ISLAM, ISLAMISM & POLITICS IN EURASIA REPORT (IIPER) 8

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February 5, 2010

IIPER Editor – Gordon M. Hahn

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Comparing the Level of Caucasus Emirate Terrorist Activity in 2008 and 2009

By Gordon M. Hahn

The following article offers a detailed comparison of the level of the Caucasus Emirate jihadists’ terrorist activity in 2008 and 2009 using the data presented in previous issues of IIPER. (Gordon M. Hahn, “The Caucasus Emirate’s New Groove: The 2009 Summer Offensive,” IIPER, No. 2, November 20, 2009 and Gordon M. Hahn, “The Caucasus Emirate’s ‘Year of the Offensive’ in Figures: Data and Analysis on the Caucasus Emirate’s Terrorist Activity in 2009,” IIPER, No. 7, January 18, 2009).  As noted in that issue, in 2009 there were approximately 511 violent incidents; the overwhelming majority of these – some 90 percent – were attacks initiated by CE mujahedin rather than clashes initiated by federal forces.  This is 34 percent more than the 373 attacks/ incidents in 2008 (see Table 1 below).  The incidents in 2009 led to some 1,271 non-

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Table 1. CE Jihadi Attacks, Violent Incidents and Casualty Estimates for 2008 and 2009 (in percentages). Percentages are based on the estimated figures for 2008 and 2009 provided in IIPER, Nos. 2 and 7, respectively.  Percentage change is in Bold-Face Type – the estimated figures for 2008 and 2009 are below with 2008’s figure listed first, 2009 second.

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

Killed

Service-men and Civilian Offic-ials

Wound-ed

Civil-ians Killed Civilians

Wounded

Jihad-ists

Killed

Jihadists Wound-ed Jihadists Captured and Surrendered
Chechnya +24%

128-159

-44%

199-112

+3%

178-184

-50%

10 – 5

+333%

3 – 10

+288%

34- 98

-75%

8 – 2

+16%

37 – 43

Ingushetia +27% 138-175 +39%

133-185

+84%

172-317

+57%

7 – 11

+2,550%

4 – 102

+35%

43 – 58

+∞

0 – 1

+117%

6 – 13

Dagestan +132%

62-144

+13%

62 – 70

+106%

62-130

+450%

2 – 11

+400%

2 – 10

+84%

43 – 79

-100%

1 – 0

-73%

22 – 6

Kabardino-Balkaria -18%

28-23

-36%

11 – 7

-35%

20 – 13

-50%

2 – 1

+50%

2 – 3

+340%

5 – 22

-100%

2 – 0

+29%

7 – 9

Karachaevo-Cherkessia -60%

5 – 2

-67%

3 – 1

-100%

2 – 0

0

0 – 0

0

0 – 0

0%

3 – 3

-100%

1 – 0

0%

1 – 1

Adygeya 0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

North Ossetia -89%

9 – 1

-67%

3 – 1

-100%

2 – 0

-93%

15 – 1

-100%

43 – 0

0%

2 – 2

0

0 – 0

-100%

2 – 0

Other North Caucasus Regions* 0%

4 – 4

-100%

1 – 0

-100%

1 – 0

+100%

1 – 2

-100%

1 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

2 – 2

North Caucasus Total +37%

370-508

-9%

412-376

+48%

435-644

-14%

36 – 31

+127%

55 – 125

+103%

129-262

-69%

13 – 4

-1%

75 – 74

Tatarstan 0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

Bashkira 0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 0

Other*** Regions +50%

2 – 3

0%

0 – 0

-67%

3 – 1

+∞

0 – 21

+∞

0 – 74

+∞

0 – 1

0%

0 – 0

0%

0 – 1

Russian

Federation Total

37%

373-511

-9%

412-376

+47%

438-645

+42%

36 – 51

+262%

55 – 199

+104%

129-263

-69%

13 – 4

-3%

76 – 74

*Krasnodar, Rostov, and Stavropol.

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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 state agents (siloviki and civilian officials) and 199 civilians.  The number of overall casualties in 2009 represents a 28 percent increase over the 941 non-jihadi casualties in 2008.

In one sense, the effectiveness of the average terrorist incident from the mujahedin’s perspective declined in 2009 compared with 2008, since although there were 37 percent more attacks, the number of state agents killed declined by 9 percent.  However, the number of state agents wounded and civilians killed and wounded increased by 47 percent, 42 percent and 262 percent, respectively.  The sharp increase in both categories of civilian casualties – killed and wounded – is a direct result of CE amir Doka Abu Usman Umarov’s decision to target civilians or at least accept civilian casualties, depending on how one interprets his sometimes self-contradictory statements.

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.  There were 104 percent more jihadists killed in Russia in 2009 than in 2008 (263 and 129, respectively), with the qualification that some of this increase was a result of the CE’s renewed use of suicide bombers.  The number of captured slightly declined by 3 percent.  The 381 jihadis killed, captured, and wounded taken together in 2009 represents a 70.2 percent increase over 218 of the same in 2008.

Taking the three main jihadi fronts – Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Dagestan – several shifts stand out.  Ingushetia was the only republic that saw an increase in the figures for every category covered by the data; the number of attacks, the number of state agent and civilian casualties, and the number of mujahedin killed, wounded and captured all increased.  The only insignificant increase, from none to one, came in the number of jihadists wounded, and this is a category that is most difficult to get accurate figures for because the mujahedin are inclined to fight to the death and do not mention their wounded and the authorities are in a poor position to record wounded jihadists.  Particularly striking is the marked increase in the effectiveness of terrorist operation and incidents in Ingushetia from the jihadi perspective from 2008 to 2009.  The increase in the number of killed and wounded state agents and civilians in each case exceeds the 27 percent increase in the number of attacks/incidents.  Casualties among, and captures of the Ingush mujahedin rose significantly, but the overall numbers remain relatively low.  The increase in the number of Ingush mujahedin killed and captured was smaller than in Chechnya where the number of jihadi attacks/incidents grew less.

Chechnya’s mujahedin performed the poorest of the three main jihadi fronts in the increase in the effectiveness and number of attacks/incidents and and the number of infidel/apostate casualties of every cateogory.  Operational effectiveness declined sharply.  Despite a 24 percent increase in the number of attacks/incidents in Chechnya in 2009 compared with 2008, the number of state agents killed and civilians killed actually declined by 44 and 50 percent, respectively.  At the same time, the number of mujahedin killed in Chechnya nearly tripled in 2009 compared with 2008.

In 2009 compared with 2008, Dagestan saw more than a two-fold increase in the number of jihadi attacks and incidents, the highest increase for this category of any region.  However, Dagestan mujahedin did not achieve a corresponding increase in effectiveness in terms of casualties inflicted.  The number of state agents killed in jihadi attacks and related incidents barely increased, and the number of state agents wounded grew less than the number of incidents grew (though they doubled in simple numbers).  Civilian casualties grew precipitously in percentage terms but remain low in actual numbers.  On the other hand, some effectiveness was achieved in preserving their own jihadi forces.  The number of Dagestani jihadists killed grew significantly less than the number of violent incidents did, and the number of wounded, captured, and surrendered actually fell in 2009 compared with 2008.

Our data and analysis are the only independent ones that isolate jihadi violence for study.  However comparing our data with other data sources on violence in the North Caucasus and Russia as well as with official Russian sources and independent Russian sources that rely in good part on official Russian claims is useful for checking the accuracy of our data and methodology.

The MVD in Dagestan has reported, for example, that in 2009 76 members of the law enforcement bodies were killed and 155 wounded in the republic; this approximates our estimates of 70 and 130, respectively.  This suggests that our methodology may underestimate rather than overstate the level of jihadi violence.  In terms of the yearly comparison, the Dagestan MVD reported that 135 mujahedin were killed in 2009 compared to 77 in 2008 – a 75 percent increase – and 111 were captured in 2009 compared with 97 in 2008 – an increase of 14 percent. (“V Dagestane deistvuet do 150 boevikov, schitayut v respublikanskom MVD,” 10 December 2009, 14:47, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/162939/.) Our data showed a similar 84 percent increase from 2008 to 2009 in the number of mujahedin killed, but our data for captured jihadists showed a decline rather than an increase.  It could be, however, that the local MVD chose to pad its reporting on captured jihadists, since our data for this category, as for all categories, is informed by not only mujahedin sources but reports at http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru which relies in great part on official statements.

A CSIS report, which relies heavily on ‘Kavkaz uzel’ and continues to ignore jihadi sources, recorded more than 1100 violent incidents of violence compared to 795 in 2008. (“Violence in the North Caucasus: 2009, A Bloody Year,” CSIS, January 2010, http://csis.org/publication/violence-north-caucasus-5.) The report does not distinguish between jihadi-related and non-jihadi related violent incidents, but nevertheless its data would reflect any increase in the number of jihadi attacks and violent incidents involving the CE mujahedin and therefore is a very rough indicator of the CE’s activity.  The CSIS numbers reflect a 38 percent increase in violent incidents in the North Caucasus in 2009 compared with 2008, almost exactly equal to my own 37 percent figure.

Official Russian data for 2009 and 2008 suggests sometimes a comparable increase in 2009 over 2008 and sometimes an even more striking increase in CE activity than my data show. Southern Federal District (SFO) presidential plenipotentiary and former Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov stated in late December that in the same 11-month period there were 786 “crimes of a terrorist nature” in the SFO (Kavkaz uzel refers to them as “militant attacks” in the same report) compared to 576 in 2008.  Those incidents killed and wounded 1,263 state agents and civilians in 2009 compared to 914 in 2008. (Vladimir Ustinov: chislo v YuFO v 2009 godu znachitel’no vozroslo,” 23 December 2009, 06:40, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/163438/.) Thus, according to Ustinov’s data, the number of jihadi attacks/incidents rose by 36 percent and the number of casualties resulting from those incidents rose by 38 percent.  This contrasts unremarkably with my 511 attacks/incidents and 1,271 overall casualties, representing 37 percent and 28 percent increases in these figures, respectively, in 2009 as compared with 2008.  Coincidentally enough, Ustinov’s figure of 914 casualties in 2008 is the same as my figure, and his number of overall non-mujahedin casualties for 2009 is only eight less than my own.

At a joint session of Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Commission and the Conter-Terrorisam Operational Staff in Tula Oblast held on December 28, 2009 in Tula it was reported that for the first 11 months of 2009, there were “approximately 900 crimes of a terrorist character” committed in Russia and “more than 90 percent” of them were committed in the North Caucasus. “V administratsii oblasti sostoyalos’ sovmestnoe zasedanie antiterroristicheskoi komissii i operativnogo shtaba v Tul’skoi oblasti,” Tula Oblast Administration Portal, 28 December 2009, http://www.admportal.tula.ru/news/9951.aspx.) It appears that the FSB’s numbers include not only terrorist attacks or incidents, but other crimes related to terrorism such as weapons’ thefts or sales and perhaps incidents of citizens facilitating the acivity of the mujahedin or the few other terrorists.  It may also include the small number of terrorist incidents perpetrated by non-jihadist gropus, such as skinhead and neo-fascist organizations.  The FSB reported 135 such terrorism-related crimes in the first ten months of 2008. (“Bortnikov: zaderzhany troe podozrevaemykh v organizatsii vzryvov v Krasnodarskom krae,” Kavkaz uzel, 27 November 2008, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1234052.html.) Figures covering all of 2008 are not available, but extrapolating and taking into account that November and December is not a period of high jihadi activity, an estimate of 150 such crimes for 2008 is reasonable.   This would mean 2009 saw as much as a six-fold increase in such crimes compared with 2008 and suggests a much more robust increase in CE activity in 2009 than suggested by any of the data compilations focused on number of attacks and casualties.  The FSB also reported much higher figures found in other sources for mujahedin killed and captured in 2009: in 42 counter-terrorist operations approximately 400 militants were killed and 782 were captured and more than 130 facilitators were turned away from jihad. (“V administratsii oblasti sostoyalos’ sovmestnoe zasedanie antiterroristicheskoi komissii i operativnogo shtaba v Tul’skoi oblasti,” Tula Oblast Administration Portal, 28 December 2009, http://www.admportal.tula.ru/news/9951.aspx; “Posle otmeny rezhima KTO v Chechne ot konflikta postradali 453 cheloveka, 23 December 2009, 00:01, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/163448/; and “FSB utverzhdaet, chto za 1 god v Imarate Kavkaz bylo provedeno 810 diversionnykh operatsii,” Kavkaz tsentr, 29 December 2009, 15:29, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2009/12/29/69850.shtml.)

Conclusion

Thus, all data compilations show that 2009 saw a considerable escalation in CE terrorist activity as compared with 2008.  My own data and methodology – which specifically focus on the CE jihad’s operational activity and are designed to exclude non-jihadi-related violence as well as criminal activity on the jihad’s periphery – show a clear increase in CE operational effectiveness in inflicting casualties among the infidels and apostates, both official and civilian.  This is occurring on the background of an increasing youth cohort among the mujahedin, which one might expect would lead to less, not more effectiveness.  To be sure, some new recruits, such as Ingushetia and ‘Riyadus Salikhin’ operative Said Abu Saad Buryatskii, are clearly promoting the robustness of the CE jihad.  Indeed, without Buryatskii’s audacious August attack on the MVD district headquarters in Nazran, Ingushetia that produced nearly 300 casualties, the damage done by the other 510 CE attacks this year is more modest.  Time will tell whether 2010 can register another spike in CE violence.

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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