Another Jihad in the Caucasus

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 1 Issue: 3

On August 31 the jihadist ‘Kavkaz Center’ gave notice that it had received an e-mail signed by the “Information Council of Kabardino-Balkarian Islamic Jammat (War Council) ‘Yarmuk’.” The message ran: “We are notifying everyone that by mercy of Allah the Military Council of Kabardino-Balkaria Yarmuk has been formed today. Units of Yarmuk have been deployed all across the territory of Kabardino-Balkaria and are now starting to carry out the assigned combat missions in accordance with the requirements of Jihad.”

Kabardino-Balkaria is a constituent republic of the Russian Federation, located north of Georgia and west of Chechnya. Of its 715,000 population, a third are ethnic Russians, the remainder indigenous Kabardians and Balkars. It is unclear as to the level of support for the new Mujahideen in this region. The message is essentially an exhortative address to the Kabardino-Balkarian people, aimed at radicalizing them against the Russian administration. Their list of grievances is mostly generalized, holding the local and central authorities responsible for worsening corruption and economic conditions in the republic. At present the Mujahideen have a reputation problem, since much of the message was taken up by refutations of Russian claims that the group has been targeting civilians.

However, an emphasis is placed on the impediments to religious practice: “On their orders our mosques are getting closed down…the ban is put on spreading of the religion of Islam…ordinary Muslims of Kabardino-Balkaria are not allowed in the mosque without having a special permission”. These last points are interesting, since, in addition to targeting the ‘floating vote,’ the language is typical of that used to presage jihad on the grounds that Muslims are suffering an impediment to the practice of their faith. As with Daghestan last December, when Chechen fighters entered the republic sparking off a state of emergency, the risk of the Chechen conflict spilling over into neighboring areas where inter-ethnic relations are poor, remains high.