The Revival of Ingushetia’s Insurgency

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 169

Anti-militant operation in Ingushetia, September 2011 (Source: ITAR-TASS)

Militants in Ingushetia have not been very active over the past year that is until quite recently. The break in insurgent activity was associated with the arrest of one of the most well-known field commanders of the North Caucasian underground movement-Emir Magas (aka Akhmed Yevloev-Taziev). It was the first time during the hostilities in the North Caucasus, including the two military campaigns in Chechnya, that such a high-level militant commander was captured by the Russians. Emir Magas was not simply the leader of the Ingush jamaat since its founding in 2000. After the death of Shamil Basaev in July 2006, Magas became the No. 2 ranking commander in the hierarchy of regional militants, occupying the position of the military emir of the North Caucasus armed resistance.

The killing of one of the main ideologists of Salafism (aka Wahabism) in the North Caucasus, Said Buryatsky (www.newsru.com, March 4, 2010), the arrest of Emir Magas (www.24news.ru, June 10, 2010) and the arrest of Magas’ supposed successor, Emir Adam (www.lenta.ru, September 27, 2010), along with the killing of a significant number of local jamaat emirs, suggested the Russian security services had successfully planted a spy within the Ingush jamaat.  These blows temporary paralyzed Ingushetia’s insurgency.

Prior to the arrests and killings of senior members of the Ingush jamaat, this small republic practically took the lead in the number of attacks in the North Caucasus, sometimes outperforming even the biggest republic in the region, Dagestan.

It has been argued that the death of the leader of a given jamaat has little effect on the overall situation in the jamaat because of its organizational structure. However, this premise does not especially hold true when a jamaat loses its mid-level field commanders along with their leader. That is exactly what happened to the Ingush jamaat in 2010 and to Kabardino-Balkaria’s Yarmuk jamaat in April-June of 2011. The simultaneous loss of the principal leader and mid-level commanders simply made it impossible for the jamaat to reorganize quickly. The mid-level commanders normally link up the local jamaats that otherwise have no connections with each other. In Ingushetia, the mid-level commanders are emirs of towns and villages, while in Kabardino-Balkaria, the mid-level commanders preside over sectors.

Thus, taking out of the leader at the same time as the mid-level commanders causes a temporary disruption within the jamaat.  Some time is required for the jamaat members to put forward their candidates to replace those who have been killed and for the leader of the Caucasus Emirate, Emir Doku Umarov, to approve or reject those candidates. This explains why after the killing of the leader of the Kabardino-Balkarian jamaat, Emir Abdallah (aka Asker Jappuev), on April 29, a successor has yet to be named. It is also worth noting that the Ingush jamaat leader, Emir Adam, uncharacteristically has not appeared on videos with Doku Umarov in the past year. Leaders of jamaats usually address people on the Internet with uncovered faces, thereby making it clear that there is no way back to civilian life for them.

According to the pro-insurgent media, Ingushetia came in second in the number of militant attacks in August (http://abror.info, September 10). In the past month, an estimated 60 attacks were carried out in Dagestan, 16 in Ingushetia, 13 in Kabardino-Balkaria and four in Chechnya. Sixteen servicemen were killed and 10 were wounded in Ingushetia, including two high-ranking Federal Security Service (FSB) officers. As a sign of the intensity of renewed activity in Ingushetia the militants managed to assassinate Magomed Korigov, the FSB’s principal official in Ingushetia’s Malgobek district, who was killed on August 27. Another representative of the FSB, Magomed Dzeitov, also was killed in neighboring Chechnya on August 30. On September 3, a 61-year-old mullah, Movldin Buzurtanov, was killed in the village of Nesterovskaya in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district. The mullah was gunned down by unknown persons in the courtyard of his house (http://ingushetiyaru.org, September 3). The lives of religious leaders of all levels are constantly at risk in the North Caucasus. On the one hand, the authorities demand that they publicly denounce Salafist ideology, which makes them enemies of the militants. On the other hand, if they do not attack Salafism, they risk becoming the enemies of the government, which usually pays their salaries.

On September 4, a patrol police officer in Sunzha district, Isa Geroev, was attacked. Although he was not hurt in the attack, his car and another one nearby were destroyed in the explosion. That same day, a powerful explosion took place at the headquarters of a Russian military detachment in Nazran. No casualties were reported, but two cars were again damaged by the explosion. That same night, an unidentified person hurled a hand grenade into the courtyard of a member of Ingushetia’s Supreme Court, Tagir Ozdoev (ITAR-TASS, September 5).

A no less significant event occurred in the central part of the town of Ordzhonikidzevskaya in Ingusehtia’s Sunzha district on September 4. Unidentified persons raised the black flag of the armed resistance movement on the spire of radio transmitting towers located at the post office in the center of the town. A bomb was found at the base of the tower (Interfax, September 4). Since this was the third case of the kind demonstrating the militants’ capabilities, one can conclude that the police prefer to turn a blind eye to what is going in this town at night. Curiously, the national press in Russia disclosed the discovery of this bomb (www.regnum.ru, September 4), but did not report that the insurgents had hoisted their flag on the tower.

In response to the militant attacks, the authorities launched a massive mopping-up operation in three districts of Ingushetia. Three suspected militants were killed and one detained during the operation (http://ingushetia.kavkaz-uzel.ru, September 8, 2011).

The Russian press also passed over in silence another important development in Ingushetia. On September 2, Ingushetia’s OMON (riot police force) seized the administration building of the president of Ingushetia (http://ingushetiyaru.org, September 3). The seizure of the building was not organized by the political opponents of Ingushetia’s President, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. Rather, the OMON members were protesting the replacement of their commander, Magomed Tsoroev, with a protégé of Yevkurov, Hussein Toldiev. Whatever the reasons for the protest, a mere several dozen people had quietly, in broad daylight, seized the building of the head of the republican government.

Yevkurov himself reportedly left the building to avoid negotiating with the rebel policemen and, through intermediaries, persuaded them to leave the building. The fact that not even a criminal investigation was launched against those who captured the government building – they were instead asked to explain their behavior in writing – reflect the weakness of Yevkurov’s positions. Such a reaction on his part is detrimental to his standing in the republic and will accelerate the federal government’s search for a more authoritative person to replace him.

Consequently, based on these events in August and early September, it can be concluded that Ingushetia is once again becoming one of the core hotspots in the North Caucasus. It will likely surpass Kabardino-Balkaria, but remain second to Dagestan, where the fight between the rebels and the federal government is projected to become especially heated.