The Specter of Shahids Continues to Haunt Russia

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 64

Doku Umarov, North Caucasus militant leader.

The Russian security services is now asserting that the massive terrorist attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on January 24, in which 37 people were killed and 120 more injured, will not be the last action carried out by a shahid (martyr) – meaning a suicide bomber – from the North Caucasus. On March 28, a large-scale special operation aimed at neutralizing insurgents was conducted in Ingushetia in the northeastern Caucasus while, simultaneously, a number of alleged participants in the Domodedovo terrorist attack were detained. A distinctive feature of this operation by the siloviki, as the Russian law enforcement agencies are known, was that the Russian air force took part in it, meaning that it was the first time since the spring of 2010 that an operation of this magnitude involved the army, police and the Federal Security Service (FSB). That indicates the importance that the Russian authorities attached to this operation. “The operation in Ingushetia had been planned and put together for a long time, and only very few knew about it,” an anonymous source from the siloviki said. According to the National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAK), as a result of pinpoint air strikes and ground operations, a base of militants at which suicide bombers were allegedly trained was destroyed (www.rian.ru/defense_safety/20110328/358706552.html).

It was announced on the evening of March 28 that 17 militants had been liquidated at the base. Nevertheless, it is hard to believe that in such a small republic as Ingushetia, one that is flooded with the army and the FSB, a large training base for training shahids could have been set up. What could suicide bombers learn there? Did the instructors make models of sites for bombings? Or were the aspiring shahids taught how to blow themselves up? In all likelihood, there must be something else behind this odd wording. One can assume that the entire operation was carried out specifically to hunt down Doku Umarov, the leader of the armed opposition of the North Caucasus, who is geographically located at the juncture of the two North Caucasus republics, Chechnya and Ingushetia. Having failed to identify Umarov among those who were eliminated in the operation, the siloviki then came up with the story of a “terrorist base” where suicide bombers were being allegedly trained.

According to preliminary reports, the body of Supyan Abdullaev, who was considered to be the likely successor to Doku Umarov, was found among the dead, which confirms the version that the planners of the air strikes thought the group they targeted might have included Umarov himself. As for the story of the “terrorist camp,” it was just a cover in case the body of the emir of the North Caucasus Emirate could not be discovered. And as a supplement to such a gargantuan operation with the use of Russian military aviation, it was announced that two alleged terrorists involved in the Domodedovo bombing – identified as the brothers Islam and Ilyas Yandiev – had been detained. But this announcement tells us little if anything about those who closely follow the situation in Ingushetia (http://gazeta.ru/news/lenta/2011/03/28/n_1767217.shtml). According to the official version, it was the Yandiev brothers who had driven Magomed Yevloev, the suicide bomber, to Domodedovo airport.

Apparently, March 28 was supposed to be a big day not only by the standards of Ingushetia. In the neighboring republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, the siloviki killed Asker Khazhirokov in the vicinity of the capital Nalchik. His car was targeted by security forces who alleged that there was a bomb inside it and that the car had to be blown up on the spot. Nikolai Svintsov, an official representative of the NAC, claimed that Khazhirokov was none other than the leader of the Nalchik Jamaat.

Thus it appears that, despite a lot of work, Svintsov was unable to familiarize himself with the names of the actual leadership of the Kabardino-Balkaria Jamaat, given that Asker Khazhirokov does not appear among the jamaat leaders responsible for the city of Nalchik. Moreover, the interior ministry of Kabardino-Balkaria apparently forgot to include Khazhirokov among the other 37 wanted members of the local jamaat (www.mvd-kbr.ru/index.php?Page=rozisk6). This latest attempt to present a dead militant as “leader” is apparently meant to attach significance to the scale of a special operation. Oddly enough, all those liquidated by the Russians are proclaimed “leaders,” which makes us think that all militants of the armed opposition in the North Caucasus belong to just one category – commanders of various levels –  but none of them are ordinary rebels.

Another piece of news from the North Caucasus was the announcement that two young women from Dagestan were wanted by Russian authorities. A representative of Dagestan’s interior ministry said 18-year-old Zeynap Magomedova and 22-year-old Patimat Ramazanova were on the wanted list: according to the siloviki, they were undergoing training by militants as suicide bombers (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/182922/). According to local police in Dagestan, the two women had departed for parts unknown and could show up in Moscow to perpetrate suicide bombings. Meanwhile, there was no announcement in this regard on the official website of the interior ministry as of the morning of March 29. However, it soon became known that the alleged “fugitives” had been living in a Dagestani village for several months, had not gone anywhere and did not intend to do so, and had learned from television that they were declared as wannabe female suicide bombers.

A week earlier, on March 22, the Ingush siloviki were searching for a woman named Malika Turazova. Born in Chechnya in 1987 and a native of the Ingush village of Nesterovskaya, she left her house on March 11 “in an unknown direction.” According to information available to Russian police and intelligence services, Turazova could be used as a suicide bomber because, they claimed, she was the widow of a militant and her brother was also wanted by the Chechen interior ministry as a member of the armed resistance movement (http://abkhasia.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/182634/). Turazova is now officially on the wanted list posted on the website of the Ingush interior ministry, which indicates that authorities are confident of her dangerous intentions.

After the suicide bombings in the Moscow metro on March 29, 2010, which were carried out by female shahids, and the suicide bombing at Domodedovo airport, the news of a possible new strike in Moscow is stoking anti-Caucasus sentiments across Russia. The atmosphere in Russian society has become enormously strained after each suicide bombing, and every single Caucasian is seen as an enemy, forcing many Caucasians to flee the Russian capital.

Nazi swastikas are being painted on the door of Caucasians – as was the case with a Chechen journalist who lives in Moscow and publishes an independent Caucasus magazine – or defamatory statements are made against Caucasians, demanding that they leave Moscow and go back to their mountains. Some who can afford to are seriously considering moving to Western countries, fearing for the well-being of their children. The actions of Russian nationalists are prompting a need to define the relationship between the federal center and the North Caucasus, which in Russia is widely believed to be a region that is subsidized in many areas of the economy. The fact that the North Caucasus, where only 6.3 percent of the Russian population lives, receives 22 percent of all the federal subsidies allocated to the regions speaks abundantly to the costs borne by the federal center in trying to suppress the armed opposition in the region (http://www.stoletie.ru, February 2). The question that remains, however, is how long the center will be ready and able to hold on to a region that is becoming increasingly distant from Moscow.