Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 42

Kavkazky Uzel correspondent Lyudmila Maratova reported on October 24 that Islamist separatists in Karachaevo-Cherkessia have stepped up their activities this fall and that the Karachaevo-Cherkessia jamaat may have been behind a series of murders of clergymen and law-enforcement personnel in the republic.

Maratova quoted Fatima Tlisova, the Regnum news agency’s chief editor for the North Caucasus, as saying that the Karachaevo-Cherkessia jamaat was the first jamaat in the North Caucasus to be set up as a fighting unit and that it had taken part in fighting federal forces in Chechnya. “Its leaders were the first to fall under repression,” Tlisova told Kavkazky Uzel. “They were accused of carrying out a series of large-scale terrorist acts on Russian territory – in Moscow, in Volgodonsk, and so on. [This apparently refers to the bombing of apartment buildings in 1999] Today, the Karachaevo-Cherkessia jamaat has no public leaders. They were either destroyed, like Ramazan Borlakov, or are on the wanted list, like Ashamaz Gochiyaev. The jamaat itself is operating underground, carrying out, in essence, guerrilla warfare. They have drawn up lists of individuals targeted for liquidation and are working through those lists. The tactics of ambush and guerrilla actions have been peculiar to this jamaat from the start.”

Tlisova said that not all of the murders that have apparently been carried out by the Karachaevo-Cherkessia jamaat have been reported. According to Tlisova, prior to the killing of Abdulkerim Khadzhi-Bairamukov, the imam of the Karachaevsk city mosque and former deputy chairman of the Muslim Spiritual Board of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, who was shot dead by a masked gunman in the Karachaevsk mosque on August 4, six other Muslim clerics were murdered. “The murder of an FSB officer in September of this year also did not receive publicity,” she said, adding that the Karachaevo-Cherkessia jamaat has claimed on its website that it has carried out “hundreds” of assassinations.

As Maratova reported, Magomed Khubiev, the administration chief of the village of Eltarach in Karachaevo-Cherkessia’s Ust-Dzhegutinsky district and a nephew of Karachaevo-Cherkessia republican leader Mustafa Batdyev, was killed on October 2 by unidentified attackers in masks who locked the other members of his family in a separate room and then beat Khubiev to death. The attackers stole money and jewelry, which led investigators to conclude that the murder was part of a robbery. However, according to Maratova, many observers question this conclusion.

On August 12, Ismail Batchaev, who had served under Abdulkerim Khadzhi-Bairamukov when Khadzhi-Bairamukov was deputy chairman of the Muslim Spiritual Board of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, was knifed to death in his yard as he was performing his ablutions in preparation for prayer. His wife and daughter were also hospitalized with multiple knife wounds. A 33-year-old inhabitant of the village of Pregradnoi of Karachaevo-Cherkessia’s Urupsky district was arrested and identified by Batchaev’s daughter as the attacker.

Abubakir Kurbizhev, the imam of the Kislovodsk mosque and deputy chairman of the Muslim Spiritual Board of Stavropol Krai and Karachaevo-Cherkessia, was also murdered. According to Kavkazky Uzel, Kurbizhev was in Karachaevsk shortly before his death, and had said during a sermon he delivered there that “Wahhabis” were the main enemies of Muslims and that the fight against them was the main task of Muslim clerics.

Following Kurbizhev’s murder, police in Kislovodsk came into possession of a list apparently compiled by the Karachaevo-Cherkessia jamaat of “condemned” imams “who had, in the view of those who compiled the list, collaborated with the FSB and also had practiced sorcery,” Maratova wrote. The list, she said, was found “in a car without license plates that was apparently abandoned by the imam’s killers. Across from the names of the murdered imams were check marks. There is also information that the murdered imams had been warned. They were repeatedly threatened.”

Along with pro-government clerics, the Islamic militants in Karachaevo-Cherkessia have also been targeting law-enforcement personnel, Maratova reported. A group of rebels specializing in assassinating law-enforcement personnel was apparently responsible for killing eight policemen and seriously wounding three in Karachaevsk starting in the summer of 2005. Yet while various media outlets reported that this group of militants had been destroyed, policemen in the republic continue to be targeted. On September 11, a 24-year-old officer of the patrol-sentry service (PPS) was murdered in his apartment, and another PPS officer was killed four days later when a group of officers was fired on after being called to investigate an incident. The shooter in that incident was apprehended.

Maratova quoted Luisa Orazaeva, a Moskovskie novosti correspondent who is working on a book about the October 2005 attack on Nalchik, as saying that an organized group similar to the one behind the Nalchik raid appears to be operating in Karachaevo-Cherkessia. “Apparently, KChR [Karachaevo-Cherkessia Republic] radicals have drawn lessons from the events in the KBR [Kabardino-Cherkessia Republic], when practically everyone who took up arms was destroyed,” Orazaeva said. “They have therefore chosen another path: the path of permanent terror, as in other republics of the North Caucasus – Ingushetia and Dagestan. There is indirect evidence that the North Caucasian jamaats are connected to one another.”

Orazaeva added: “Inhabitants of Chechnya who are on the federal wanted list for sabotage-terrorist activity are periodically detained in the KChR and in the KBR. On July 3, V.S. Umaltov, an associate of Chechen militant leader Shamil Basaev, who was on the federal wanted list, was detained in Cherkessk. He was the emir of Chechnya’s Nadterechny district and commanded a group of ten people. It was established that he had participated in sabotage-terrorist acts against the sub-units of federal forces in Chechnya’s Nadterechny district and in Ingushetia in 2002-2004. Recently in Nalchik, two Chechen militants were also detained and transferred to the law-enforcement organs of Chechnya. It is known what kind of role the Ingush Ilyas Gorchkanov played in the events of October 13 [the October 2005 Nalchik raid], not to mention Shamil Basaev himself. The links between the jamaats are necessary for the flow of weapons, without which underground terrorist activity would be impossible.”

Lyudmila Maratova of Kavkazky Uzel reported that the heads of the regional anti-organized crime directorate (UBOP) and regional FSB branch in Karachaevo-Cherkessia held a coordinating meeting in the office of the republic’s prosecutor on September 28, during which they complained that the anti-terrorist measures taken in the republic had clearly proven to be inadequate. On October 13, a new chief of Karachaevo-Cherkessia’s FSB, Valery Ostrovetsky, took up his duties.

Meanwhile, the Cherkessk city prosecutor’s office on October 26 ordered the closure of all the gambling establishments in the republican capital. A spokeswoman for the office said that the closures were the result of an inspection jointly carried out by prosecutors together with the city’s police department, which found that 25 of the 50 gambling establishments registered in the city were not operating in compliance with a new republican law governing gambling establishment, while the other 25 were not open and thus could not be inspected.