Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 47

Agence France-Presse reported on December 10 that Abu Omar al-Saif, described as “the purported spiritual leader of Arab fighters” in Chechnya, was killed in battle. The news agency quoted from “an Internet statement” that read: “Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Saif al-Jaber al-Buaynayn al-Tamimi, also known as Abu Omar al-Saif, the spiritual guide of the mujahideen (holy fighters) in Chechnya, was martyred during a fight with the Russians, the enemies of God.” AFP noted that the Internet statement could not be independently verified. According to AFP, “other Islamists’ sites” reported that Abu Omar’s wife was killed in the same battle, while a separate Internet statement reported that Jaber al-Taifi, deputy of the emir of the Arab mujahideen in Chechnya, the Jordanian Abu Hafs al-Ourdoni, had also been killed.

Various jihadist websites had reported Abu Omar’s death several days earlier: jihadunspun.com, for example, cited “credible Mujahideen sources” as reporting that Abu Omar—who the website described as “a top level” Saudi al-Qaeda commander in Chechnya and “personal military advisor” to Shamil Basaev – had been “martyred” during a Russian operation in Dagestan. “Unable to escape after Russian soldiers backed by helicopters surrounded his temporary hideout, Abu Omar allegedly detonated an explosive device he was carrying and became [a] shaheed,” Jihad Unspun reported. “Known as the ‘Imam of the Chechen Mujahideen,’ Abu Omar was a founder of the Arab-Afghan Mujahideen in Chechnya and was named by Russian officials as a suspect in numerous Caucasus-linked attacks, including the Moscow theater siege and Beslan.”

An anonymous FSB source told Interfax on December 10 that the agency had no information concerning Abu Omar’s death. As the Kavkazky Uzel website noted on December 10, the FSB previously claimed that Abu Omar was “the official representative of al-Qaeda in Chechnya.”

The separatist Chechenpress website stated in an item posted on December 14: “It is not so important to the main propaganda messenger whether Abu Omar is alive or not; the main thing is that the consumer of the disinformation believes in the presence of an al-Qaeda representative office or embassy in Chechnya.”