Two North Caucasus Rebel Leaders Face Off in Islamic State–Caucasus Emirate Dispute

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 120

Caucasus Emirate's amir Abu Usman (Source: International Business Times)

Following multiple pledges of allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) by rebel amirs in Chechnya and Dagestan, a new statement, allegedly on behalf of all of the former amirs of the Caucasus Emirate appeared on the Internet on June 21 (, June 21). A voice with a Chechen accent reads the text of the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which declares: “We testify that all Mujahideen of the Caucasus—in the Velayats of Nokhchiycho [Chechnya], Dagestan, Galgaicho [Ingushetia] and KBK [Kabarda, Balkaria and Karachay]—are united in their decision and we do not have differences among ourselves.” Nothing has been heard from the amir of the KBK Velayat, Salim (a. k. a. Zalim Shebzukhov), on this issue; in any case, the Russian security services claim he was killed in April 2015 (Kavkazsky Uzel, April 16). In January 2015, Amir Salim took the side of the then-amir of the Caucasus Emirate, Abu Muhammad (Aliaskhab Kebekov), in his conflict with supporters of IS (, January 10). The KBK leader may also have switched sides to IS after Chechen Amir Khamzat (Aslan Byutukaev) pledged allegiance this organization. It would be hard for the KBK jamaat to survive without switching to IS after their Chechen fellow insurgents did so.

While this latest oath of allegiance claims that all the militants of the North Caucasus are now loyal to IS and ready to fight on the orders of al-Baghdadi, in fact this is not yet the end of the Caucasus Emirate. There is still one well-known amir who is loyal to the Caucasus Emirate—Abu Usman Gimrinsky (Magomed Suleimanov), the Emirate’s qadi (Muslim judge) and amir of the group’s Mountainous Sector of Dagestan. Late last year and in January of this year, he repeatedly harshly criticized all those who pledged allegiance to IS (, December 26).

At one point there were rumors Abu Usman had been appointed amir of the Caucasus Emirate. But such appointments are not kept secret, and the group’s sources would have announced such a development by now. Not many persons are currently available for the position of Caucasus Emirate leader, so Abu Usman’s appointment as leader of the remaining Caucasus Emirate forces would be logical. He is a 39-year-old native the village of Gimry, the birthplace of Gazi-Muhammad, the first imam of Dagestan, and Shamil, the imam of Dagestan and Chechnya. After graduating from the al-Fatih Islamic Institute in Damascus, Abu Usman preached in Gimry’s mosque. In 2007, the preacher joined the underground movement, but a year later he returned to civilian life. In 2009, Abu Usman joined the militants once again. Since then, the Muslim cleric has led the militants of the Mountainous Sector of Dagestan. In 2010, he became the qadi of all Dagestan (, May 28).

The official website of the Caucasus Emirate’s representative abroad—Akhmad Umarov, the brother of the group’s late leader, Doku Umarov—has not been updated for the past two weeks and has not provided any comments about what is going on inside the group (, June 24). What happens to the remaining members of the Caucasus Emirate will become clearer in the near future. In any case, they will have to make a choice, and it is unlikely that they will choose an isolated existence. According to Russian experts, the Caucasus Emirate has become obsolete and its members have pledged allegiance to a person they believe has leadership qualities—IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. However, one leading Russian expert on the North Caucasus, Akhmet Yarlykapov, thinks that it is too early to discount the Caucasus Emirate. “I contend that the ‘Emirate’ has been weakened but still is present in the form of cells,” he told the Kavkazsky Uzel website. “I do not know yet to what extent those cells have switched [their allegiance] to IS. It is too early to discount the ‘Emirate,’ but the trend is that it is slowly losing ground” (Kavkazsky Uzel, June 23).

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has supposedly appointed Abu Muhammad Kadarsky (Rustam Asildarov) as the amir of the newly-established Velayat Kavkaz. Murad Attaev, a Russian-speaking representative of IS on Twitter who resides in Germany, reported this via his account (, June 23). Abu Muhammad Kadarsky was the amir and wali (guardian) of Dagestan in the Caucasus Emirate’s system—a position Doku Umarov appointed him to in August 2012. Even though Kadarsky was born in Kalmykia, his family comes from the village of Kadar, in the Kadar zone of Dagestan’s Buinaksk district. Born in 1981, the 38-year-old Kadarsky has been in the ranks of the insurgency nearly for the past ten years. In 2007, he was arrested and sentenced to a prison term. However, Dagestan’s Supreme Court exonerated him, which allowed him to resume his insurgent activities (, accessed June 26).

Kadarsky has been on the federal wanted list since 2011, on charges of manslaughter and arms trafficking (, accessed June 26). The authorities suspect him of involvement in attempts on the lives of law enforcement agents, the killing of five hunters in Dagestan’s Karabudakhkent district, the shooting of four men in a forest in Dagestan’s Buinaksk district, the killing of sheikh Said Chirkeisky, and many other crimes. The Islamic States has essentially appointed this odious figure as its representative in the North Caucasus.

Thus, two strong figures in the armed underground of the North Caucasus currently are at loggerheads over whether to belong to the Caucasus Emirate or the Islamic State, and both of them are from Dagestan. Their differences are so significant that it is hard to predict what they will do in the near future.