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May 24, 2010:

    • AN OVERVIEW OF THE CAUCASUS EMIRATE’S (CE) ACTIVITY IN APRIL 2010
    • CE IDEOLOGISTS REITERATE CE’S TERRITORIAL CLAIMS FOR EMIRATE AND CALIPHATE
    • MOSCOW SUBWAY SUICIDE BOMBINGS UPDATE
    • ERKINBEK KAMALOV, “THE KYRGYZ CRISIS: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ISLAMISTS?”
  • GORDON HAHN’S RECENT MEDIA APPEARANCES

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AN OVERVIEW OF THE CAUCASUS EMIRATE’S ACTIVITY IN APRIL 2010

April 2010 saw approximately 36 such jihadi terrorist attacks and jihadi-related incidents; twice as many as in March.  Thus, in the four months from January 1st to April 30th, 2010 there have been some 98 jihadi attacks and jihadi-related violent incidents in Russia.  These 98 attacks/incidents have led to approximately 57 state agents killed and 123 wounded, 49 civilians killed and 153 wounded, and 59 jihadists killed, 4 wounded, and 19 captured in 2010.  Federal and local forces have killed at least 59, wounded 4, and captured 19 mujahedin, not contacting facilitators.  Unlike last month, when there was a double suicide bombing on the Moscow subway, all violent incidents in April occurred in the North Caucasus republics of Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan, and Kabardino-Balkaria.

Although there were fewer attacks in March than in April (and February and January), March was much deadlier for civilians due to the suicide bombing on the Moscow subway.  April saw greater casualties among state agents than any other month this year, with 18 killed and 32 wounded.  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 lost its lead within the CE jihad in April 2010 in terms of number of incidents, with Dagestan overtaking it with approximately 35 attacks this year compared with 33 in Ingushetia.  Thus, it appears that at least so far the death of leading Ingushetiya operative and ideologist Sheikh Said Abu Saad Buryatskii on March 3rd of this year is telling on the Ingush mujahedin’s effectiveness.

Dagestan continued to be more deadly and dangerous for state agents with approximately 29 killed there this year compared to some 16 in Chechnya and 12 in Ingushetia, but Ingushetia has seen nearly as many overall casualties among state agents this year, with some 70 (some 11 killed and 59 wounded) compared to Dagestan’s 74 (29 killed and 45 wounded).  The mujahedin in Chechnya continue to lead the Ingush in numbers of state agents killed with 16 this year; 17 have been wounded in Chechnya this year.

Suicide Bombings

The North Caucasus experienced three suicide bombings in April following March’s two suicide bombings: March 29th’s two suicide bombings on the Moscow subway and the double suicide attack in Kizlyar, Dagestan two days later.  IIPER, No. 13 reported on the April 5th attack on the district MVD headquarters (ROVD) building in Karabulak, Ingushetia that killed two and wounded 13 MVD personnel.  On April 29th Ingush authorities reported arresting the unidenitifed 24-year old organizer of the April 5th attack.[1]

The second attack of April also occurred Ingushetia in the village of Ekazhevo where the notorious Sheikh Said Abu Saad Buryatskii met his end on March 3rd.  On April 9th, a female suicide bomber approached MVD personnel who had closed off a section of the village where security forces were conducting a special operation against a group of mujahedin.  Upon reaching the police line she fired and wounded one police officer whereupon she was fired upon and her suicide belt detonated.  The explosion killed one and wounded five MVD servicemen.  Seven mujahedin were killed, including the shakhidka.[2]  She was identified as Marina Yevloeva, 26-year old resident of Grozny, Chechnya, wife or relative of one of the mujahedin killed during the special operation, and former wife of Rustam Dzortov (aka Abdul Aziz), a leading mujahed in Ingushetia killed in September 2009.[3]  The third and last suicide bombing attack of April occurred on the 29th in Dagestan and killed two and wounded six MVD personnel and wounded eleven civilians.[4]

With the three suicide bombings of April there have now been seven suicide bombing attacks in 2010 involving eight suicide bombers – five male and three female.  Those attacks have killed 20 and wounded 44 state agents (civilian officials and personnel of the military, FSB and MVD) and killed 43 and wounded 112 civilians.  Of the seven attacks, three occurred in Dagestan two occurred in Ingushetia, and two in Moscow.

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CAUCASUS EMIRATE (CE) IDEOLOGISTS REITERATE CE’S TERRITORIAL CLAIMS FOR EMIRATE AND GOAL OF GLOBAL CALIPHATE

A leading ideologist of the G’ialg’aiche (Ingushetia) Vilaiyat, Abu-t-Tanvir Kavkazskii has laid out again the CE’s wide-ranging local territorial goals for the emirate and the CE’s longer-range goals once in power.  In his April 24th article “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow…”, Kavkazskii writes:

In the near future we can assume that after the liberation of the Caucasus, Jihad will begin in Idel-Ural and Western Siberia.  And, of course we will be obligated to assist with all our strength in the liberation of our brothers’ lands from the centuries-long infidel yoke and in the establishment there of the laws of the Ruler of the Worlds.  It is also possible that in our help will be very much needed in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, and Allah as ordered us to render it.  And we, Allah willing, will destroy the laws of the infidel on the Central Asian lands in league with the mujahedin of Afghanistan.  And it is impossible to forget our brothers in the Crimea, which is also land occupied by non-believers.  Just take a glance at a map of the world:  Muslims live everywhere from West Africa to India, and at various times they fell under the infidels’ yoke and their lackeys from among the hypocrites.  And further to the east lie broad Muslim territories.  And Allah willing, all these lands will again be a united state living only by the law of Allah – the Caplihate.  So Allah promised, and by the example of our Caucasus we are clearly convinced that Allah’s promise is the truth.[5]

Thus, the CE does see itself as part of, and contributing to the larger project of building the caliphate envisioned by the global jihadi revolutionary movement.

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MOSCOW SUBWAY BOMBING UPDATE

Russian law enforcement sources report that a mujahedin killed in the village of Mutsalaul in Khasavyurt Raion, Dagestan on April 26 was involved in the March 31st suicide bombings on the Moscow Metro.  According to Kvakaz uzel, the source reports that Akhmed Rabadanov accompanied one of the female suicide bombers from Dagestan to Moscow and after the bombing immediately returned to Dagestan.  Rabadanov’s relatives rejected any involvement of Akmed in the jihadi movement.[6]

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THE KYRGYZ CRISIS: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ISLAMISTS? 

By Erkinbek Kamalov

During periods of crisis or political instability, there is an opportunity for extremist, criminal or terrorist groups to take advantage of the circumstances for their own nefarious purposes.  The recent events in the capital of Kyrgyzstan show us again that civic unrest can be used in this way by “others”, so-called dangerous “third parties.”  There is a danger that hidden Islamists in the country could utilize the current political crisis in order to enter into legitimate politics and subsequently seize power.  Indeed, Islamic religious extremists in Kyrgyzstan have been attempting to use every opportunity – including general political instability, economic failures, government corruption, mass poverty and lack of unified ideology or national identity – not just to achieve their political ends in Kyrgyzstan but also towards more strategic aims in the Central Asian region.  Unfortunately, it appears that Kyrgyzstan’s present authorities, the post-Bakiev interim government headed by Roza Otunbaeva, are unaware, ignoring or underestimating this potential threat to this strategic country’s political stability and national security.

Opponents of this opinion might claim that threats to stability may come potentially from many sides, and this is in part quite true. No one can predict who, when, why or most crucially how the situation in Kyrgyzstan might be exacerbated.  Regional clans, identity groups, and political parties are all tempted by the great game called the “struggle for power.” Kyrgyzstan’s political actors have forgotten which force is the most dangerous, strategic enemy of the democratic system.  The Islamists can turn over the entire game board in the struggle for power over in the country and bring about revolutionary changes not only in Kyrgyzstan, but all of Central Asia.

In addition, the limited space allowed for autonomous Islamic groups to participate in Kyrgyzstan’s politics cannot be a permanent state of affairs.  Over seventy per cent of population in Kyrgyzstan identify themselves as Muslims1.  Kadyr Malikov, head of analytical center in Bishkek and Doctor of Islamic Studies of Madrid University, argues that “sooner or later religious (Islamic) values will intervene into politics; it will happen through political parties building and elections.”

There are scenarios under which Islamic or outright Islamist involvement in Kyrgyz politics could take a less constructive path.  Some Islamic elements that have up until now conducted themselves peacefully and even  participated in elections have a hidden agenda. Moreover, there is no shortage of groups that are disposed to encourage or use violence to achieve their ends, including terrorism against innocent civilians.  Among them are: Hizb ut-Tahrir Islami (HTI), remnants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and smaller Salafist groups that are either are autonomous start-ups or groups that have or will splinter off from those previously mentioned.

As throughout much of the post-Soviet space, official Islamic structures in Kyrgyzstan are often less than effective in addressing Muslims’ needs and thus a potential source of trouble.  Right after the “April 7” events in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, some Islamic figures expressed dissatisfaction with the work of the official body that oversees Muslim affairs in Kyrgyzstan, the Spiritual Administration of Kyrgyzstan’s Muslims (SAKM) and suggested more “democratic” SAKM management and a change of leadership of SAKM in order to purge corruption.  Later on, 8th if April , former SAKM chief mufti, Murataly Jumanov, was kidnapped and beaten by unknown people only to be returned home in a few days, claiming he had no idea who had taken him or why.2  I assume that those groups who kidnapped the mufti hoped to influence the political situation and/or the work of SAKM.  However, there is no way of knowing if the kidnappers were Islamists or not.

The call to change the SAKM’s management policy and leadership was heavily criticized by Kanybek Osmonaliev, director of the State Commission on Religious Affairs (SCRA).  Osmonaliev noted for Kyrgyz Information Agency 24.kg that internal disagreements between members of SAKM which represents various views and shortcomings in its work provide a possible opening for radical Islamic movements, in particular religious extremists, in their battle against secular and democratic systems in Central Asia.  Kyrgyz political scientist Orozbek Moldaliev was more to the point: “Religious extremists, especially of Wahhabis, would like to enter into SAKM structures.  If they succeed in this, they will be inside the governmental structure which will be a real threat to national security.”

In addition, Almazbek Atambaev, a representative of Kyrgyzstan’s interim government, promised locals during an official visit to Osh to free all those who were sentenced for religious extremism after the “Nukat events” on 1st of October in 2009, where local HTI groups attacked the local district administrative building in response to the local government’s refusal to organize Ramadan celebrations. As a result, the previous government jailed active HTI members for religious extremism, but Atambaev has kept his promise and released most of them in a recent amnesty1. It remains open to question whether a representative of an interim government has the political status or moral and legal right to deal with such a delicate issue.  The issues of whether or not those who were imprisoned for the Nukat events really were Islamic extremists and whether their convictions and sentences were fair require further investigation.  In its haste to free all the political prisoners of the previous regime, the interim government may have failed to distinguish between those who are and are not a threat to the country’s national security.

Kyrgyzstan’s interim government has scheduled parliamentary elections for this autumn. There is a real possibility that local extremists and/or Islamist radical activists will win seats under a masked status and with hidden agenda. Although the current Kyrgyz constitution prohibits the creation of political parties based exclusively on religious membership or principles, the interim government is amending the constitution and will hold a referendum on the document this summer, leading to the parliamentary and presidential elections.  Some Kyrgyz experts are promoting the idea of a Turkish-style parliamentary structure based on “a combination of religion with a secular system.”  However, Kyrgyz politicians and citizens alike would do well to remember that Turkey’s ruling Islamic party has substantially shifted Ankara’s disposition in the international arena, including new policies regarding Iran, Syria, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan’s polemics with Israeli President Shimon Peres on the Palestinian issue at last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos and his provocative statements on the Armenian genocide issue are just a few examples of Turkey’s Muslim shift in foreign policy.  In short, there are real questions about whether the Turkish model is appropriate for Kyrgyz nation-building and whether it will bring our country prosperity or Islamic nationalism.

Certain radical religious groups are trying to use the process of writing a new constitution in order to de-secularize Kyrgyzstan, openly challenging the democratic elements in Kyrgyz society. For instance, some political activists recently called for removing the word “secular” in the primary article of the constitution which states that “Kyrgyzstan is secular state.”2  This sparked heavy criticism from many civic groups, including democratic-oriented NGOs and youth organizations, which argued that such a step would violate the rights of those who do not belong to any registered confessions, for example, atheists.  Furthermore, it may provide a political opening to fundamentalists, in particularly Islamists.

Kyrgyz politicians and the public alike need to be clear about the potential consequences of facilitating increased religious involvement in politics and policy.  If Islamist politicians gain access into high politics in Kyrgyzstan, it will affect the entire security system of Central Asia.  Islamist politicians will seek anti-democratic and anti-Western initiatives, including the kind of anti-Semitism 2 seen in the capital right after the April 7 events, a turn to political isolation and a deterioration in  Kyrgyzstan’s relations with its neighbors, and demands for the withdrawal of the U.S. air base supporting anti-Taliban peacemaking operations in Afghanistan.

No one can say for sure whether Islamists will be successful in any foray they might make into electoral politics. If not successful, they may resort to various extreme, even coercive measures: destabilizing the situation in the country through bombings, shootings and looting.  Islamists have in the past played masterfully on interethnic, inter-clan and inter-regional tensions using masked attacks supposedly organized “on the behalf of previous regime by its supporters” in order to create a false impression of an opposition threat to stability and to provoke violence.

If we look at the Bangkok protest actions of the last three months, we find scenarios that might develop in Kyrgyzstan.3 There have been several unexplained and unclaimed IED explosions that have taken many innocent human lives.  The Red Shirts and the governments are accusing each other with undertaking these attacks, which have escalated tensions considerably.  Some argue that behind these explosions stands an unknown third party that could act as a “spoiler.”  Such a third party or spoiler could be the Islamist insurgents who have been fighting against the central Thai government in southern parts of the country for many years.  Protest actions in the main streets of Bangkok continue, and the perpetrators of these bomb explosions have yet to be identified and captured.  As we see in Thai case, both conflicting sides can become victims of attacks by a “the third party” and simultaneously become further polarized, making a peaceful resolution of the conflict even more difficult. This falls right into the hands of radical Islamist groups, which need to divide their secular opponents in order to defeat and rule them.

Here the issue of uncontrolled firearms is pivotal.  According to Kyrgyz law it is illegal for civilians to posses any kind of firearms.  At the same time, many of the guns used during the April protests were forcibly taken from police by protesters and most have not been returned.  As soon as possible the government should institute a gun-return program that would award financially those who return police arms.  Such a program will help prevent those firearms from falling into the hands of Islamists who would use them in any future political crisis.

In the meantime, Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Nikolai Bordyuzha has warned that some of the extremist organizations of Afghanistan are taking an active interest in Kyrgyzstan, that local and other foreign extremists and Islamic fundamentalists operate in Kyrgyzstan, and that such groups “are going to destabilize situation in the republic.”1  In other words, the regional security structure is keeping a close eye on the Kyrgyz crisis within the context of the overall Islamist threat to Central Asia, which could escalate.

Several politicians and leaders of clans in the country, including the head of the Communist party, have acknowledged that while the interim government is in full control of the situation in the capital and northern parts of the country (geographically approximately, 47 % of the country), this is not true in the southern provinces accessible from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and through them from Afghanistan.  Last week’s attempt by supporters of ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiev to seize several regional capitols in the south, including in Osh, underscores the interim government’s tentative hold on power and the ongoing danger that the Kyrgyz crisis poses to the country’s political stability and territorial integrity.

Conclusions

Kyrgyzstan’s interim government and every member of Kyrgyz society must be vigilant so as to thwart the potential threat that emanates from the Islamists and be prepared to thwart or respond robustly to any provocative actions taken by an Islamist or other “third party.”  At least through the constitutional referendum and parliamentary and presidential elections, a political opening will remain for Islamists to take advantage of the weakness of the Kyrgyz state, exacerbated by the present instability in the country, particularly in its vulnerable southern provinces.  The international community and regional powers would do well to do everything in their power to assist the current interim government in restoring and maintaining stability in Kyrgyzstan.

Erkinbek Kamalov, Student of Graduate Certificate Program in Peacebuilding Institute of Religion, Culture and Peace Payap University Thailand, holds MA in political science from the OSCE Academy.  He has worked for the OSCE and NGOs in Kyrgyzstan on issues related to security, interethnic conflict, inter- and intra-confessional relations, and border disputes between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan at the track II and III levels.

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Footnotes

[1] “Zaderzhan predpolagaemyi organizator terakta u OVD Karabulaka v Ingushetii,” Kavkaz uzel, 29 April 2010, 09:54, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/168236/.

[2] “V Ingushetii na meste provedeniya spetsoperatsii podorvalas’ terroristka-smertnitsa,” Kavkaz uzel, 9 April 2010, 17:08, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/167550/; “”FSB: ubityie v Ekazhevo boeviki prichastny k terakty v Karabulake,” Kavkaz uzel, 9 April 2010, 20:23, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/167556/; “Vilaiyat G-alg-aiche. V Ekazhevo stali Shakhidami (inshaalakh) troe modzhakhedov,” Kavkaz tsentr, 10 April 2010, 10:40, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2010/04/10/71684.shtml.

[3] “Podorvavshayasya v Ekazhevo smertnitsa byla rodstvennitsei ubitykh v khode spetsoperatsii boevikov,” Kavkaz uzel, 10 April 2010, 00:45, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/167562/.

[4] “Kolichestvo postradavshikh pri vzryve v Dagestane vozroslo do 17 chelovek,” Kavkaz uzel, 29 April 2010, 21:00, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/168263/.

[5] Abu-t-Tanvir Kavkazskii, “Vchera, segodnya, zavtra…,” Hunafa.com, 24 April 2010, 11:23, http://hunafa.com/?p=3451.

[6] “Siloviki ne somnevayutsya v prichastnosti ubitogo v Dagestane Rabadanova k teraktam v metro,” Kavkaz uzel, 29 April 2010, 20:00, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/168259/.

1          http://www.islamawareness.net/CentralAsia/Kyrgyzstan/iskyr.html

2          http://www.rferl.org/content/Kyrgyzstans_Mufti_Reported_Missing_/2020397.html

1          http://24.kg/community/74217-v-kyrgyzstane-iz-tyurem-osvobozhdeno-neskolko.html

2          http://www.akipress.com/_en_archive

2          http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/04/09/blood_in_the_streets_of_bishkek

3          http://www.bangkokpost.com/

1          http://eng.24.kg/cis/2010/05/12/11484.html

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GORDON HAHN’S RECENT MEDIA APPEARANCES

Readers might be interested in the following recent media appearances by IIPER’s author and publisher.

Professor Gordon M. Hahn appeared on Russia Today television’s ‘Crosstalk’ program on March 11th discussing international jihadism and the jihad in Russia’s North Caucasus.  The video of the program can be found on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQqba85wDGM.

On March 8th Dr. Hahn was interviewed and quoted for a Voice of America Russian language article on the Russians’ recent successful countEr-terrorism operation in which a leading Caucasus Emirate mujahed, Said Abu Saad Buryatsii (born Aleksandr Tikhomirov), was killed. The article by Aleks Grigorev “Seperatisty grozyt Rossii novymi vylazkami” can be read at http://www1.voanews.com/russian/news/Analysis-and-perspectives/checnya-Update-umarov-2010-03-08-86945147.html.

On March 29 Dr. Hahn was interviewed for 25 minutes on the Caucasus Emirate jihadi terrorist group and the Moscow subway bombings that day on Ian Masters’ “Background Briefing” program on KPFK, 90.7 in Los Angeles.  The archive link is: http://archive.kpfk.org/parchive/.

On the same day Dr. Hahn was interviewed for Russia Today’s “The Alyona Show” on the same subject.  The link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqpmBrEOeUkles<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqpmBrEOeUkles>.  The Alyona Show’s page on the RT site may be updated by now.

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ABOUT IIPER

The 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 are archived at http://www.miis.edu/academics/researchcenters/terrorism/research/Hahn/IIPER.

IIPER is compiled, edited and, unless otherwise indicated, written by Prof. Gordon M. Hahn.  Dr. Hahn is Senior Researcher at the  MonTREP and Visiting Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of International Policy Studies at MIIS.  He is also a Senior Researcher, at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group and an Analyst/Consultant for Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch, http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com.  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.

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

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 gordon.hahn@miis.edu or gordon-hahn@sbcglobal.net.