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Changes in the Caucasus Emirate’s Leadership and Structure After the Defections to the Islamic State


by Gordon M. Hahn

The month of April has seen several mid-level amirs give the Islamic loyalty oath or bayat to either Caucasus Emirate (CE) amir Ali Abu Mukhammad ad-Dagistani (born Aliaskhab Kebekov) or to Abu Usman Arakanskii (born Kamil Saidov), the new amir of the CE’s most powerful network, the Dagestan Vilaiyat (DV), based in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, which recently split after defections to the Islamic State (IS, aka ISIL, ISIS Daesh, Dovla). In December, a number of CE DV amirs defected to IS, including the powerful amir of the DV Abu Mukhammad, born Rustam Asildarov (see http://gordonhahn.com/2015/03/10/the-islamic-state-al-qaida-tussle-over-the-caucasus-emirate-continues/; http://gordonhahn.com/2015/02/18/is-putin-winning-his-war-against-jihadism/; and http://gordonhahn.com/2015/02/14/the-expanding-globalization-of-the-north-caucasus-jihadists/).

The CE is divided into at least four vilaiyats (provinces, governates): the DV, Chechnya’s Nokhchicho Vialaiyat (NV), Ingushetiya’s Galgaiche Vilaiyat (GV), and the United Vilaiyat of Kabardiya, Balkariya and Karachai (OVKBK) which covers Russia’s North Caucasus republics of Kabardino-Balkariya and Karachaevo-Cherkessiya.

On April 15th the DV’s website, VDagestan.com, posted a short video showing the amir of the Untsukul District (Raion) in Dagestan amir Shamil Balakanskii bayat to DV amir Abu Usman Arakanskii. He also called on those who defected to IS to return to the CE fold (http://vdagestan.com/prisyaga-amira-uncukulskogo-rajona.djihad). On the same day and in a video on the same DV site, the amir of the Shamil District, who did not give his name, pledged the bayat to Arakanskii as well (http://vdagestan.com/prisyaga-amira-mudzhaxidov-shamilskogo-rajona.djihad) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-EpJiyXnRs&feature=youtu.be). In March the amir of the DV’s Central Sector (TsS), Umar Balkanskii, gave his bayat to Arakanskii (http://vdagestan.com/prisyaga-amira-centralnogo-sektora-vd-amiru-vd-saidu-arakanskomu-video.djihad). The CE DV TsS has been the most powerful among the DV’s various sectors: the Central, Northern, Southern, Mountain and Shamilkala Sectors.

On April 6th, a video posted on the CE’s main website, Kavkaz tsentr, showed amir Abdur Rakhim, the amir of the GV’s Malgobek Sector giving his bayat to CE amir Dagistani (www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2015/04/06/108613.shtml).

Thus, we can tentatively outline the leadership and structure of the CE after the defections to IS as follows.


Table 1: CAUCASUS EMIRATE (CE) TOP STRUCTURE AND LEADERSHIP, 15 April 2015 (after the defections to IS)


Amir – ‘Ali Abu Mukhammad ad-Dagistani’ (formerly CE Qadi, born Aliaskhab Alibulatoich Kebekov).

Naib – unclear, perhaps the CE’s Military Amir ‘Khamzat’ Aslan Byutukaev – (also NV amir and Amir of the Riyadus-Salikhiin Martyrs Brigade).

Qadi – perhaps still ‘Ali Abu Mukhammad ad-Dagistani’.

Military Amir – ‘Khamzat’ Aslan Byutukaev. Predecessors: ‘Adam’ Jamalleil Mutaliev (GV amir, killed May 20, 2013, http://hunafa.com/?p=14948); ‘Magas’ Ali Taziyev (captured June 2010).

Envoy to Arab Countries – Salim al-Kavkazi, (runs the CE’s official Arabic language http://www.i-qooqaz.com website, http://www.i-qooqaz.com/?page_id=196 and http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/03/03/103405.shtml).

Editor of CE’s main website Kavkaz tsentr (www.kavkazcenter.com) – Ruslan (Muslim) Sinbagirov.



DV Amir/Vali – Sayid ‘Abu Mukhamad’ Arakanskiy.

DV Amir’s Naib – unknown.

DV’s Shariah Court Qadi – Sheikh Muhammad Abu Usman Al-Gimravii (b. Magomed Suleimanov), also DV Mountain Sector’s amir.

DV Sectors

SHAMILKALA (MAKHACHKALA) SECTOR: Amir – unknown (Abu Mukhammad Agachaulskii defected to IS).

MOUNTAIN SECTOR: Amir – Sheikh Muhammad Abu Usman Al-Gimravii (Magomed Suleimanov).

CENTRAL SECTOR: Amir – Umar Balakanskii.

            -Untsukul District (Raion): Amir – Shamil Balakanskii (15 April 2015 – present).

SOUTHERN SECTOR: Amir – Abu Yasir.

NORTHERN SECTOR: Amir – Asadullah

            -Khasavyurt Jamaat: Amir – Islam


NOKCHICHO VILAIYAT (NV) (Chechnya): Amir – ‘Khamzat’ Aslan Byutukaev – (also CE Military Amir, NV amir and Amir of the Riyadus-Salikhiin Martyrs Brigade) Predecessor: late CE amir ‘Abu Usman’ Doku Umarov.

Naib – unknown.

Qadi – unknown.

Eastern Front Amir – unknown (Markhan defected to IS).

Western Front Amir – Islam.


GALGAICHE VILAIYAT (GV) (Ingushetiya): Amir – Unknown. Predecessor: ‘Abdullah’ Artur Gatagazhev (killed 23 May 2014).

Malgobek Sector Amir – Abdur Rakhim (cited 6 April 2015).



Amir – Salim (September 2014 – present, http://www.islamdin.com/video/1805-baygat.html). 

Naib – unknown.

Qadi – unknown.



The only known former CE amirs and structures that have defected to IS are listed below in Table 2. 


Table 2: CE IS Structure and Leadership(tentative)


Amir – Abu Mukhammad Rustem Asildarov (formerly CE DV amir)

Naib – Abu Mukhammad Agachaulskii – (formerly CE DV TsS Makhachkala Sector Amir)


Dagestan Vilaiyat

Amir – Abu Mukhammad Agachaulskii – (formerly CE DV TsS Makhachkala Sector Amir)

Other – Aukovskii Jamaat


Nokchicho Vilaiyat

Amir – Markhan (formerly CE NV Eastern Front Amir)


Thus, it remains to be seen how this new CE split will shake out for the the CE and the CE IS. Driven by IS and its conflict with AQ in the broader global jihadi revolutionary alliance, the split has created a divided jihadi movement in Russia’s North Caucasus. Will this split spread to groups that may still exist elsewhere in Russia, such as tatarstan, and Bashkortostan? Will the CE Is deverlop new strategies and tactics as extremists as those carried out in Iraq and Syria? Will some or all of the CE IS amirs and mujahedin make the jihadi ‘hijra’, as thousands of CE and other North Caucasus Islamists have since 2012? These are just some of the questions the CE/CE IS split in the North Caucasus raises.


Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch; and Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor, MonTREP, Monterey, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics and wrote, edited and published the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report at CSIS from 2010-2013. Dr. Hahn has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and a Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute.

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