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Photo russian_mosque

April 23, 2010

by Gordon M. Hahn


  • Kathleen Collins, “Kyrgyzstan’s Revolution and U.S. Interests”



Kyrgyzstan’s Revolution and U.S. Interests

By Kathleen Collins

The past two weeks have brought a new revolution to Kyrgyzstan. Although sudden, poorly organized, and not entirely non-violent, the protesters caused the highly corrupt, clannish, and increasingly repressive government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to fall. The various opposition groups coalesced behind Roza Otunbayeva as the head of an interim government. Ms. Otunbayeva promises a new, democratic constitution and free and fair elections in six months, but she is tenuously in control.

The situation is fluid and the outcome highly uncertain. Yet this presents the U.S. with several critical opportunities. The Obama administration should lead the international community in recognizing and supporting Roza Otunbayeva and the transitional government, both unilaterally and via the United Nations, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the World Bank, and other organizations. The interim government needs international legitimacy to support a transition to democracy, and to withstand ongoing threats from Bakiyev and his supporters, as well as from neighboring dictators who resist democratization in the region.

Some argue that this was not a peaceful democratic revolution, and hence that the U.S. should remain aloof. Indeed, the fall of Bakiyev was not entirely by peaceful democratic means. Yet, it was a popular uprising led in large part by democratic activists. The demonstrations did briefly spin out of control in both Talas and Bishkek. The head of police was attacked by angry protesters. People took to the streets with stones and bottles, and ultimately they rushed the White House and destroyed government property as Bakiyev fled. However, they faced police and presidential guards who proved willing to use tear gas, clubs and gunfire against them. Unfortunately, long experience in Central Asia has shown people that peaceful protest rarely leads to change. The Bakiyev government had developed a reputation for learning from its predecessor’s mistakes; the government of former president Askar Akayev was abruptly toppled in the somewhat more peaceful “Tulip Revolution” just five years ago. Akayev had not fired on protesters, and Bakiyev learned a lesson. Far more so than Akayev, Bakiyev and his cronies had engaged in increasingly harsh tactics against the opposition—including arrests, long prison sentences, and trumped-up charges. Very recently, and perhaps because he anticipated unrest, Bakiyev had placed key family members and long-time friends at the head of the military, police, and security structures. Protesters were thus expecting to meet force. Central Asia’s regional dictators are generally willing to use force to keep their kleptocratic dynasties in power, and they approve each other in doing so. Bakiyev did so last week, triggering too much tragic bloodshed. In fact, it is only surprising that he was not prepared to go further to defend his regime.

In spite of the massive looting that followed Bakiyev’s flee from the White House, most participants were ordinary people expressing deep discontent with the corruption, abuses, and injustice of the Bakiyev dictatorship. Reporters on the ground suggest that much of the gunfire that intimidated Bishkek residents the night of Bakiyev’s overthrow, as well as much of the destruction to stores and private property, was likely organized by Bakiyev’s supporters, in an attempt to discredit the “revolution” and Ms. Otunbayeva’s self-proclaimed interim government. Other looting and violence was perpetrated by mafias and criminals whom the new government is struggling to control. This week’s sporadic violence over land is the result of extreme poverty. Blaming the interim leaders for the violence is most likely misplaced. They are struggling to control it while directing a transition to democracy, and they need support in doing so to prevent chaos.

In fact, the media has widely underplayed the role that the democratic opposition played in bringing about the change of government. In anticipation of the fall 2010 election, the democratic party and civil society opposition began to unify to organize protests. In March, they formed a Popular Assembly, with Roza Otunbayeva as head of its executive council. The Assembly enumerated several key demands which they put before the Bakiyev government: 1) to release all political prisoners; 2) to stop ongoing constitutional reforms that would boost the president’s power; 3) to remove Bakiyev’s son Maksim from his post as head of the State Agency on Development, Investment, and Innovation, and to abolish the agency; 4) to restore broadcasts of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz-language programs by local affiliates and strengthen freedom of speech; 5) to lower energy tariffs; 6) to renationalize stakes in Kyrgyz Telecom and several other companies, which the opposition claims to have been insider privatization; and 7) to remove Bakiyev’s relatives from government posts.[1] Duishen Chotonov, a former parliamentarian and opposition leader, stated: “Bakiyev’s sons, Maksim and Marat, and his brothers Janysh, Adyl, and Marat must be dismissed from their official positions….Interference of his family members in state and local administrations’ affairs must end.”[2] One leader of the Ata-Meken Party, a party which has spent nearly two decades in the democratic opposition, summed up the opposition’s goals: “The key issues contained in these demands were to bring an end to the president’s policy of nepotism and cronyism, cease persecution of opposition members and other dissidents, and support democracy as well as a respect for human rights. The [Popular] Assembly urged the president…to stop the practice of corrupt privatization, and fulfill promises he gave to the people.”[3]

Right now, the key is to maintain a stable and democratic transition to a new government. If Roza Otunbayeva and her collaborators will commit to doing that, the U.S. and international community should recognize them, and strongly back them by offering economic aid and incentives to help them succeed. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s call to Ms. Otunbayeva and last week’s visit by Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake were a good start. They led to de facto U.S. recognition of the interim regime, and signaled to Bakiyev that he would not get U.S. support and should abandon any militant attempt to retake power. Shortly after Blake’s visit to Kyrgyzstan, Bakiyev fled to Kazakhstan and subsequently to Belarus. Nonetheless, the Obama administration’s discussions with the interim government were primarily focused on the U.S. base. The Obama administration has been reluctant, in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere, to take an arrogant stand in promoting democracy abroad, but now is not the time to hold back. The administration’s tepid remarks since April 7th, as well as before then, have suggested to Kyrgyzstanis and the democratic opposition that the U.S. cares little about democracy and justice in Kyrgyzstan, and only about its own geopolitical interests. The U.S. should seize this new opportunity to dispel such public sentiment, to promote stability, and to demonstrate that it stands for democracy. Mr. Obama should now go much further—for Kyrgyzstan’s sake, and to advance U.S. interests and ideals.

Why back Roza Otunbayeva? In short, she may well be the best hope for a new Kyrgyzstani leader committed to democracy. She was a prominent figure in the early years of Kyrgyz independence, when she supported the democracy movement. While then President Akayev and many members of his family and government became highly corrupt and reneged on their commitment to democracy, she did not. She joined the democratic opposition against Akayev, and was one of the democracy activists leading the peaceful, civic protesters who played a role in the 2005 “Tulip Revolution” that overthrew Akayev’s regime. She was then quickly sidelined by Bakiyev and others with more corrupt and sinister motives. Perhaps most importantly, Ms. Otunbayeva is known for being honest and clean. She is one of the few former government ministers not to have been tarnished by corruption. Unlike most, she did not use her positions in government to give her family members access to wealth and power. Hence, unlike most, she could bring legitimacy and credibility to a new government.

Democratic activists and ordinary people from Azerbaijan to Georgia to Kyrgyzstan have been pleading for years for U.S. support to sustain them in their pursuit of just, democratic government. By strongly backing Ms. Otunbayeva’s interim government and committing itself to fostering a renewed democratic transition, the U.S. will regain some of the legitimacy and credibility for promoting democracy that it once enjoyed in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere in Central Asia, before previous U.S. administrations and the current one lost the faith of the Kyrgyzstani people for too often turning a blind eye to Akayev’s and Bakiyev’s corruption.

Backing Otunbayeva and the interim government is also key to U.S. security interests. Roza Otunbayeva is one of the rare political figures in Kyrgyzstan who is still favorable to the U.S. and the West. As ambassador to the U.S. and then Minister of Foreign Affairs in the 1990s, Otunbayeva presided over the most western-oriented period in Kyrgyzstan’s foreign policy. Against many government opponents who were more pro-Russian, she backed the Partnership for Peace agreement with NATO and sought close military, economic, and political relations with the U.S. and Europe. She was ultimately removed by Akayev for her pro-western and democratic agenda. Although not anti-Russian—no pragmatic Kyrgyzstani leader can afford to be—Ms. Otunbayeva is the best hope for a pro-democratic leader favorable to an ongoing U.S. security role in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia.

The U.S. needs close relations with any new Kyrgyzstani government because the U.S. “Manas” air base in Kyrgyzstan is essential to the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The base’s importance will likely continue through 2010 and the foreseeable future. Since the Uzbek regime ousted the U.S. from the “K2” base in Uzbekistan in 2005, Kyrgyzstan has become the key transit point into Afghanistan–outside of the Pakistani route that is plagued by instability. Even if the U.S. begins to wind down its military presence in Afghanistan in a year or two, the U.S. will need easy and safe access to provide logistical support to any remaining U.S. presence there. Yet, Russia has quickly employed a variety of economic incentives to encourage the fragile new government to close Manas–a long-time Russian goal. Russia has even offered peacekeeping forces should conflict break out in Kyrgyzstan. Ms. Otunbayeva is unlikely to want such aid, but given the country’s dire economic circumstances and political instability, she may have little choice.

To maintain the U.S. base now and for the longer term, the Obama administration should be actively supporting Ms. Otunbayeva’s interim government and distancing itself from Bakiyev’s repressive regime, which used U.S. base contracts to enrich his family at the expense of the Kyrgyzstani people. Unless Obama takes concrete steps to do so, the U.S. risks further alienating Kyrgyzstani popular opinion and any newly elected president. The consequence may well be losing its strategic position in Kyrgyzstan to Russia. And without the Manas base, the Obama administration will be left with little option apart from turning back to the pariah Uzbek regime to plead for basing rights.

Finally, a renewed relationship with Kyrgyzstan will present the U.S. with an opportunity to rethink its aid package. Over the past eighteen years, too much aid has been pocketed by corrupt Kyrgyz officials. Too much has been devoted to advising the state rather than to projects directly helping ordinary people. Corruption and lack of economic opportunity have been the roots of Kyrgyzstan’s instability. They drove protesters onto the streets both in 2005 and again in 2010. Renewed economic aid and reform should target local-level projects that bypass the corrupt state and avoid insider privatization. Aid that includes micro-financing and loans for small-scale investment will be critical to restoring Kyrgyzstan’s economic health and growth, and will positively impact the lives of ordinary people. Genuinely liberalizing economic reforms are necessary to foster employment, growth, and the development of a middle class. As Barrington Moore once quipped, “no bourgeoisie, no democracy.” The U.S. should seize the moment to help Ms. Otunbayeva develop the economic basis for sustainable democracy. Doing so would serve Kyrgyzstan’s interests was well as U.S. interests.

To conclude, the change in power in Kyrgyzstan presents the U.S. with a unique opportunity to initiate a renewed relationship with Kyrgyzstan. Supporting Ms. Otunbayeva’s interim government will demonstrate U.S. commitment to democracy in the region, foster stability as well as political and economic liberalization in Kyrgyzstan, and help preserve critical U.S. basing interests. The U.S. should act now.


Kathleen Collins is author of Clan Politics and Regime Transition in Central Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2006), a prize-winning book. She is an associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. She worked for former minister Roza Otunbayeva as a policy intern in Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1994 and 1995. She has done policy consulting for the National Bureau of Asian Research, the United Nations Development Program, and the United States government. She is currently writing a book on Islamic revival and political Islam in Eurasia (under contract, Cambridge University Press).




            In the first quarter (January 1st and March 31st) of 2010 there were some 62 jihadi attacks and jihadi-related violent incidents in Russia.  March saw some 18 such incidents; the fewest of any month this year.  However, a major attack – the March 29th double suicide bombing on the Moscow subway system – killed 40 and wounded 121 civilians, according to the most recent figures.  Overall this year, these incidents and non-violent captures of mujahedin have led to approximately 39 state agents killed and 91 wounded, 49 civilians killed and 143 wounded, and 53 jihadists killed, 4 wounded, and 14 captured in 2010.

Aside from the Moscow subway attack, all violent incidents occurred in Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Dagestan with perhaps 1 in Kabardino-Balkaria and Bashkortostan each.  Although there were fewer attacks in March than in February, March was much deadlier due to the suicide bombing on the Moscow subway.  February was much more violent than January with approximately 17 attacks in January and 27 in February, some 7 state agents killed and 19 wounded in January, but 17 killed and 41 wounded in February.  There were some three civilians killed and 1 wounded in January, but 4 killed and 9 wounded in February.  There were approximately 12 mujahedin killed and 1 captured in January but 16 killed in February.

Ingushetia continues to lead the CE jihad in 2010 in terms of number of incidents, with some 29 of the 62 attacks/incidents having occurred there.  Dagestan has been more deadly and dangerous for state agents with some 20 killed there compared to some 8 in Ingushetia, but Ingushetia has seen nearly as many overall casualties among state agents, with 52 (8 killed and 44 wounded) compared to Dagestan’s 54 (20 killed and 34 wounded).  Ingushetia overtook Dagestan in the number of killed mujahedin with 23 compared with 16, respectively.

As of April 1st, there have been five successful suicide bombings in four attacks this year: 1 attack involving 1 bomber in early January in Dagestan, 2 separate but coordinated attacks in the March 29th Moscow subway bombing, and 2 coordinated suicide bombings in the March 31st double bombing in Kizlyar, Dagestan.  Almost all of the civilians killed and wounded came as a result of these four suicide attacks.



The Caucasus Emirate’s top amir, Doka Abu Usman Umarov, claimed responsibility for the March 29th Moscow subway suicide bombings that killed 40 and wounded at least 90 in a March 29th video posted on all the CE’s leading affilitated websites (see, for example,  He stated that he personally ordered the attacks, claiming they were “a message to the FSB” but undertaken as revenge for the February 11th, 2010 killing of civilians, who were out picking scallions, during a shootout between mujahedin and law enforcement in Arshty, Chechnya, which he blamed on the latter.    One of the suicide bombers detonated at the Lubyanka subway station, next to the FSB’s headquarters.  Umarov promised similar attacks deep inside Russia would continue, warning: “.”[4]  The Emergency Situations Ministry updated the casualty figures for the subway attack on April 4th, raising the number of injured from 90 to 121.[5]

As noted in IIPER, No. 3 (Gordon M. Hahn, “The Caucasus Emirate’s Return to Suicide Bombing and Mass Terrorism,” IIPER, No. 3, November 30, 2009) Amir of the Vedeno Sector of the CE’s Nokhchicho Velaiyat, Khusein Gakaev announced in summer 2009 that he had prepared 20 suicide bombers.[6]


The last IIPER (No. 12), the March 29th Moscow subway bombings were carried out by two female suicide bombers from Dagestan, 17-year old Dzhanet Abdurakhmanova, who detonated her explosives at the Park Kultury metro station, and 20-year old Markha Ustarkhanova from Chechnya, who detonated at the Lubyanka station.  Abdurakhmanova was the widow of the CE Dagestan Velayat’s amir Al-Bara, born Umalat Magomedov, killed by the security services in a special operation on December 31st.  On April 6th the National AntoTerrorism Committee (NAK) officially identified the second bomber as 27-year old (born 1982) Maryam Magomedova (Sharipova) [the Magomedovs gave all their children the last name of Sharipov(a) in honor of their grandfather] from the Dagestan village of Balakhany.  Her parents recognized their daughter from pictures posted on the Internet in which she was wearing the same red scarf they last had seen her in before losing track of her for several days beginning from March 26.[7]  The Russian daily Kommersant reported on April 8th that Sharipova was married to alleged Al Qa`ida operative ‘Doctor Mohammad’ and after Russian forces killed him on August 30th 2009 she married the amir of the Derbent Sector of the CE’s ‘Dagestan Velayat’ Magomedali Vagabov.  Kommersant also reported that Sharipova’s brothers, Ilyas and Anvar, are wanted fro robbing an armored cash transport vehicle, the funds from which went to the Vagabov.[8]  Days after this report appeared, Itar-Tass reported on April 11th that security forces were engaged in heavy battle with Vagabov and his forces, suggesting the investigation into the Moscow bombings provided leads to his whereabouts.

Maryam Sharipova was the daughter of two teachers.  Her father, Rasul, taught Russian language and literature, and her mother, Patimat, taught biology in the local school in Balakhany, where their daughter studied and for the last four years also worked.  Balakhany is a high mountain village of some 500 homes nestled on terraces reaching down into a valley.  Maryam graduated from the Dagestan Pedagogical University with a ‘red diploma’ (high honors) and had a higher education in mathematics and psychology.  Friends said Maryam had recently begun to wear the khidzhab or head scarf but maintained an interest in cosmetics and fashion.  All who saw her in her last days said she was behaving normally.  She was last seen in Dagestan on mid-day March 28th by her mother.  Shortly after separating Maryam phoned her mother from unfamiliar cell telephone number (Maryam did not own a cell telephone) and told her she was going to visit a friend and would get home on her own later.[9]

Earlier, Russian FSB Chief Aleksandr Bortnikov speculated that the second shakhida might have been Zukhra Tsipinova, the former wife of Anzor Astemirov-Seifullah, the amir of the CE’s United Velayat of Kabardia, Balkaria and Karachai (OVKBK) and qadi or chief judge of the CE’s Shariah Court killed on March 25th.  Astemirov and Tsipinova divorced in 2004, but the latter claims she is still harassed by law enforcement officials.[10]



As noted in the previous IIPER (No. 12) two days fater the Moscow subway bombings two suicide bombers executed a coordinated double suicide bombing in Kizlyar Dagestan, killing 12 and wounding 27.  Of the 12 killed, 9 were reported to be state agents – specifically 9 MVD personnel.  Of the 27 wounded, 18 were MVD personnel.  The first suicide bomber detonated, and when medical and police arrived a second bomber dressed as a police officer detonated his bomb.  One bomber was identified as Daud Dzhabrailov.[11]  A bomber was also identified as 21-year old Daud Magomedov, who was known to Dagestan law enforcement as an Islamic extremist.[12]  It is unclear whether these are one and the same person.

As noted above and in IIPER, No. 3,[13] amir of the Vedeno Sector of the CE’s Nokhchicho Velaiyat, Khusein Gakaev announced in summer 2009 that he had prepared 20 suicide bombers.  Also, as noted in IIPER, No. 12, Kizlyar, Dagestan is located across the border from Vedeno, Chechnya, and several successful and interdicted suicide bombing attacks apparently organized by Gakaev were implemented with involvement of elements in Kizlyar.[14]  Russian terrorism expert and President of Moscow’s Institute of Religion and Politics, Aleksandr Ignatenko confirmed this line of investigation in a report noting that CE Military Committee naib (deputy amir), the Arab Abu Anas Muhannad (born Khaled Yusuf Mokhammad Al-Elitat) is running a suicide bombing camp in Vedeno and produced the perpetratiors of the March Moscow subway suicide bombings.  According to Ignatenko, the first Saudi Wahhabbi to bring the technology of suicide bombings to the Caucasus was Abu Katada Al-Makki who returned to Saudi Arabia and led Al Qa`ida in Saudi Arabia until 2003 when he was killed.  Al-Makki was replaced in the Caucasus by AQ’s Khattab (killed in 2004), who was replaced by Abu Walid (killed in 2005), who was replaced by Muhannad, who is assisted by Sudanese jihadi mercenary Yasir.  Both were nearly killed in a special operation two weeks before the Moscow bombings, according to Ignatenko.  According to Moskovskii komsomolets, citing the London Arab-language paper Al-Shark al-Ausat, Muhannad was born in the early 1970s in one of the Arab states, most likely the United Arab Emirates, but Russian security services think he is Jordanian.  He has fought in the Caucasus since 1996 when he arrived along with Khattab.  In 2006 he emerged as a leading amir and led the battalion of foreign jihadists.  It is thought that most of the funds coming from the Middle East and other foreign Islamic sources are sent to the CE through Muhannad.[15]  Muhannad ran a major fund-raising campaign for the North Caucasus jihadists on Arab-language websites in summer 2007 on the eve of the CE’s declaration.[16]

As noted in many earlier IIPERs, the now deceased Said Abu Saad Buryatskii, who was a main recruiter if not amir of the Riyadus Salikhin Martyrs Battalion, was recruited by Muhannad.  Therefore, there are several interpretations of the structure of the channels through which suicide bombers were recruited and prepared.  Muhannad could be coordinating the training of recruits gathered through two or three channels one once under Buryatskii in Ingushetia, another under Gakaev in Vedeno, and perhaps a third in Dagestan.  Thus, it appears likely that while the Moscow and Dagestan suicide attacks of late March have common Dagestani origins, they bombers could have been recruited, prepared and deployed through different channels.



On April 5th the sixth suicide bomber in the fifth suicide attack of 2010 detonated his bomb at the entrance of the MVD city (GOVD) headquarters in Karabulak, Ingushetia, killing two GOVD militia men and wounding two more.  The male suicide bomber tried to enter the GOVD building but was stopped whereupon he detonated his bomb at the entrance.  Minutes later a second bomb detonated remotely in a car parked next to the station.  This explosion wounded an official of the prosecutor’s office.[17]



On March 26th, Russia’s MVD Troops Commander, Army General Nikolai Rogozhkin estimated that there are as many as 500 mujahedin fighting on the territory of the North Caucasus.  Two years earlier his estmate was 400-500 fighters.  He said they are confronted by 23,000 MVD troops and 1,000 Chechens in two separate MVD battalions.  MVD first deputy minister Arkadii Yedelev estimated there were 500 fighting in Chechnya alone in January 2009, while Ramzan Kadyrov has insisted there are fewer than 100 mujahedin.[18]  The Ce site Kavkaz tsentr quoted him as saying that it is impossible to exactly how many and that the majority range from age 25 to 28.[19]



On March 31st, security forces killed an alleged mujahed in Kabardino-Balkaria’s capitol of Nalchik identified as Anzor Astemirov-Seifullah’s successor as the amir of the United Velayat of Kabardia, Balkaria and Karachai (OVKBK).  However, his name was not released, but it was reported that he was born in 1970 and had been Seifullah’s naib (deputy) for finances.[20]



On the 5th anniversary of the death of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria president Aslan Maskhadov, the CE-affiliated website ‘Kavkaz tsentr’ published the transcript, audiotape and videotape of a September 2002 letter from Maskhadov to the site’s then and present manager, the exiled former field commander, and longtime ChRI/CE jihadist ideologist Movladi Udugov.  The letter urges Udugov to support Maskhadov’s decision to throw his lot in with the Salafi jihadist elements within the ChRI taken at the July 2002 Madzhlisul Shura.  That meeting was attended by Maskhadov, Shamil Basaev and all the top Chechen and foreign amirs in order to regroup the ChRI after its forces route on the traditional battlefeield at the hands of Russian forces in the second post-Soviet Russo-Chechen War.  The Shura decided to institutionalize the jihadization of the movement by vetting all decisions taken by the Shura or Maskhadov for their consistency with Shariah law as interpreted by the Shura’s Shariah Court and Fatwa Committee headed by Abdul Khalim Sadullaev, who, moreover, was designated Maskhadov’s successor in the event of his death.[21]

In the letter transcription Maskhadov describes all the personnel and institutional changes made by the Shura at the summer meeting jihadizing the ChRI’s constitution, leadership structure, and ideology, including the creation of the Shariah Court and Fatwah Committee, and pleads to Udugov: “No matter what happens, even if the land will be burned by blue flame, I am confident that I will be able to go the path in accordance with Shariah, Allah Willing.  Therefore everyone should accept Shariah.  I understand that this is very difficult, but I will go ahead, and the only thing which you should be concerned is whether you can go along with me to the end and catch up with me in establishing Shariah.”  Maskhadov closes, declaring: “Today, whoever is with us, be he a Chechen or Arab, we will create with all of them a completely Islamic State.”[22]

Most Western analyses of the period conclude that Maskhadov fiercely resisted the jihadization of the ChRI and rejected the mass terrorist attacks targeting civilians that became commonplace tactic deployed by the ChRI’s top field commander Shamil Basaev and his Al Qa`ida sidekick Khattab beginning with the October 2002 Dubrovka theatre hostage-taking in Moscow and continued through out Maskhadov’s reign.  Some have argued that Maskahdov was playing a double game, using but more and more accommodating the global jihadists and their local Salafi converts like Basaev while trying to portray to the outside world, in particular the West, that he rejected their tactics. [23]

The letter suggests that the latter interpretation is closer to reality and that internally he was at least portraying himself as a convinced convert to Salafi jihadism.  In this way, he would have made a greater contribution, no matter how wittingly or unwittingly, in the jihadization of the ChRI.  The letter even opens up the possibility of the veracity of a more shocking interpretation that Maskhadov was actually converted to Salafi Islamism and acquiesced in the global jihad’s terrorist tactics and that his claims of rejecting jihadi tactics were the façade.



In late March reports emerged from Bashkortostan of a battle between a group of alleged mujahedin and law enforcement units in the town of Oktyabrskii not far from the republic’s border with Tatarstan.  According to the reports, on March 23 a group of armed men attacked a food store.  The attack wounded two seriously, and the attackers managed to get away.  The Bashkortostan MVD announced it was mounting an operation to capture four “armed criminals”: Bashir Allautdinovich Pliev (born 1966, from Ingushetia), Nail’ Mullanurovich Akhmetgareev (born 1985, from Oktyabrskii), Oleg Raisovich Shaikhulov (born 1986, from Oktyabrskii), and Aleksandr Sergeevich Yashin (born 1983, from Belebei).[24]  The liberal Svobodnaya pressa site claimed local residents were reporting a battle with a group of 14-16 fighters, not the four and six in the first reports, against which the authorities threw tanks, armored personnel carriers and some 500 FSB and MVD troops.[25]

Later, the Bashkortostan MVD called the group an underground Islamic extremist cell.  The attack on the store was characterized as an attempt to acquire funds to help finance the North Caucasus mujahedin, and the group was said to be planning a terrorist suicide bombing to be carried out in Bashkortostan.  Two of the group’s members were said to have been captured on March 26th, and a third, Yashin, got into a shootout with police from which he escaped.  He was later caught in a hospital where, according to police, he was planning to stage a hostage-taking.  Yashin allegedly possessed a grenade and was seriously wounded by security forces.  The group’s residence turned up radical Islamist literature, ammunition, explosives, documents from foreign countries, and blank passports.  Two of the original eight arrested were allegedly on the federal wanted list, and a new name was released – 37-year old Belebei resident, Vladimir Turaev, who remains on the loose.[26]

In the following days three more alleged members of the group were captured, bringing the total to eleven.  On March 29th Bashir Pliev was captured in neighboring Orenburg Oblast.  Bashkir authorities identified Pliev as an ethinic Ingush from Ingushetia and as the group’s leader, known among the North Caucasus mujahedin as Amir Bashkirskii.[27]  Svobodnaya pressa reported that Pliev was the “namesake” of one of Shamil Basaev’s “lackeys” and as deputy chief of Ingushetia’s Minister of Internal Affairs personal security detail became in 2002 a “traitor in epaulettes” (oboroten v pogonakh) and an informer for Basaev.  Pliev was twide declared dead; once as a result of the September 2004 Beslan school hortage siege and again in 2005 after a special operation against mujahedin in Ingushetia.  According to Ingushetia’s MVD chief, Pliev was not among the mujahedin at Beslan but had been idenitified as killed there by his relatives so law enforcement would cease searching for him.[28]  Days later, another Ingushetia native and alleged member of the group, Magomed Gatiev, was also arrested in Orenburg.[29]  Thus, there appears to be an Ingushetia connection to this group.  One report cited an FSB source claiming that Pliev was once an instructor in the Bashkir MVD.  This was immediately denied by the Bashkir MVD.[30]  Ingushetia’s MVD stated that Pliev was not on its list of wanted mujahedin.[31]

The Russian daily Komsomolskaya pravda, citing law enforcement sources, reported the group was tied to the so-called Uighur-Bulgar Jamaat (UBJ) fighting with the Taliban and Al Qa`ida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.[32]  The group appears to be a Tatar-dominated group and adheres to the ideology of resettleing in order to fight the infidel (at-Takfir Val Khidzhra).

Last year several alleged operatives from the UBJ were arrested in Bashkortostan for allegedly planning terrorist attacks in the republic. They went on trial in April 2009 pursuant to their arrest the previous August after a shootout with Bashkir police in Salavat, Bashkortostan. According to Bashkir authorities, the UBJ was founded by Pavel Dorokhov, a native of Bashkiria’s Baimak district, who was trained in al-Qaeda and Taliban camps.[33] Dorokhov was killed when he allegedly offered resistance during a search of his residence.  His colleague, Rustem Zainagutdinov was sentenced to 15 years for planning to blow up a barrier separating a water supply tank and an ammonia tank, attack a traffic police post and seize weapons, and seize the Salavat city’s FSB building.[34]  The UBJ may or may not be one and the same organization as the ethnic Tatar ‘Bulgar Jamaat’ currently fighting in Afghanistan. The Bulgar Jamaat’s website ‘’ carries occasional reports on operations it has carried out in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region and also calls for jihad against Russia.[35]

The CE’s Kavkaz tsentr site noted that the Idel-Ural region, which comprises Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and even neighboring regions, many of which have large Tatar and Bashkir minorities, “is a Moslem country between river Volga and the Ural mountains and includes Russian provinces of Tatarstan and Bashkiria.”[36]  It should be recalled that the CE maintains Volga and Urals fronts.




The website of the CE’s United Velayat of Kabardia, Balkaria and Karachai (OVKBK) ‘’ carried an article on April 1st by the Yemen-based American jihadist Imam Anwar al-Awlaki titled “The Call to Jihad” (“Prizyv k Dzhikhadu”).  Awlaki is likely a key Al Qa`ida recruiter and has been tied to the Fort Hood, Texas shootings, the 2009 Christmas bombing, and two of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.  The article is a rhetorical attack on America and a call for American Muslims to fulfill their obligation to go to jihad, arguing that the U.S. is “evil”, and the government will soon turn on and intern America’s Muslims.  Awlaki also says the U.S. government is covering up the fact that the attack by Niddal Hassan at the Fort Hood military base was an organized attack.  In the discussion that followed the article, several commentators equated the U.S. and Russia as enemies of Islam and “monsters.”[37]  This is not the first time CE sites have carried statements by Awlaki.



The website of the ‘Jamaat Shariat’ in the CE’s ‘Dagestan Velayat’ published an article by one Saifullakh abu Mukhammad asserting the myth of Dzhadzhal which claims that the Egyptian pharaohs sent sailors who ‘discovered’ America.[38]  The article appears designed to somehow justify a Muslim claim on the U.S. as an Islamic lande where establishment of a Shariah law state would be historically legitimate.



[1] Farangis Najibullah, “Thousands Air Grievances At Kyrgyz Rallies,” RFE/RL,, March 17, 2010.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Author email communication with Ravshan Djeenbekov, April 7, 2010.

[4] The videotape of Umarov’s claim of responsibility for the Moscow subway attack was posted on the CE affiliated sites,, and is still available at, which includes English subtitles.  For a brief summary and a link to the video in Russian, see “Dokku Abu Usman: Ataka v Moskovskom Metro – Eto Vozmezdie za Rezn’yu v Arshtakh!’,” Jamaat Shariat, 31 March 2010, 15:34,

[5] Natalya Krainova, “17-Year-Old Widow Identified as Park Kultury Bomber,” Moscow Times, 5 April 2010.

[6] The video may still available at “Amir Muslim: 20 shakhidov gotovy k atakam,” accessed 25 August 2009, and “Dvadtsat’ Shakhidov gotovy atakovat’ murtadov i kafirov,” Kavkaz tsentr, 6 July 2009, 12:28,

[7] “Zhitel’ Dagestana opoznal v terroristke-smertnitse svoyu doch’,” Kavkaz uzel, 4 April 2010, 23:50,

[8] Sergei Mashkin and Yulia Rybkina, “Dvoinaya proverka pered vzryvom,” Kommersant, 8 April 2010,

[9] Irina Gordienko, “’Doch’ pozvonila  c neznakomogo nomera i ischezla’,” Novaya gazeta, No. 37, 9 April 2010,

[10] “Bortnikov: izvestnyi lichnosti organizatorov teraktov v Moskve i Kizlyare,” Kavkaz uzel, 1 April 2020, 16:20,

[11] “SKP Rossii: samopodryv v Kizlyare sovershil Daud Dzhabrailov,” Kavkaz uzel, 31 March 2010, 16:54,

[12] Sergei Mashkin and Yulia Rybina, “Vzorvavsheesya zveno,” Kommersant, 1 April 2010,

[13] Gordon M. Hahn, “The Caucasus Emirate’s Return to Suicide Bombing and Mass Terrorism,” IIPER, No. 3, November 30, 2009.

[14] Sergei Mashkin and Yulia Rybina, “Vzorvavsheesya zveno,” Kommersant, 1 April 2010,

[15] Oleg Fochkin, “Smertnits dlya metro uchili po-arabski,” Moskovskii komsomolets, 2 April 2010, 19:49,

[16] “Militants Target Arabs in Massive Fundraising Campaign for Chechen Insurgents,”  Transnational Security Issues Report, Center for International Issues Research, Department of Defense, 13 December 2007.

[17] “Pravookhraniteli proveryayut versiyu o svyazi vzryvov v Ingushetii s teraktami v Moskve i Dagestane,” Kavkaz uzel, 5 April 2010, 12:10,

[18] “MVD RF: na Severnom Kavkaze deistvuyut okolo 500 boevikov,” Kavkaz uzel, 26 March 2010, 16:42,

[19] “Imarat Kavkaz. Kafiry vnov’ zanyalis podschetom modzhakhedov.  Ikh snova 500,” Kavkaz tsentr, 26 March 2010, 18:43,

[20] Luiza Orozaeva, “V Nalchike prokhodit spetsoperatsiya, ubit mestnyi zhitel’,” Kavkaz uzel, 31 March 2010, 18:40, and “Ubitogo v Karbardino-Balkarii mestnogo zhitelya siloviki schitayut liderom boevikov,” Kavkaz uzel, 1 April 2010, 14:59,

[21] Gordon M. Hahn, Russia’s Islamic Threat (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 40-46.

[22] “Aslan Maskhadov: ‘My sozdadim polnotsennoe Islamskoe Gosudarstvo,” Kavkaz tsentr, 8 March 2010, 15:55,

[23] Hahn, Russia’s Islamic Threat, pp. 40-46.

[24] Yelena Makushina, “Pravookhranitel’nyie organy respubliki razyskivayut opasnykh prestupnikov,”, 27 March 2010, 15:46,

[25] Dmitrii Treshchanin, “V Bashkirii grabitelei lovyat tankami,” Svobodnaya pressa, 27 March 2010, 19:17,

[26] “V Bashkirii zaderzhany 8 chlenov religiozno-ekstremistckogo bandpodpol’ya,”, 29 March 2010, 10:27,

[27] “Uderzhan esho odin uchastnik ekstrimistskogo bandpodpol’ya,”, 1 April 2010, 19:04,

[28] Dmitrii Treshchanin, “V Bashkirii grabitelei lovyat tankami,” Svobodnaya pressa, 27 March 2010, 19:17,

[29] “Uderzhan esho odin uchastnik ekstrimistskogo bandpodpol’ya,”, 1 April 2010, 19:04,

[30] “FSB: organizator bandpodpol’ya v Bashkirii rabotal instruktorm v MVD,”, 30 March 2010, 12:58, and “MVD Bashkirii oproverglo fakt raboty organzatora bandpodpol’ya v ‘organakh’,”, 30 March 2010, 13:48,

[31] “MVD Ingushetii: Bashir Pliev v rozysk ne ob”yavlyalsya,”, 30 March 2010, 19:28,

[32] Marat Gareev and El’vira Mirgaziyanova, “Krupnyie terakty gotovilis’ i v Bashkirii,” Komsomolskaya Pravda, 29 March 2010,

[33] “V Bashkirii ‘shyut’ delo ‘Uiguro-Bulgarskogo dzhamaata,’”, April 29, 2009,

[34] Stanislav Shakhov and Ivan Panfilov, “KP: V Bashkirii obezvrezhen terroristicheskii Uiguro-Bulgarskii dzhamaat,” TsentrAzii, 29 March 2010, 09:30,

[35] For the Bulgar Jamaat’s Russian-language website, see or  For the call for jihad against Russia see “Obrashchenie Dzhamaata Bulgar k Musul’manam Rossii, Jammat Bulgar, 28 February 2009,

[36] “Town in Bashkiria captured by Mujahideen of Idel Ural,” Kavkaz tsentr (English page), 28 March 2010, 15:53,

[37] Imam Anuar al’ Aulaki, “Prizyv k Dzhikhadu,”, 1 April 2010, 06:58,

[38] Saifullakh abu Mukhammad, “Taina Dzhadzhala,” Jamaat Shariat, 27 March 2010, 16:26,



Islam, Islamism and politics in Eurasia report (IIPER) is a project of the Monterey Terrorism and Research and Education Program (MonTREP) at the Monterey Institute for International Studies (MIIS), Monterey, California.  It focuses on all politically-relevant issues involving or bearing on Islam and ethnic Muslim communities in Russia and Eurasia writ large.  All issues of IIPER can be found at

IIPER is compiled, edited and, unless indicated otherwise, written by Dr. Gordon M. Hahn.  Dr. Hahn is Senior Researcher at the  Monterey Terrorism Research and Education Program and Visiting Assistant Professor, Graduate School of International Policy Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey, California.  He is also a Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group and Analyst/Consultant for Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch,  He teaches courses on both politics and terrorism in Russia and Eurasia at MIIS.  Dr. Hahn is the author of two well-received books, Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007) and Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002) as well as numerous articles on Russian, Eurasian and international politics.

IIPER welcomes submissions of 1,500-6,000 words on any aspect of Islamic politics in Eurasia and financial contributions to support the project.  For related inquiries or to request to be included on IIPER’s mailing list, please contact or

Research assistance for IIPER is provided by Leonid Naboishchikov, Daniel Painter, Fabian Sievert, and Daria Ushakova.

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