In yet another sign of a serious split within the ranks of the North Caucasus insurgency, three top Chechen rebel field commanders have renounced their oath of allegiance to Doku Umarov, the Chechen rebel leader and “emir” of the North Caucasus Emirate. They then proceeded to elect a new leader – Khusein Gakaev, who is accused by the Chechen authorities for leading the attack on the home village of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov on August 29.
In a video posted on the Chechen rebel website Daymohk.org on October 7, Gakaev and two other Chechen rebel field commanders, Aslambek Vadalov and Tarkhan Gaziev, say they renounced their oath of allegiance to Umarov because he refused to seek the advice of other “emirs” and allegedly dismissed the Majlis al-Shura, the legislative organ of the North Caucasus Emirate. They also indicated that Umarov announced the creation of the North Caucasus Emirate in November 2007 without consulting other rebel leaders — although they add that the creation of the North Caucasus Emirate was a correct decision. The Chechen field commanders say in the video that Gakaev, aka Emir Khusein, has been elected as “Emir of the Vilayat of Nokhchicho [Chechnya].” Gakaev says that a new Majlis consisting of rebel emirs has been set up and will decide issues based on a majority of votes, as in a parliament.
The three Chechen rebel field commanders say that all Chechen mujahideen support them and that they may join up with the other militants of the North Caucasus after Umarov steps down as head of the North Caucasus Emirate. At the same time, they stress that they remain part of the North Caucasus Emirate and that they are not splitting off from their “brothers” of “the Vilayat of Dagestan, the Vilayat of Ingushetia, the Vilayat of Kabarda Balkaria and Karachai, from the Nogai” (http://daymohk.net/video/obrashenie1.mp4; www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 7; www.newsru.com, October 8).
On September 21, Umarov issued a video in which he, in his capacity as “emir” of the North Caucasus Emirate, dismissed three emirs from the Emirate’s Chechen sector –Gakaev, Vadalov and Gaziev – saying they had violated their oath of allegiance to him and that their actions had created a split in the ranks of the Emirate. Umarov said the three should be tried by the Emirate’s Sharia court. The video featured, along with Umarov, three other emirs — Abu Supyan (aka Supyan Abdullaev), Khamzat and Islam. Abdullaev, who is Umarov’s first deputy, said he would remain loyal to Umarov and criticized the mutinous emirs.
The split in the Caucasus Emirate first became evident on August 2, when Umarov announced that he was stepping down as the movement’s emir and handing over the leadership position to Vadalov. Just two days later, however, pro-rebel websites posted a video statement by Umarov, in which he announced that he was not stepping down as emir of the Caucasus Emirate and said that the video in which he had announced his resignation had been “fabricated.” On August 15, Gakaev released a statement announcing that Chechen rebel fighters would no longer take orders from Umarov but that they were still part of the Caucasus Emirate (EDM, September 30).
In a video posted to the Hunafa.com website on September 25, Umarov charged that Mukhannad, an Arab militant the Russian authorities say is al-Qaeda’s representative in the North Caucasus, was trying to sow dissension in the ranks of supporters of the jihad in the North Caucasus. Umarov claimed that Mukhannad had been an opponent of the North Caucasus Emirate from the moment of its creation and had tried to convince other militants that it had no future (http://hunafa.info/?p=3599#comments). According to the Kavkazsky Uzel website, experts view Umarov’s video attack on Mukhannad as an attempt by Umarov to retain control over the North Caucasus Emirate’s financial flows and also see the hand of the Russian special services in the feuding within the rebel ranks (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 7).
Meanwhile, the Kavkaz Center rebel website reported yesterday that the emirs of Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan and Sunzha districts have not renounced their oath of allegiance to Doku Umarov, nor have a number of rebel emirs in Chechnya’s Vedeno district, who plan to have a meeting with those emirs who renounced their oath of allegiance to Umarov in order to hear them explain why they took that step (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 7).