15:17, http://www.kavkaz.tv/eng/content/2009/05/17/10700.shtml.)

For years now CE-affiliated websites – the most important of them are http://www.kavkazcenter.com, http://hunafa.com, http://www.jamaatshariat.com/ru, and http://www.islamdin.com – have carried translations of articles and book chapters by the leading medieval, modern, and contemporary Islamist preachers and jihadist theorists, including Egyptian, Saudi, Jordanian, Palestinian, Kuwaiti, and Iraqi sheiks and scholars: Abu Muhammad Asem al-Maqdisi, Taki al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taimiyya, Sayyid Qutb, Sheik adil ibn Muhhammad ibn Ali Shaikhani, Sheik Abu Basyr At-Tartusi, Sheik Addullah Ibn Muhhammad Ar-Rashud, Ali Al-Hudair, Sheik Khamud ash-Shuayby, and Sheik and Imam Abdullah bin Abdu-Rakhman bin Jibrin.  CE-affiliated websites now produce a steady stream of such writings.  Many appear on several sites simultaneously but are posted first on one site, usually either http://www.islamdin.com or hunafa.com.  The former is the site of the Velayat of Kabardia, Balkaria, and Karachai, the amir of which, Anzor Astemirov Seifullah, is also the ‘kadi’ or chief magistrate of the CE’s Shariah Court.  (see, for example, http://www.islamdin.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=491:q-q-q-q-&catid=16:2009-02-07-20-17-11&Itemid=27; http://www.islamdin.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=496:2009-07-13-16-11-35&catid=10:2009-02-06-21-56-11&Itemid=26; http://www.islamdin.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=500:q-q&catid=4:2009-02-04-14-07-09&Itemid=28; http://www.islamdin.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=487:2009-07-06-14-20-04&catid=8:2009-02-04-22-51-14&Itemid=26; http://www.islamdin.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=483:l-r&catid=10:2009-02-06-21-56-11&Itemid=26; and

http://www.islamdin.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=497:2009-07-14-23-32-22&catid=32:2009-03-05-23-19-06&Itemid=29#JOSC_TOP.)  The latter site belongs to the Ingushetia mujahedin hunafa.com, and I discuss an important translation of an ideological piece that appeared on that site further below.  Recently, the 14th century Islamic scholar and jihadi theorist Ibn Taimiyya, who is perhaps the premier medieval source for contemporary jihadist thinking, has been very prominently featured on the CE’s sites.

Concurrently, the Chechen separatist ‘gazavat’ and more recently the CE jihadist movement have been on the radar screen of influential salafist preachers and thinkers.  In recent years, the Caucasus jihad has moved towards the center of that screen.  Sheikh Abu Basyr at-Tarusi has answered the question as to which mujahedin are closest to the “Heavenly community” by reportedly mentioning those in Afghanistan and Chechnya.  In 2002 Sheikh Khumud ibn Uklya as-Shuaibi reportedly advised his students to go to Chechnya rather than Iraq to fight jihad because the the mujahedin of Chechnya were closer to Islam and the Chechen jamaats were stronger and more experienced. [Zelimkhan Merdzho, “Oglyanemsya nazad (Nekotorye zamechaniya po povodu poslednykh disputov na saite),” Hunafa.com, 24 December 2009, 5:05, http://hunafa.com/?p=2640.%5D

A similar and perhaps the most important endorsement has come from the leading Islamist writer, the Jordanian-Palestinian Abu Muhammad Asem al-Maqdisi (born Isam Mohammad Tahir al-Barqawi), who is the most important and influential thinker within the global jihadi movement today.  Maqdisi praised the effectiveness and experience of jihadi operations carried out by the Caucasus mujahedin “in Chechnya” (sic) and by AQ in one work last year discussed below. (“Razmyshleniya (imam Abu Mukhammad Al’-Makdisi),” Hunafa.com, 11 December 2009, 12:00, http://hunafa.com/?p=2530.)

Abu Muhammad Asem al-Maqdisi

Maqdisi was born in Nablus, Palestine in 1959, but his family soon emigrated to Kuwait.  After studying at Iraq’s University of Mosul, he traveled to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and met with Muslim students and sheikhs. He came to believe that many Arab, in particular Saudi and Kuwaiti, religious figures lacked real knowledge of the Muslim world and began to study the writings of Sheikh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, Imam Ibnul Qayyim, and Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. In the 1980s Maqdisi visited Pakistan and Afghanistan and was influenced by jihadist groups. In 1992 he returned to Jordan and began to denounce the government’s man-made, non-Islamic laws.  Maqdisi was arrested and imprisoned from 1995-1999.  In prison he met and mentored Zarqawi.  Upon release Zarqawi headed for the jihad in Afghanistan.  Maqdisi remained in Jordan and was soon arrested again for conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks against American targets in Jordan. In 2005 he was released, but was rearrested after he gave an interview to al-Jazeera television. In 2009 he was again released.  (Robert F. Worth, “Credentials Challenged, Radical Quotes West Point,” New York Times, April 29, 2009.) Maqdisi has written more than fifty works on Islamic law and jihad theory and is described in a detailed citation analysis study by the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center as “the most influential living Jihadi Theorist,” “the key contemporary ideologue in the Jihadi intellectual universe,” and  (Militant Ideology Atlas – Executive Report, U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, November 2006, p. 8.)

Maqdisi and the CE

Recently, Maqdisi has been focusing considerably on the CE jihad.  In 2009 he published a “message” to the CE mujahedin, “An Announcement of Patronage and Pride in the Mujahideen and the Emirate of Caucasus”, an English translation of which was published in September on the CE site ‘Kavkaz tsentr’ (“A message from Sheikh al-Maqdisi to the Mujahedeen of the Caucasus Emirate,” Kavkaz tsentr, 18 September 2009, 16:55, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2009/09/18/11018.shtml; first published in Arabic on al-Maqdisi’s site ‘Almaqdese.net’, 15 Ramadan 1430, http://almaqdese.net/r?i=07090901.) Maqdisi began his message by noting:

“It has been more than a year (25 Ramadan 1430 – 2 years since the declaration – KC) [Kavkaz Center corrections in parentheses) since the creation of the Islamic Emirate of Caucasus, wherein all the factions were united under the banner of Tawhid and under the leadership of one Emir Abu Usman (AKA Dokka Umarov) may Allah, the All-Exalted, protect him, who said, “We fight for the right to live according to the Shariah, the laws of Allah, the Great and Almighty, for people not to follow the laws which Putin and Surkov have written. These are our slogans.

“He who looks for the news of our Mujahedeen brethren there and the news of their Emirate, his eyes would be delighted with the purity of the manhaj (Islamic curriculum and principles), the clearness of the announcements, the privileges of the leadership and their honesty to Tawhid, and their non-deviation towards any turbidities, despite the poor resources and facilities when compared to their enemy, and despite the heavy pressures to which they are exposed, and the fierceness of the enemy they are fighting. It is an evil criminal, a low enemy who chases the relatives of the Mujahedeen, their brothers, sisters, fathers, and their mothers day and night, burning down their houses and destroying their properties. The slyness with which they fight the Mujahedeen, is the very slyness with which the Mujahedeen are fought everywhere, and the hypocrisy formed in those lands is the same hypocrisy even in the Caucasus.”

“…Umarov declared his freedom from all manmade laws, and refused to name his state a “republic”. He declared that all the lands of the Caucasus under the power of the Mujahideen are considered provinces of the Emirate of the Caucasus. Dokka Umarov also refused to be called a “president”, and stated that he is the governor of Chechnya and the Emir of the Caucasus. All the Mujahedeen of the Caucasus pledged allegiance to him as Emir after the death of the Emir Abdul-Haleem Sadullah (Sadulaev) and the announcement in which the Mujahedeen they approved him as their Emir and lent him their support.”

Maqdisi condemns ‘moderate’ Islamists like those of the Mulsim Brotherhood and Hamas and relatively moderate Caucasians like self-exiled ChRI ‘premier’ and former ChRI foreign minister Akhmed Zakaev for their desire that the mujahedin “desert the Shar’ie Jihad, which our Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, has enacted for us to stop the attacks of enemies and the assaults of foes against the people of Islam by carrying out Jihad against the infidels and hypocrites” and “desert the lines of the Mujahedeen in the woods and mountains, and join the ‘mujahedeen of parliaments’ to implement their ‘jihad’ of constitutions and their parliamentary struggles and their “lawful strife” for the West and so that their atheist institutions will be pleased with them.”  Maqdisi therefore praises the 2009 ruling of the CE Shariah Court and its ‘kadi’ or chief magistrate, Anzor Astemirov (aka amir Seifullah, amir of the United Velayat of Kabardia, Balkaria and Karachai, or abu-Imran Sayfullah Anzur bin-Eldar Astmer), sentencing Zakaev to death unless he repents before capture for betraying the jihad: “I say that the brethren on that land have reached a stage of clarity and maturity, Islamic knowledge and understanding and that they bring great good news in shaa Allah to Muslims and Jihad on that lands… Many of the Jihadi movements and the fighting movements on earth nowadays are in need of these lessons and examples. They need to pause at them and contemplate them and learn from them.”  Thus, Maqdisi issues an official endorsement of the CE’s jihad and reserves special praise for Astemirov-Seifullah, who played a leading role in convincing Umarov to declare the CE:

“Consequently, it is my great pleasure to express my alignment with, patronage for, and support to the Mujahedeen of the Caucasus and their united Emirate… Moreover, I express my glory and pride in those men… It is an honor to state this position before an article by our dear brethren the Emir, the Islamic magistrate Saifullah abu-Imran Anzour bin Eldar Astmer may Allah protect him. My aim in this is to identify the wonderful level of his words, his views, his papers, and his replies. No doubt he is an example for his followers among the Mujahedeen, may Allah honor them and render religion victorious with them….”

Maqdisi closes the article first with a quote from Umarov, who promises the jihad will not end until Judgement Day, and ends: “Please Allah! Render our Mujahedeen brethren in the Caucasus victorious and make them steady on the manifest Truth, raise high their banner, unite their rows, guide their shooting, suppress their enemy, and grant them succession in earth worshipping You and never take with You a partner.”

Maqdisi’s endorsement is bound to help the CE raise additional funds and other forms of support across the Muslim world and throughout the global jihadi movement.

The CE’s new generation of leaders, such as leading terrorist operative and ideologue Said Abu Saad Buryatskii, have been very much influenced by Maqdisi and are introducing his writings to the North Caucasus and its CE mujahedin.  Astemirov-Seifullah quotes his writings in his own (and in the Maqdisi article detailed above large sections consist of excerpts from Seifullah’s 2007 article explaining and justifying the founding of the CE).  Buryatskii recently translated from Arabic to Russian a work, or part of a work, written by Maqdisi and posted it on the Ingush mujahedin’s website Hunafa.com.  In the article, Maqdisi praises “the most powerful operations the mujahedin in Chechnya or Al-Qa`ida and other mujahedin carry out and who have enormous experience in jihad” and the “steadfastness of Chechnya’s mujahedin who broke Russia’s arrogance and were able to carry the war far from Chechnya to Russia’s heart in Moscow.” (“Razmyshleniya (imam Abu Mukhammad Al’-Makdisi),” Hunafa.com, 11 December 2009, 12:00, http://hunafa.com/?p=2530.)

Maqdisi’s endorsement of the CE and his growing influence on it consolidates the CE’s place near the center of the global jihadist movement’s mainstream.  According to the abovmentioned USMA study, Maqdidi’s website, Tawhid, is “al-Qa`ida’s main online library” and “the books on the website are very representative of Jihadi literature.”  Also according to the study, Maqdisi is “part of a new trend… a shift in intellectual influence from laymen in Egypt (like Sayyid Qutb) to formally trained clerics from Palestine (often living in Jordan) and Saudi Arabia. While it is unclear if this correlates with new developments in Jihadi theory, it certainly indicates a trend toward shoring up that theory with religious credentials.”  The study’s authors add that `Abd Allah `Azzam, the Palestinian cleric who organized foreign Jihadis in Afghanistan in the ‘80s and was influential as Osama bin Laden’s spiritual mentor, was also part of this trend. (Militant Ideology Atlas – Executive Report, U.S. Military Academy Combatting Terrorism Center, November 2006, pp. 7-8.) This trend is evident in the abovementioned steady stream of Islamist and jihadist fatwas and scholarly writings flooding the CE’s affiliated websites, especially on those of the Ingush (hunafa.com), Dagestani (www.jamaatshariat.com/ru), and Kabardino-Balkarian and Karachaevo-Cherkessian mujahedin (www.islamdin.com).

A keystone of Maqdisi’s and the CE’s strategic approach to jihad can be decribed as disciplined radicalism.  Maqdisi was the spiritual mentor of the extremely radical late leader of the AQ in Iraq, the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi but broke with the latter in 2004 over his radical takfiri proclamations towards Iraq’s entire Shi’a population and mass attacks against Shiite civilians.  Maqdisi supported a more surgical strategy of targeted Shi’a killings. [Ali A. Allawi, The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007).] Earlier, Maqdisi abandoned takfirism – the designation of fellow Muslims as behaving as infidels and excommunicated as such and the permissibility of their killing, even execution for their anathemas – and wrote a book refuting the extreme views of the Egyptian jihadi fringe group Takfir wal-Hijra (Excommunication and Exile), in particular their tendency to very liberally declare takfir against fellow Muslims and their eagerness to kill such ‘incorrect’ Muslims. (Jeffrey B. Cozzens, “Al-Takfir wa’l Hijra: Unpacking an Enigma,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Vol. 32, No. 6 , pp. 489-510, at p. 497.) The CE has been following just such a radical but restrained strategy of targeted killings as favored by Maqdisi.  Although amir Umarov has overturned the prohibition against attacks targeting civilians instituted by his predecessor, amir Abdul-Khalim Saddulaev, he has justified attacks that produce collateral damage casualties among civilians and are carried out deep inside Russia, and he has revived the ‘Riyadus Salikhin’ suicide martyrs’ battalion that took part in many operations that targeted civilians under Sadulaev’s predecessor of sorts, president Aslan Maskhadov.

Maqdisi’s disciplined radicalism consists of several components: being knowledgeable about the local circumstances of any jihadi front, taking into account the political implications of spilling the blood of infidel women and children and Muslims in the battle for the minds and hearts of the local population, and the need to limit such blood letting in the interests of jihadi victory. Although Maqdisi article translated by Buryatskii praises the Caucasus mujahedin’s ability to carry out operations in Moscow, it insists on limiting casualties among infidel women and children and all Muslims.  Maqdisi states explicitly: “We are left with nothing else than to castigate those youths who use markets, squares and other places of public gatherings for carrying out operations, and where they carry out explosions by bomb-laden vehicles and simple mines.” (“Razmyshleniya (imam Abu Mukhammad Al’-Makdisi),” Hunafa.com, 11 December 2009, 12:00, http://hunafa.com/?p=2530.)

Maqdisi is specifically concerned with countering a popular interpretation of a hadith from the Sunna – the hadith of Saab ibn Dzhassama – that is often used by some mujahedin to justify attacks against masses of civilians, Muslim and infidel alike. He offers a different hadith in order to urge a more political and discriminating approach to tactics and strategy in order to protect the jihadi brand:

“In verified hadiths it is relayed that when (His) companions called upon the Messenger Allah to kill several hypocrites, he said: ‘Leave them alone so people will not say that Muhammad kills his companions.’ And this is the position about which the Shariat is concerned, particularly until there emerges among the Muslims the strength and opportunity on this earth. Now the mujahedin should be careful about selecting those targets and ways that will bring the largest advantage for jihad and Muslims and will more strongly enrage the enemy and not (carry out) those operations after which jihad and its meaning will be distorted.  But those who carry them out often do not have one or right away both concepts – knowledge of Shariah and knowledge of the circumstances, and they do not take into account the possible harm in the selection of targets or consider the local situation, no less what is going on in the world.” (“Razmyshleniya (imam Abu Mukhammad Al’-Makdisi),” Hunafa.com, 11 December 2009, 12:00, http://hunafa.com/?p=2530.)

It is hard to imagine how mujahedin operations in Moscow such as the October 2002 Dubrovka theatre hostage-taking in Moscow, the simultaneous explosions of two planes over Moscow in August 2004, and the Moscow subway and concert bombings in 2003 and 2004, or the Beslan school hostage taking and mining operation would comply with Maqdisi’s criteria.  On the other hand, recent suicide operations led by Buryatskii and the ‘Riyadus Salikhin’ suicide martyrs’ battalion – such as the 16 August 2009 truck bombing of the district MVD building in Nazran, Ingushetia and the 17 November 2009 Nevskii Ekspress train bombing – would meet them.  The former attacked local police, who are regarded as Muslim ‘murtady’ or apostates and having betrayed Islam are no longer regarded as real Muslims.  The latter attacked a largely adult male coterie of Russian officials and businessmen traveling between Russian first and second capitols; thus, the target was a legitimate one according Maqdisi’s jihadi theory, the Russian infidel elite.  Buryatskii acknowledged that children were killed in the August Nazran operation, but scoffed it off as a necessary for attacking the infidel and ultimately a result of Allah’s will. (see Gordon M. Hahn, “Sheikh Said Abu Saad Buryatskii:  New Basaev of the Caucasus,” IIPER, No. 1, November 2009 and “Said abu Saad. Ob rezultatakh operatsii v Nazrani 17 avgusta 2009g,” Hunafa.com, 7 September 2009, 11:23, http://hunafa.com/?p=1984.) Umarov has subsequently stated that the Nevskii Ekspress attack “is just the beginning” of such attacks planned for Russia’s heartland. (See excerpts from a video in “Amir Imarata Kavkaz Dokka Abu Usman: ‘Nevskii ekspress’ eto tol’ko nachalo…!”, Kavkaz tsentr, 28 December 2009, 12:06, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2009/12/28/69826.shtml. The video was accessed on http://www.kavkazcenter.com on 2 January 2010.) We will see if the CE’s attacks rise above Maqdisi’s rather low bar for qualifying as justified.  The CE approach seems to be to permit attacks that could result in, but are not intended to produce significant Muslim and civilian infidel casualties.


The CE is garnering greater and greater support and authority within the ideological and theological heart of the global jihadi movement and among radical Islamist elements across the Muslim world.  Ideological, theological and financial ties between the Middle Eastern core of the global jihadi movement and the CE, once on the distant periphery of the movement, are strengthening.  The CE and its leading theologist, Shariah Court kadi Seifullah and Sheikh Said Abu Saad Buryatskii, have become clients of an important jihadi patron, Abu Mohammad Asem al-Maqdisi.  In sum, the CE’s integration into the global jihadi or AQ social movement is now complete.



The Dzhaniev Affairs

by Gordon M. Hahn

The U.S. State Department recently commented on the December 16 killing of three relatives of deceased Ingush human rights champion Maksharip Aushev in an explosion of the car in which they were riding immediately after police had checked the vehicle in Nazran, Ingushetia.  Aushev’s pregnant widow, Fatima Dzhanieva, was wounded in the bombing.  Her mother, Leila Dzhaniev, and one brother, Muslim Dzhaniev, were killed instantly; Muslim had studied at an officers’ academy in St. Petersburg.  A second brother, Amirkhan Dzhaniev, died four days later from serious wounds suffered in the explosion.  The attack on Aushev’s family occurred weeks after he received a posthumous award from the State Department for his struggle for human rights in Russia’s Republic of Ingushetia. (Gosdep SShA vozmushchen vzryvom avtomobilya s cemei Ausheva v Ingushetii,” 23 December 2009, 13:40, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/163454/).  Aushev himself was murdered on 25 October when unknown assailants fired on his car driving from Kabardino-Balkaria to Ingushetia.

It is not State Department practice to comment on every death in the North Caucasus.  The State Department officials and Western media comment only when mass, high-profile terrorist attacks kill and wound hundreds or when individual human rights activists are killed in the region, especially as local officials like Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov are suspected of being involved in extrajudicial killings in and outside the region.  Neither the U.S. government or the Western media pay much attention to the almost daily killings in Ingushetia as well as Chechnya and Dagestan of local police and civilian officials, Russian servicemen and officers, as well as civilians in the ongoing civil war in the republic between the extremist jihadi mujahedin of the self-declared Caucasus Emirate (CE), on the one hand, and Moscow, the local state apparatus, and official Islamic clergy, on the other hand.  Therefore, it is safe to assume that the State Department is concerned that the attack on the Aushev-Dzhaniev family was perpetrated by elements of the state siloviki and will be covered up civilian official allies.

Although this certainly occurs in the region and throughout Russia all too frequently, there is some reason to believe that in this case, the answer may not be so simple.  A December 23 press release from the command of CE’s ‘Riyadus Salikhin’ (RS) suicide martys’ battalion took responsibility for another car explosion in Nazran just hours after the Dzhanievs’ car exploded.  The statement claimed that another Dzhaniev brother, Batyr, was the suicide martyr in the RS attack, which killed at least ten MVD servicemen and injured 23.  The RS release notes that the car of the Aushev’s relatives exploded just as the last preparations for the RS suicide attack on the MVD were being completed. (“Operatsiya batal’ona ‘Ruyadus-salikhin’ v vilayate G”alg”aiche, 23 December 2009, 4:16,  http://hunafa.com/?p=2635.)  Russian and local security organs also have identified Batyr Dzhaniev as the suicide martyr.  However, two days before the RS statement appeared, Aushev’s mother claimed that Batyr Dzhaniev had been on his way, in, or returning from Astrakhan when the RS attack occurred and might have been abducted by law enforcement elements and then falsely accused of being the suicide martyr (“Mar’yam Dzhaniev: ob”yavlennyi terroristom Batyr Dzhaniev uekhal iz Nazrani nakanune terakta,” Kavkaz uzel, 21 December 2009, 9:10, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/163342/).

According to the RS statement, Dzhaniev commandeered the vehicle and “long ago expressed the wish to take part in a martyrdom operation.”  It adds that on the morning of December 16 Dzhaniev had prayed not only for his own martyrdom but for that of his relatives, but it emphasizes that the bomb that killed the Dzhanievs was planted in the vehicle after FSB officers searched it, suggesting that the FSB agents had planted the bomb (“Operatsiya batal’ona ‘Ruyadus-salikhin’ v vilayate G”alg”aiche, 23 December 2009, 4:16,  http://hunafa.com/?p=2635).  Other reports from the region claim that law enforcement personnel fired on the Dzhanievs’ car for failing to stop at a checkpoint, and as a result the car exploded.  Others hold that the car exploded some 50 meters from where it had been checked by law enforcement agents as it drove away.  Law enforcement officials claim that an IED the Dzhanievs were carrying detonated in the car (“Mar’yam Dzhaniev: ob”yavlennyi terroristom Batyr Dzhaniev uekhal iz Nazrani nakanune terakta,” Kavkaz uzel, 21 December 2009, 9:10, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/163342/).

The CE jihad often leads to civilian casualties inflicted by both sides, but in April the CE  justified civilian killings during jihad and announced it had revived the ‘Riyadus Salikhin’ battalion.  The CE perpetrates the overwhelming majority of killings in the North Caucasus.  Some one thousand casualties in the North Caucasus annually over the last few years have come at the hands of the CE mujahedin in attacks on state agents, whether they be civilian officials or servicemen or officers of the military, police, and intelligence.  It would be within the CE’s ‘moral code’ to kill relatives of a man who received a reward from the main target in the global jihad, the U.S., against which the CE has declared jihad, calculating that the West would assume that Russian or local state agents were behind the attack.  It is certainly within the CE’s technical and intelligence capacities to plant a remotely detonated IED on the Dzhanievs’ vehicle knowing where and when they would be stopped by law enforcement at a checkpoint in the ongoing campaign in Ingushetia to ban tainted glass on unofficial vehicles and stop and search such vehicles.  The mujahedin could then detonate the bomb after the car had been searched as the law enforcement personnel walked away, producing the desired impression; one that would drive the wedge even deeper between the Ingush authorities and people, improving the CE’s recruitment potential.

There are numerous other possible scenarios.  Some would lead to the conclusion that one or more of the Dzhaniev’s were engaged in terrorism.  Could the military-trained Muslim Dzhaniev, who was driving the Dzhaniev vehicle and was killed instantly with the explosion, have been transporting another IED using his family as cover?  One can imagine other scenarios that would suggest the authorities were behind the killing of the Dzhanievs.  Several things are certain: the temporal proximity of two separate deadly explosions involving one family would be an extravagant coincidence; the CE mujahedin have claimed responsibility for one of the attacks and Batyr Dzhaniev’s involvement in that attack and their ranks.  Given the intricacies and complex nature of Caucasus and Russian politics, various scenarios are still in play.  Therefore, the State Department should be cautious in its assumptions at this point.


IIPER Editor: Gordon M. Hahn – Senior Researcher, Monterey Terrorism Research and Education Program and Visiting Assistant Professor, Graduate School of International Policy Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey, California; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group; and Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch, http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com. Dr Hahn is author of two well-received books, Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007) and Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), and numerous articles on Russian and Eurasian politics.

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