“Wahhabis” Suspected in Killing of Muslim Cleric

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 172

Ismail Bostanov

The Deputy Chairman of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Karachaevo-Cherkessia and Stavropol, Ismail Bostanov, was murdered in the city of Cherkessk on Sunday (September 20). Interfax quoted a law enforcement source in Karachaevo-Cherkessia as saying the attack took place when Bostanov’s was stopped at a traffic light and unidentified attackers opened fire on him. Bostanov was killed and his son was wounded and hospitalized (Interfax, September 20). According to other reports, the attack took place at a gas station (RIA Novosti, September 20). Bostanov was reportedly traveling back from a mosque in Ust-Dzheguta, south of Cherkessk, with his son when the attack occurred (www.newsru.com, September 20).

Bostanov was the Deputy Chairman of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Karachaevo-Cherkessia and Stavropol for over 20 years and rector of the Islamic Institute in Karachaevo-Cherkessia for more than 10 years (www.gazeta.ru, RIA Novosti, September 20). In December 2006, three masked attackers broke into Bostanov’s home in Cherkessk, knifed and shot him and with firearms and beat up his wife. However, investigators at the time concluded that attack was part of an attempted robbery because the raiders stole money from Bostanov’s house (Kommersant, September 21).

Ismail Berdiev, who is the mufti of Karachaevo-Cherkessia and head of the Coordination Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus, said yesterday that he is convinced that Bostanov was killed by "Wahhabis" -the standard term used by local officials in the North Caucasus, both governmental and religious, for Islamist rebels and their sympathizers. "And who else could it have been -he was not a businessman, so that it could have entered someone’s mind to kill him for the sake of money," Berdiev told Interfax, adding that Bostanov was known in Karachaevo-Cherkessia as "an active fighter against the spread of Wahhabi ideology." Berdiev expressed particular indignation over the fact that Bostanov’s murder took place on the Muslim holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan (Eid Al-Fitr started Sunday, September 20, in most Arab and Muslim countries as well as in North America and Europe). "It simply beggars the imagination that someone dared to commit this heinous crime on such a holy day," Berdiev said (www.newsru.com, September 20).

The Islamist rebel website Kavkaz Center reported Bostanov’s murder, describing him as a "murtad" (apostate) and an "evil enemy of Allah" who "carried out an anti-Islamic policy as rector of the ‘Islamic Institute.’" However, the website’s report did not include a claim of responsibility for the attack (www.kavkazcenter.com, September 20).

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov condemned Bostanov’s murder and urged all Muslims to unite against Wahhabism. "What has happened today proves again that all Muslims must act against Wahhabism," he said in a statement. "If we want to stem this evil, the fight against it must be tough and continued." Kadyrov said Bostanov was a deeply religious man and noted that the murder occurred during Ramadan. "He held an exceptionally principled position on reactionary Wahhabism and extremism. There were assassination attempts on his life before but they did not break his will or frighten him. In his sermons he led an uncompromising struggle against those who use Islamic slogans to commit cruel murders, terrorist acts and discredit our religion," he continued. Kadyrov conveyed his condolences to Bostanov’s relatives (RIA Novosti, September 20).

However, Kommersant reports today that many of Bostanov’s relatives and friends do not believe that "Wahhabis" killed him. "Ismail-khadzhi was not involved in witchcraft or other activities censured by both official Islam and the Islamic underground," the newspaper quoted one of the people gathered near the slain cleric’s home on Sunday. "As for the criticism [he] directed at the Wahhabis, all the imams rail against them, but they are not killed for it," the relative suggested. According to Kommersant, relatives of Bostanov said he had not recently received any threats (Kommersant, September 21).

Bostanov’s murder was denounced by the leaders of Russia’s religious establishment. The Council of Muftis of the Russian Federation issued a statement saying that Bostanov’s killers were among "the violent enemies of Islam and mankind" (Interfax, September 20). Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill conveyed his condolences and support to Russia’s Muslim leaders and said Bostanov’s murder was aimed at intimidating traditional Muslim leaders but it would only strengthen their desire for peace and accord in society (www.ruvr.ru, September 21). Russia’s Chief Rabbi, Berl Lazar, expressed his condolences to Bostanov’s family and Russia’s Muslim community and said he was convinced that representatives of all of Russia’s traditional religions would unite to demand "maximally harsh measures against the bandit [rebel] underground" and their accomplices (Interfax, September 21).

Whoever murdered Ismail Bostanov and whatever their motive was, the killing took place against the backdrop of escalating insurgent violence in the North Caucasus. Two members of the anti-extremism center of Ingushetia’s interior ministry were shot to death and another wounded in an attack Sunday. Interior ministry sources said the attack took place at 12:15 p.m., local time, on the Kavkaz federal highway near the village of Gazi-Yurt in Ingushetia’s Nazran district, when unidentified gunmen fired on a car in which the ministry employees were traveling (ITAR-TASS, September 20). RIA Novosti reported today that the three Ingush policemen shot in the attack were brothers and that all of them died on the spot (RIA Novosti, September 21).

On September 19, attackers first shot up and then blew up a high-voltage electric power line on the outskirts of the Ingush city of Karabulak. On September 18, a bomb exploded in front of a freight train in Karabulak. The train was not derailed and no one was hurt in the blast. On September 17, a bomb detonated as a police patrol car was passing by in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district. Two policemen were hurt in the blast and hospitalized. The previous day, September 16, there were reports of two powerful explosions and subsequent gunfire in Ordzhonikidzevskaya, but there were no details about how many people were wounded or killed, if any, in those incidents. Three insurgents were reportedly killed in a shootout with police in the city of Nazran on September 14 (www.kavkaz-uzel, September 19).

On September 19, an anonymous Federal Security Service (FSB) source was quoted as saying that among the three rebels killed in a security operation in Dagestan’s Kizlyar district that day was Abdullah Saadullaev, a Sharia judge aka Daud who was the "right hand" of the Dagestani rebel "emir" Umalat Magomedov. The source claimed Daud was found with letters addressed to various businessmen in Dagestan threatening them and ordering them to hand over 100,000 Euros or more (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, September 19).