Islam, Islamism and Politics in Eurasia Report 7

Photo russian_mosque

January 18, 2010

by Gordon M. Hahn

Monterey Terrorism and Research Program (MonTREP), Monterey Institute for International Studies

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The Caucasus Emirate’s ‘Year of the Offensive’ in Figures: Data and Analysis on the Caucasus Emirate’s Terrorist Activity in 2009

By Gordon M. Hahn

In April 2009 the Caucasus Emirate’s (CE) amir declared 2009 the ‘year of the offensive.” With the end of the year we are in a position to assess the intensity of this jihadist insurgency this year and compare this with its already revived level of activity in 2008 as compared to 2007.

Ending the Old Year, 2009

December 2009 closed the year with several major events in the war between the CE mujahedin and Russia, capping a year of growing intensity in the fight between the jihadi insurgency and Russian counter-insurgency efforts.  These included: the final suicide martyr bombing of the year, the beheading of two infidel corpses by mujahedin in Kabardinao-Balkaria, the killing of the CE’s amir of the Dagestani jihadists, and new statement from CE amir Doka Abu Usman Umarov. In a video message “to the citizens of Russia” posted on all the main CE sites in early December and excerpted in several articles on those sites, Umarov boasted about the “more than 20 martyrdom attacks” that had been carried out “on his orders” since the revival of the ‘Riyadus Salikhin’ suicide martyrs’ battalion and that he “the amir is located in Chechnya and the entire leadership of the Jihad in the Caucasus and operations in Russia are implemented exactly from Chechnya” in defiance of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s claims that the CE mujahedin have been all but wiped out.  He warned Russians that “Nevskii Ekspress; was just the beginning” of CE/RS attacks deep inside Russia, adding: “If our words and appeals do not reach your consciousness and you continue to be deceived by the lie of your leaders, then we will explain to you what is going on with the help of blood.”  (“Amir Imarata Kavkaz Dokka Abu Usman: ‘Nevskii ekspress’ eto tolko nachalo…”, Kavkaz tsentr, 28 December 2009, 12:06, http://kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2009/12/28/69826.shtml.)

On December 17, the twenty-first and last suicide martyr’s bombing of the year occurred in Ingushetia.  The CE’s ‘Riyadus Salikhin’ suicide martyrs’ battalion claimed responsibility for the attack that wounded ten and thirteen civilians, including three children. (“Operatsiya batal’ona ‘Riyadus-salikhin’ v vilayate G’alg’aiche,” 23 December 2009, 4:16, http://hunafa.com/?p=2635 and “V Ingushetii v rezul’tate vzryva mashiny smertnika raneno 23 cheloveka,” 17 December 2009, 16:44, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/163210/.)  The suicide bomber was one Batyr Dzhaniev a relative of slain Ingush activist Maksharap Aushev, whose in-laws were killed in an explosion of their car on the same day. (See Gordon M. Hahn, “The Dzhaniev Affairs,” IIPER, No. 6, January 8, 2010.) Ingushetia, the CE’s Velaiyat G’alg’aiche, is the base of activity of key CE operative and ideologist Said Aby Saad Buryatskii, who I have suggested is likely a leading figure in RS, if not its very amir. (Gordon M. Hahn “Buryatskii, Istishkhad, and the Riyadus-Salikhin Suicide Martyrs’ Battalion,” IIPER, No. 5, December 18, 2009.)

On December 11, a group identifying itself as “an autonomous group of mujahedin” of the United Velaiyat of Kabardia, Balkaria and Karachai of the Caucasus Emirate (VKBK IK) announced that it had beheaded the bodies of two “liquidated apostates” and would only return the remainder of the bodies if the Kabardino-Balakaria republic’s authorities returned to their families the bodies of the 97 mujahedin reportedly killed in the October 13, 2005 mujahedin attack on the republic’s capitol Nalchik.  That operation was organized by the notorious late Chechen jihadist Shamil Basaev and the present amir of the (VKBK IK) and chief magistrate or ‘kadi’ of the CE’s Shariah Court, Anzor Astemirov Seifullakh.  In a later missive the group described the November 23 operation that led to the apostates’ liquidation, explaining that they had been in the pay of the authorities and had been killed.  In particular the group castigated the apostates’ love of the money they allegedly received for informing on the mujahedin. (Pis’mo ot avtonomnoi gruppy mudzhakhidov vilaiyata KBK IK,” Islamdin.com, 11 December 2009, 18:45, http://www.islamdin.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=592:2009-12-11-18-53-47&catid=27:2009-02-09-17-38-17&Itemid=16; “Podrobnosti spetsoperatsii v g. Chegem. Vilaiyat KBK IK,” Islamdin.com, 27 December 2009, 12:33, http://www.islamdin.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=603:2009-12-27-12-41-22&catid=2:kavkaz&Itemid=3.) The November 23 operation had been covered at the time on various CE websites. (Ob”edinennyi Vilaiyat KBK IK. V Chegenskom raione unichtozheny 2 chlena bandy ‘OVD’,” Kavkaz tsentr, 24 November 2009, 10:10, http://kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2009/11/24/69331.shtml.)

The year 2009 ended with a significant loss for the CE when on New Year’s Eve the amir of one of its three core fronts and velaiyats, the Dagestan Front and Velaiyat, amir al-Bara (born as Umalat Magomedov), was killed in a shoot out with MVD troops in Khasavyurt along with three of his fellow mujahedin.  Investigators found among Magomedov’s belongings bookkeeping records for funds the rebels had received by extorting local businesses and from donations from Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. (MVD Dagestan: ubit predpolagaemyi lider vooruzhennykh ekstremistov,” 31 December 2009, 22:55, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/163790/; Zayavlenie Dzhamaata ‘Shariat’: Amir al’ Bara udostoiloilsya shakhida,” 4 January 2010, 12:22, http://www.jamaatshariat.com/ru/content/view/406/29/; and Zayavlenie Dzhamaata ‘Shariat’: Amir al’ Bara udostoiloilsya shakhida,” 4 January 2010, 19:32, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2010/01/04/69926.shtml.) Al-Bara had been the amir since March 2009, after the demise of his predecessor, amir Mauz, at the hands of security forces in on 5 February 2009.  As of mid-January, no new Dagestan amir has been named by the CE command to replace al-Bara.

These and another some 30 jihadi attacks and incidents in December allow us to tally and estimate the year’s CE jihadi activity.

The Tally of CE Terrorism for 2009

In 2009 there were approximately 511 violent incidents; the overwhelming majority of these – some 90 percent – were attacks initiated by CE mujahedin (see Table 1 below).  This is 34 percent more than the 373 attacks/incidents in 2008.  The incidents in 2009 led to some 1,271

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Table 1. Estimated Number of Jihadist Terrorist Incidents in Russia, 2009 – Incident and Casualty Estimate and Range. Estimate is Based on Average of the Jihadi-Reported Minimum Figures and of the Average Between the Minimum and Maximum Figures from the Non-Jihadi Reports, from Data Compiled by the Author. [(Estimate is in Bold-Face Type (Lower Jihadi Sources’ Figure and Average of High and Low Non-Jihadi Sources’ Figure in regular type below estimate figure)].

Region No. of Terror-ist Inci-dents Service-men and Civilian Offic-ials

Killed

Service-men and Civilian Officials

Wound-ed

Civilians Killed Civilians

Wounded

Jihadists

Killed

Jihadists Wounded Jihadists Captured and Surrendered
Chechnya 159

96-222

112

124-99

184

143-225

5

0 – 10

10

0 – 20

98

30-166

2

0 – 3

43

0 – 85

Ingushetia 175 150-200.5 185

229-140

317

333-305.5

11

8 – 13

102

93-110.5

58

18 – 98

1

0 – 2.5

13

0 – 26.5

Dagestan 144

120-168.5

70

72 – 67

130

140-120

11

5 – 17.5

10

0 – 19

79

20 – 138

1

1 – 0

6

0 – 12

Kabardino-Balkaria 23

17-28.5

7

8 – 6

13

7 – 19

1

1 – .5

3

2 – 4.5

22

18 – 26

0

0 – .5

9

0 – 17.5

Karachaevo-Cherkessia 2

1 – 2.5

1

0 – 1

0

0 – 0

0

0 – 0

0

0 – 0

3

3 – 3

0

0 – 0

1

1 – 1

Adygeya 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
North Ossetia 1

0 – 2

1

0 – 1

0

0 – .5

1

0 – 2.5

0

0 – 1

2

0 – 3

0

0 – 0

0

0 – 0

Other North Caucasus Regions** 4

1 – 6.5

0

0 – 1

0

0 – 0

2

0 – 3

0

0 – 0

0

0 – 0

0

0 – 0

2

0 – 4

North Caucasus Total  

508

 

376

 

644

 

31

 

125

 

262

 

4

 

74

Tatarstan 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bashkira 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Other*** Regions 3

3 – 2

0

0 – 0

1

0 – 1.5

21

28 – 14

74

98 – 49

1

1 – 0

0

0 – 0

0

0 – 0

Russian

Federation Total

 

511

 

376

 

645

 

51

 

199

 

263

 

4

 

74

* The data that forms the base for this table’s figures were researched by Gordon M. Hahn as well as Leonid Naboishchikov, Fabian Seivert, and Darya Ushakova.

** Krasnodar, Rostov, and Stavropol.

*** All casualties in the non-Muslim regions outside the North Caucasus came from a single attack – the November 26th bombing of the Moscow-St.Petersburg ‘Nevskii Ekspress’ high-speed train.

Methodology: The data in this table are estimates. The estimates for the figures in the table’s various categories represent the average of the mimimum jihadi-reported figures and of the average of the minimum and maximum figures from non-jihadi sources. The logic behind this methodology is based on the tendency of Russian and local government and non-jihadi Russian and local media (often tied to or dependent on government reporting) to underreport the number of terrorist incidents and their resulting casualties as well as the tendency of jihadist sources to exaggerate the jihadists’ capacity by sometimes claiming responsibility for attacks carried out by others for criminal, ethnic, or clan purposes and exaggerating the numbers of casualties caused by their own attacks.  Incidents include not only attacks carried out, but also successful and attempted arrests.  They do not include prevented attacks (deactivated bombs, etc.).

SOURCES: The Caucasus Emirate’s websites, especially Kavkaz tsentr (www.kavkazcenter.com), Hunafa.com (http://hunafa.com), Jamaat Shariat (www.jamaatshariat.com/ru), Islamdin.com (www.islamdin.com), as well as such non-jihadi sources as Russian media outlets like Kavkazskii uzel (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru).

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non-jihadi (infidel and apostate) casualties, including the deaths of 427 (376 members of the various siloviki and civilian departments and 51 civilians).  These incidents wounded some 645 siloviki and civilian officials and 199 civilians.  To put this in perspective, there were on average more than three casualties per day – more than one killed and almost two wounded – due to jihadi terrorism in 2009 in Russia.  The number of casualties in 2009 represents a 27.6 percent increase over the 941 non-jihadi casualties in 2008. (For all the figures for 2008, see Gordon M. Hahn, “The Caucasus Emirate’s New Groove: The 2009 Summer Offensive,” IIPER, No. 2, November 20, 2009 and Gordon M. Hahn, “Russia’s Counter-Terrorism Operation in Chechnya Ends – the Jihadi Insurgency Continues,” Russia – Other Points of View, 11 May 2009, http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2009/05/russias-counterterrorism-operation-in-chechnya.html.)

There were 267 casualties (263 killed and 4 wounded) among the mujahedin and some 74 mujahedin captured in 2009.  Many more mujahedin facilitators were captured, according to Russian sources.  Jihadi sources do not mention these or captures of mujahdin for the reason that mujahedin are supposed to sacrifice themselves rather then be captured by the infidel.  Russian sources discussed below do not acknowledge on occasion security forces claim kills of mujahedin, who may have been simply facilitators or relatives of mujahedin and claim captures of what may be innocent civilians or relatives of mujahedin.  The 381 jihadis killed, captured, and wounded in 2009 represents a 70.2 percent increase over 218 of the same in 2008.

In 2009, over 90 percent of the casualties and 99 percent of the violent jihadist incidents were in the North Caucasus.  Ingushetia remained the center of gravity for the CE jihad.  It was again the victim of the largest number of incidents and casualties, both dead and wounded.  In fact, the Ingush mujahedin – or at least those acting at one time or another in the republic – carried out over 34 percent (175 of 511) of the attacks and violent incidents and are responsible for over 55 percent (705 of 1,271) of the casualties in Russia last year. Attacks and incidents in Ingushetia produced on average a larger number of killed and wounded state agents and civilians per attack than in other republics – 3.1 casualties per attack/incident. At the same time, the number of jihadists killed and put out of action overall (killed, wounded, captured) in Ingushetia were fewer than those in the other two major jihadi theaters of operations – Chechnya and Dagestan.  All of the above suggests that the Ingush mujahedin are the most effective in the CE’s ranks.  Much of that effectiveness can be attributed to Buryatskii’s operations in the region.

Chechnya’s (the CE’s Nokhchicho Velaiyat) mujahedin continued to produce the second largest number of attacks, incidents and casualties in 2009.  However, they barely exceeded the number of attacks by Dagestan’s mujahedin – 159 in Chechnya to 144 in Dagestan.  Operations in Chechnya were much less effective in producing infidel casualties than in Ingushetia, but they were significantly more effective than in Dagestan, yielding on average 2 casualties per attack/incident to 1.5 for Dagestan’s jihadists.  The raw data suggests that Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov’s aggressive pursuit of the mujahedin produced better results in removing them from the field, as the republic led in the number of killed, wounded, and captured mujahedin.  However, there is a caveat here: Chechnya-based security forces tend to be the most brutal, and it safe to assume that some of the claimed kills and captures were jihadists’ facilitators or relatives or suspected rather then real mujahedin.

Official Russian figures vary with and are higher than my own, especially when it comes to jihadi losses.  For example, for Dagestan my figures for state agents are 70 killed and 130 wounded; state agents includes civilian officials as well as personnel of the law enforcement organs of coercion (military, GSB, GRU and MVD).  The Dagestan department of the MVD reported that in the first eleven months of 2009, 76 law enforcement personnel were killed and 155 wounded, but this figure does not include December or civilian officials.  (“V Dagestane deistvuet do 150 boevikov, schitayut v respublikanskom MVD,” 10 December 2009, 14:47, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/162939/.) Therefore, even though we would expect officials to downplay losses in, and failures by their own departments, these official figures exceed my own. Regarding the mujahedin, my figures for Dagestan show 79 killed, 1 wounded, and 6 captured, but the Dagestan MVD’s figures are 135 mujahedin killed and 111 captured and do not even include December. (“V Dagestane deistvuet do 150 boevikov, schitayut v respublikanskom MVD,” 10 December 2009, 14:47, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/162939/.) However, in this case the variation corresponds with the expectation that the MVD might pad such figures in order to portray their work as successful to both local and especially Moscow authorities.

Summing up 2009, the CE’s operational activity saw a substantial increase as compared to 2008, marking the third consecutive year that the mujahedin have been able to markedly increase the costs for the local republic administrations and for Moscow.

Bring in the New Year: 2010

The CE began with a flurry of operations to kick off the new year with the most spectacular in Dagestan.  After losing their amir on New year’s Eve, Dagestan’s mujahedin took revenge when of a suicide bomber detonated a jeep bomb at a transportation police base in the Dagestani capitol Makhachkala on Orthodox Christmas eve.  This was the first suicide martyr bombing of 2010 after twenty-one such attacks in 2009.  The attack killed five policemen and wounded 19.  The attack seemed a copy of August 17 truck bomb explosion of a Nazran district MVD station building organizaed by Buryatskii and the RS. In this recent attack, the suicide bomber also attempted to drive onto the base’s parade ground as personnel gathered for the morning briefing.  Three station guards rammed their UAZ jeep into the attacker’s jeep, thus sacrificing themselves but preventing a much higher death toll.  Investigators found shards of artillery shells that detonated inside the suicide bomber’s vehicle.  Therefore, the explosion was massive with a reported force of 100 kilograms of TNT, left a crater one meter deep and two meters wide, broke windows within 200 meters of the explosion and badly damaged some 100 nearby automobiles.  (Ludmilla Maratova, “MVD Dagestana nazvalo imena pogibshchikh v rezul’tate terakta militsionerov,” Kavkaz uzel, 7 January 2010, 14:00, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/163967/.)  This attack brings the total of suicide martyr attacks to 22 since the first on 16 May 2009 since the RS’s revival.  This is equal to an average of one such attack every ten and a half days.

Dagestan saw several other terrorist-related incidents in the first week of 2009.  On January 6 an IED placed on a railway line near Makhachkala was discovered and defused, and unidentified attackers tossed two grenades, of which only one detonated, into the courtyard of the Makhachkala home of an adviser to Dagestan’s natural resources minister, Ibadulla Mukaev.
On January 7, a Russian FSB spokesman stated that two militants were killed in a counter-terrorist operation after being surrounded in a house that day in the village of Kormaskala in Dagestan’s Kumtorkalin district. (“New Year Brings No Peace to the North Caucasus,” The Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 7, Issue 4, January 7, 2010 09:18, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/ncw/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=35891&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=24&cHash=aba3adecf6.)

In Ingushetia, on January 4 a bomb exploded under, and derailed a passing freight train on a railway line in Nazran as a freight train . The blast destroyed two meters of railway track, leaving a crater one meter in diameter.  There were no casualties in the incident.  On January 6, there were several incidents in Ingushetia.  Attackers blew up a gas station in Karabulak.  The attackers were likely mujahedin, as they used a grenade launcher in the attack, and incident occurred close to the village of Plievo, where mujahedin had been active last year.  On the same day unknown assailants killed a saleswoman, Aza Yandieva, in a drive-by shooting at a kiosk in Nazran. According to the opposition website Ingushetia.org, local residents said she had been warned repeatedly by the republic’s jihadists to stop selling alcoholic beverages.  Similar attacks have been common in recent years; one occurred in Plievo on October 22.  Also on January 6, an explosive device was discovered on Ingushetia’s Mozdok-Tbilisi gas pipeline in the village of Srednie-Achaluki in Malgobek district. In a fourth incident on January 6 in Ingushetia, unknown attackers fired on the home in Nazran of a senior officer in Ingushetia’s MVD, but there were no casualties in the attack. (“New Year Brings No Peace to the North Caucasus,” The Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 7, Issue 4, January 7, 2010 09:18, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/ncw/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=35891&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=24&cHash=aba3adecf6.)

In Kabardino-Balkaria authorities found a half-buried 40-liter barrel filled with an explosive mixture on January 4 along the Baksan-Azau federal road in Baksan district.  Law enforcement said the explosive device could have caused a blast equal to 50 kilograms of TNT.  In Chechnya, three Chechen MVD officers in Vedeno and a federal serviceman in Urus-Martan were wounded in two explosions on January 5. (“New Year Brings No Peace to the North Caucasus,” The Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 7, Issue 4, January 7, 2010, 09:18, http://www.jamestown.org/programs/ncw/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=35891&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=24&cHash=aba3adecf6.)

Most, if not all of the above attacks had the trademark of the CE mujahedin.  The CE’s ‘year of the offensive’ seems poised to be followed by a second ‘year of the offensive.’

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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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About Gordon M. Hahn