The rebel Kavkaz Center website on May 17 posted the transcript of an interview with Doku Umarov, the Chechen rebel leader who is also “emir” of the Caucasus Emirate.
Earlier, on May 11, Kavkaz Center denied rumors in the Russian press that Umarov was receiving medical treatment in Istanbul, Turkey, claiming that just a week earlier, Umarov had met with Chechen rebel field commanders. The website also claimed that the head of the Riyadus-Salikhin suicide bombers brigade, Emir Khamzat, attended that meeting (www.kavkazcenter.com, May 11). Some Russian officials had earlier speculated that both Umarov and Khamzat had been killed in a special operation near the village of Upper Alkun in Ingushetia on March 28. It was confirmed that Umarov’s aide and designated successor, Supyan Abdullaev, was killed in that operation. In April, Umarov telephoned the Chechen service of Radio Free Europe to deny he had been killed (EDM, April 15).
In the interview posted May 17, Umarov was asked whether the killing of several rebel field commanders in recent security operations –which the website’s interviewer called “notable losses” –had weakened the rebels. Umarov said that the losses “have not weakened us and will not weaken us in the future, God willing,” stating that a war without losses is not possible and that the “jihad” has “widened and strengthened” since 1999 despite the loss of “very many emirs and leaders.” He conceded that the losses have forced the rebels to change their plans and “tactics in the field,” but added that the current “calm” in Ingushetia, for example, does not signify an “erosion of the position of the mujahideen.” He said the rebels are not in a hurry and “regard the Caucasus Emirate and Russia as a single theater of military operations.”
Umarov seemed to confirm that his Islamist wing of the rebel movement has abandoned the secular nationalist aims of the Chechen rebels of the 1990’s. “The time has passed when we wanted to separate and dreamed of building our little Chechen Kuwait in the Caucasus,” he said, adding “Today, when you tell the young mujahideen about that history, they are surprised and want to know how those plans were connected with the Quran and Sunnah.” He stated: “Now we know that we should not secede, but must unite with our brothers in faith. We must recapture Astrakhan, Idel-Ural, Siberia and indigenous Muslim lands.” After that, the rebels will “also sort out” Moscow, “God willing,” Umarov said.
Asked about the killing of Osama bin Laden, Umarov said: “If the death of Sheikh Osama bin Laden is confirmed, then we can only state the words from the holy Koran ‘We all belong to Allah, and to Him shall return.’ We ask Allah to accept the martyrdom of Sheikh Bin Laden, because this person left his riches and quiet civilian life for the sake of protecting Islam. And this is a great purpose that deserves a great reward.” As for whether bin Laden’s death would benefit the West, Umarov said “the infidels themselves do not believe that their lives will be made easier.” He added: “According to all indications, it is apparent that the condition the world is one in which the deaths of leaders of the jihad cannot stop the process of the rebirth of Islam.”
Asked about the uprisings sweeping the Arab world, Umarov said they were a surprise for both the West and the “Arab regimes,” but added that “the Western countries” are trying to “saddle the wave” of Arab revolutions and managing to do so, although not everywhere.
Umarov concluded the interview by saying that “without the armed forces of Muslims, without jihad, without fighting, nobody will permit us to establish Allah’s Sharia” (http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2011/05/17/81607.shtml). to Umarov’s latest interview, Ziyad Sabsabi, a member of the Russian Federation Council from Chechnya, said the rebel leader’s comments should be taken seriously because any “evil” or “criminal” act could be perpetrated by “such an unbalanced man.” Sabsabi said Umarov’s forces are not capable of conducting large-scale operations, but added that a suicide bombing could not be ruled out.
He also gave some credence to Russian press reports that Umarov may be in Georgia, stating that “they may receive him there” and that Umarov has been injured several times and may be receiving treatment somewhere. “We are looking for him in Chechnya, that much is clear,” Sabsabi added. He also reiterated the Chechen authorities’ oft-repeated promise that Umarov will be eliminated in the near future (Interfax, May 17).