Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 6

The attacks by Jennet/ Sharia in Dagestan, along with the attacks by other jamaats like “Yarmuk” in Kabardino-Balkaria and “Khalifat” in Ingushetia, have increased concerns that violence by Islamic militants is on the rise in the North Caucasus. Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote on February 4 that extremist “Wahhabi organizations, connected with the Chechen underground and coordinated by a single center, are becoming increasingly persistent in trying to take over the role of authorities in the region.” According to the newspaper, the creation of a network of military jamaats began after the first Chechen war when the Arab field commander Khattab set up a center in Chechnya for teaching young people from neighboring republics “the basics of Wahhabism” and “the skills needed to conduct terrorist warfare.” “Today similar jamaats are mostly found in Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia,” Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote. “There are slightly fewer in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia, although they are constantly on the increase in these republics. Therefore, when Shamil Basaev says that he has no problem moving around the North Caucasus, he is not making this up, because he can find like-minded people anywhere.”

The newspaper also reported that counter-insurgency operations have not had a significant impact on these groups and that there is even a “Nogai Jamaat” operating in Stavropol Krai, which was “formed on Shamil Basaev’s instructions during the first Chechen war to control steppe settlements in Neftekumsky district of Stavropol and the neighboring Chechen district of Shelkovsky.”

In an interview published by the Kavkazcenter website on January 24, Movladi Udugov, the Chechen separatist official who currently goes by the title of “Chief of the External Subcommittee of the Informational Council of State Defense Council of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria,” noted that since the start of the second Chechen war in 1999, instability had spread to six neighboring republics, creating a “deep tectonic crisis.” “From the very start of the military aggression, the Kremlin set itself the task of localizing the war within the boundaries of Chechnya, ” Udugov said. “To maximally ‘Chechenize’ the war. To smash the resistance forces…The Chechen side answered that threat completely appropriately, setting itself the task of taking the war beyond Chechnya’s boundaries. To make the war maximally open and demonstrative. To make the war an object of international alarm…As experience shows, this was possible only by taking the war outside of Chechnya’s territory.”

Following the assassination of Dagestani Deputy Interior Minister Magomed Omarov, Nezavisimaya gazeta asked various leading politicians and other observers whether the federal center is losing control over the North Caucasus. Ramzan Abdulatipov, a Federation Council member who is an ethnic Avar from Dagestan, said: “What happened in Dagestan is a continuation of a chain of events that has been going on in the region for all of these years, and I don’t see anything new here. There have been tens, hundreds of such murders. And this time a courageous, principled person has again been murdered. Unfortunately, there is no certainty that something similar will not happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, because this is the state of the authorities. Let’s put it this way: the authorities have turned out to be incapable of protecting not only the citizenry, but themselves.”

Stanislav Belkovsky, who heads the National Strategy Institute and is said to have good connections with Kremlin siloviki, said the federal authorities are losing control of the situation in Caucasus in general and blamed this on what he called a policy of concessions to the pro-Moscow Chechen administration. “Moscow itself has created dangerous precedents that are already leading to and will lead in the future to the significant destabilization of the situation in the North Caucasus. In addition, the regions contiguous with Chechnya, having seen what concessions Moscow is prepared to make to the current government in Grozny, are highly perplexed why they, with their many years of loyalty to the federal center, were never able to win comparable terms from Moscow. Naturally, this arouses irritation and indignation.”