Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 01/2009

North Caucasus Weekly - Volume IX, Issue 47

December 2008

North Caucasus Weekly (formerly Chechnya Weekly), The Jamestown Foundation


* Ingush President Makes Opposition Lawyer His Adviser
* Kadyrov Performs the Hajj Pilgrimage
* Sharia Jamaat Threatens Dagestani Police, Officials, Clergy
* KBR Authorities Again Vow to Catch Anzor Astemirov
* Militant Actions Shake Up Dagestan

Ingush President Makes Opposition Lawyer His Adviser

Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov this week appointed Musa Pliyev, the lawyer for the family of the slain opposition website founder, Magomed Yevloyev, as an adviser on law-enforcement issues. Pliyev told the Moscow Times that Yevkurov signed the decree appointing him to the position on December 7, and Yevkurov's press service confirmed the appointment to Interfax the following day. As the English-language newspaper noted, soon after he was named to replace Murat Zyazikov as Ingushetia's president, Yevkurov named a leading opposition figure, Magomed-Sali Aushev, to be a deputy prime minister in the republican government. He also named figures said to be close to former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev to key positions in the new republican government (North Caucasus Weekly, November 24).

The Moscow Times on December 9 quoted political analysts as saying that the appointments show Yevkurov is attempting to stabilize the violence-plagued republic by balancing competing clans. It also quoted analysts as saying the appointment of opposition figures also shows the Ingush president is trying to distance himself from the highly unpopular former president, Murat Zyazikov. "At the very least, the Ingush opposition that was very active in the Russian media will not consider Yevkurov a clear enemy," said Nikolai Silayev, a researcher at the Center for Caucasus Studies with the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations. The Moscow Times also quoted Silayev as saying he doubted Pliyev would hold much sway with law-enforcement authorities, but that he could become an alternative channel of information for Yevkurov about what is going in Ingush society.

In addition, Yevkurov told a meeting of veterans and former Interior Ministry employees on December 7 that a certification of the republican Interior Ministry's staff will be carried out in the near future. Itar-Tass quoted him as saying that the republic's inhabitants must trust the police, and thus the police force must have "honest" and "decent" employees. Yevkurov said it is also necessary to increase the number of policemen in the republic while updating their vehicle fleet and weaponry. He also noted that there are a large number of people in Ingushetia who were removed from the police force for various reasons and that a telephone hotline will be opened for such people and a commission will be set up to deal with each of their cases. Yevkurov said that district police have a key role in guaranteeing law and order in the republic. "Close cooperation between the district police and the population is needed, as is close cooperation between the clergy and the population," he said.

Meanwhile, a Nazran court on December 10 rejected a request by Magomed Yevloyev's family to reclassify his death in police custody on August 31 as a murder, RIA Novosti reported. The police claimed that Yevloyev's shooting death was the result of a police officer's gun that had accidentally gone off. Yevloyev's family and allies, however, insist he was killed deliberately and accuse Zyazikov and other ex-officials, including former Ingush Interior Minister Musa Medov, of being behind the killing.

Musa Pliyev called the December 10 ruling "unlawful" and claimed the judge had "been under pressure and made the decision directed by her own thoughts not by the law." He also said the ruling would be appealed to Ingushetia's Supreme Court.

At the same time, the new Ingush president's overtures to the opposition thus far seem to have done little to tamp down the republic's armed Islamic underground. A police officer was wounded while pursuing militants on the outskirts of the village of Sredniye Achaluki in Ingushetia's Malgobek district on December 9. A spokesperson for the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor-General's Office branch in Ingushetia told Interfax that the police were pursuing gunmen who had fired on a police post and had chased four persons in a suspicious car who dumped the vehicle on the outskirts of the village, opened fire on their pursuers, wounding one policeman, and escaped.
In other incidents on December 9, a checkpoint manned by members of the road patrol service and police force on the outskirts of the village of Zyazikov-Yurt in Ingushetia's Malgobeksky district came under small-arms fire but no one was hurt in the attack, Itar-Tass reported. A serviceman was wounded when unidentified attackers fired on servicemen outside the base of the 503rd Motor-Rifle Regiment in the village of Troitskaya in Ingushetia's Sunzhensky district. In other attacks on December 9, Interfax reported that a warrant officer was wounded by unidentified gunmen in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya, also in Ingushetia's Sunzhensky district, while unidentified attackers shot and wounded a policeman and a local resident outside the Nazran city police department.

On December 6, two militants were killed in Nazran in a gun battle with police after they were cornered in a house, the Associated Press reported, citing the Ingush Interior Ministry. The ministry told the news agency that attackers fired on investigators combing the site after the shooting, wounding two officers and three people in the crowd watching the event. The ministry also said attackers opened fire on a military post in the village of Troitskaya, but reported no injuries in the 10-minute exchange of fire.

On December 4, unidentified gunmen shot and killed a former police officer, Timur Magushkov, in Nazran, Interfax reported. The previous day--December 3--the Caucasus Times quoted a source in the Ingush branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) as saying that two residents of the republic's Sunzha district had been detained and a large arsenal had been seized from them. The weapons taken from them included more than a dozen rocket-propelled and anti-tank grenades and launchers and more than 1,300 7.62 mm cartridges.

Also on December 4, a bomb went off in the basement of a slot machine parlor in Nazran, seriously damaging the building. No one was hurt in the blast.

Kadyrov Performs the Hajj Pilgrimage

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Muzdalifah, near Mecca, in Saudi Arabia on December 9. Ziyad Sabsabi, the Russian Federation Council member representing Chechnya, also took part in the meeting and told Interfax that Kadyrov and Abbas "unanimously noted that terrorism is an evil which is absolutely unacceptable as a tool of domestic and foreign politics." Sabasai quoted Kadyrov and Abbas as saying that "there can be no compromise in the fight against terrorism," and that "every effort of the international community should be aimed at its full eradication." According to Sabsabi, Abbas said he has "been closely watching the situation in Chechnya for a long time and knows about the positive shifts which are happening" there and that he "fully and unconditionally backs measures taken by the Chechen authorities and approves of the policy which Kadyrov has been and is pursuing to restore Chechnya."
 Kadyrov, for his part, told Abbas that the positive changes in Chechnya have happened thanks to the support of the Russian federal authorities, and added "the Chechen people has been and are a resolute opponent of any manifestation of international terrorism and are advocates of the spiritual, moral and civil values of the Russian peoples."

Kadyrov traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj pilgrimage and his press service quoted him as saying on December 6 that he planned to pray for the peace and wellbeing of Chechnya and Russia as a whole on the following day at Mount Arafat, southeast of Mecca. quoted Kadyrov as saying that after fulfilling his religious duties he planned to meet with Saudi King Abdullah and thank him for the hospitality and attention to the Chechen Republic the kingdom had shown by playing host to pilgrims from Chechnya. According to, more than 3,000 Chechens are performing the Hajj this year.

Back at home in Chechnya, meanwhile, the situation was something less than peaceful. Kavkazky Uzel on December 7 quoted the Chechen military commandant's office as saying that a senior police sergeant had been wounded in the leg when unidentified attackers fired on vehicles carrying police and servicemen near the village of Shalazhi in Chechnya's Urus-Martan district.

Meanwhile, three members of a family were reportedly murdered in the mountain village of Agishty in Chechnya's Vedeno district on November 4. Citing law-enforcement sources, Kavkazky Uzel reported that 72-year-old Khadzhi Sadulayev, his 58-year-old wife Taus and their 32-year-old son Salman were shot to death in their home by a group of unidentified attackers who then set the house on fire and fled. A criminal investigation into the murders has been launched.

Kavkazky Uzel noted that the New York Times reported in early 2008 that Chechen authorities had launched a campaign of punishing alleged family members of rebels that included burning down their houses. In addition, Kavkazky Uzel reported that local residents in Vedeno had announced a boycott of family members of "illegal armed formations." The website reported, however, that while the local authorities claimed the boycott was initiated by the local inhabitants themselves at a meeting, many Vedeno district residents they did not know when or where such a meeting took place (North Caucasus Weekly, October 12).

Yet the Chechen rebels have apparently claimed responsibility for the murder of Khadzhi Sadulayev, his wife and son. The Kavkaz-Center website reported on December 4 that "mujahideen" had entered Agishty the previous day and set up checkpoints, after which they killed a former village administration head, whom they identified as Khozha Saraliev, along with his son and wife, and had torched their home and car. Kavkaz-Center alleged that the family had been responsible for giving away the position of three rebel fighters who were killed in Agishty in January 2006.

Sharia Jamaat Threatens Dagestani Police, Officials, Clergy

The Associated Press reported on December 6 that police in Dagestan stormed a two-story 10-room hotel near the republic's capital Makhachkala where armed militants were blockaded and that two rebels and a policeman died during the operation. The news agency quoted Dagestan's Interior Ministry as saying that the action was launched after police failed to negotiate a surrender with the militants. Earlier reports said there were some four militants with uncertain affiliation blockaded in the hotel and that it was not clear if any guests or employees were inside at the time. According to some Russian media reports, the incident took place in the village of Novyi Khushet, near Makhachkala, and two militants and a Federal Security Service (FSB) operative were killed in the battle. Interfax reported that the militants had been blockaded in the Urguba roadside hotel on the Kavkaz federal highway.

On December 7, the Sharia Jamaat posted a statement on the Kavkaz-Center website saying that Dagestani policemen, whom it called the "enemies of God," had been given enough time to quit their jobs and "repent" and warned that anyone working in the "law-enforcement agencies of the infidel state" will be destroyed. It similarly threatened the republic's pro-Russian authorities and official clergy, the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Dagestan, referring to the latter as "Satan's henchmen."

On December 5, Kavkaz-Center reported that the head of the Caucasus Emirate, Dokka Abu Uthman (aka Dokka Umarov) had appointed Umar Sheykhullayev (aka Amir Mu'adh) as commander of the Dagestan Front of the armed forces of the Caucasus Emirate. Sheykhullayev replaces Amir Abdul Majid, who was killed in September.

Meanwhile, an explosive device went off in the Dagestani city of Khasavyurt on December 3, killing a street cleaner (see Mairbek Vatchagaev's piece in this issue).

KBR Authorities Again Vow to Catch Anzor Astemirov

Authorities in the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (KBR) announced on December 5 that they are searching for the militants who murdered the head of the republic's anti-organized crime directorate (UBOP), Anatoly Kyarov, back in January (North Caucasus Weekly, January 17). "The murder of Kyarov was unequivocally carried out by the gang headed by Anzor Astemirov," Kabardino-Balkaria First Deputy Interior Minister Naurbi Zhamborov told a press conference in Nalchik, reported. Zhamborov was referring to the leader of the Kabardino-Balkarian section of the Caucasus front and head of the Yarmuk Jamaat, who earlier this year was made the head of the Caucasus Emirate's Sharia Court and whose nom de guerre is Seifullah. "We are carrying out large-scale daily measures to find them," Zhamborov said.

Zhamborov said that the weapons used in the attack on Kyarov--three assault rifles and a pistol--were also used in three other high-profile attacks and that the pistol which Kyarov's assassins took from him was found next to the body of a militant known as Zholabov who was killed in a special operation. "That speaks to the fact that he [was] one of the participants in the murder of Colonel Kyarov," Zhamborov said. "The results of the examination and investigation carried out proved that the bandits who participated in the murder of Kyarov also participated in the murder of the nine hunters in the KBR's Chegemsky district [in November 2007] and other high-profile crimes."

As reported, KBR investigators believe that the Kyarov murder and the slaying of the hunters were carried out by members of the "Kabardino-Balkarian jamaat"--including Anzor Astemirov (its leader), Marat Guliyev, Adamei Dzhappuyev, Asker Dzhappuyev, Nazir Temmoyev, Akhadiya Malkaryov, Alim Zankishiyev, Rusma Mameyev, Zei un Sultanov and Valery Etezov.

The website noted that the KBR Interior Ministry announced back in April that it had identified the perpetrators of Kyarov's murder. That same month, the deputy head of the KBR Interior Ministry's public order department, Anatoly Bukin, declared that "active measures" were being carried out to capture the perpetrators and that these would soon show results.

Militant Actions Shake Up Dagestan
By Mairbek Vatchagaev

The frequency of militant actions carried out by the members of the Sharia Jamaat in Dagestan increased drastically in late November and early December. Practically not a day goes by without news reports about armed assaults on police forces in the capital of Makhachkala and the towns of Khasavyurt, Buinaksk as well as others. These militant actions in Dagestan are more than a series of isolated incidents that occur sporadically. Since early 2007, the militants in Dagestan as well as in Ingushetia have adopted the tactic of daily harassment of representatives of the law-enforcement authorities, including the local branches of the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service (FSB).

During a meeting with students of the Makhachkala Road Transportation College on December 4, Dagestani Deputy Interior Minister Colonel Magomed Ismailov, who heads the republic's Public Security Police, stated the following: "In districts and cities gunshots and explosions can be heard all the time and there are many instances when youth are drawn into criminal groups" ( It appears that the federal center concurs with this point of view, because at a coordinating meeting held on December 3 in the town of Essentuki (Stavropol Krai), the deputy prosecutor general for the Southern Federal District, Ivan Sydoruk, noted that more than 80 percent of all crimes of a terrorist nature registered in Russia take place in the Southern Federal District and that of these, a majority occur in Chechen Republic, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria ( In other words, these are precisely the region, in which the members of the military underground representing the North Caucasian resistance movement are active.

Another unpleasant piece of news for the leadership of Dagestan was the news on December 3 that the head of the local administration of the village of Chokh in the republic's Gunibsky district, Salim Salimov, had been abducted along with his 12-year-old nephew ( Salimov was abducted by unidentified persons in broad daylight on the busy Makhachkala-Gunib highway. It should be recalled that this was in the area where an anti-terrorist operation aimed at identifying the members of the Sharia Jamaat was launched in December 2007 and lasted for nine months until it ended unsuccessfully in August, after the local population expressed its disapproval of the measures implemented by the military and special services in the area over the course of the operation. Thus it is probable that the militants abducted Salimov and his nephew.

On December 2, the eve of the abduction, several attacks on police were carried out in Makhachkala, killing two police officers and wounding three (Interfax, December 2). According to Dagestani First Deputy Interior Minister Colonel Valery Zhernov, the assailants belonged to a sabotage-terrorist group operating in Makhachkala. Unlike the leaders of North Ossetia-Alania, the Dagestani authorities are not trying and unable to hide the fact that there is an armed underground movement in the republic. The Dagestani FSB identified an assailant killed by security forces during the December 2 attacks as Rizvan Kurbanov, a 16-year-old high school student from the city of Kizilyurt ( Youth has already become a distinguishing feature of the resistance movement: the ranks of militants are increasingly filled by young males between the ages of 16 and 18, who join the resistance for various reasons. This is not unique to Dagestan and noticeable throughout the entire North Caucasus region. This also represents a danger for the armed underground, given that militants who are so young do not have the requisite combat experience, and this trend could lead to temporary problems within the resistance movement.

Apart from the aforementioned militant actions, there were also attacks in various parts of Dagestan involving hand grenades and improvised explosive devices. Thus the situation in the republic remains tense and Dagestani society is afflicted by the same processes as in Ingushetia, where the public did not accept the authorities personified by Murat Zyazykov, Ingushetia's former president, and Musa Medov, his Interior Minister, and insisted on their removal. Unlike in Ingushetia, however, Dagestan is also plagued by inter-ethnic problems, and against this backdrop the actions of the militants complicate the security picture for the authorities more than in the neighboring republics. The unifying factor for the many nationalities and ethnicities of Dagestan could be a common ideology, and in this sense the republic's Salafi adherents possess a certain advantage because they offer a unified concept of Islamic education that transcends ethnicity and other Islamic movements. On the other hand, Sufism, with its many living sheikhs representing different brotherhoods (or tariqats), divides the Islamic community of the republic and makes it significantly weaker compared to the monolithic Salafi organization. At present the Salafi community presents itself as a militarized social structure, which makes it qualitatively better than the liberal Sufi polity of Dagestan.

Equally interesting was the call for negotiations with the militants made by the Mothers of Dagestan for Human Rights non-governmental organization at the press conference held in Moscow on November 24 ( It is perhaps not justified to pay much attention to this isolated fact since human rights organizations usually do not carry much weight in Russian society. This is even more so in conservative Dagestan, where all politics is aimed at satisfying Moscow's interests, which received federal budgetary handouts in exchange for constantly expressing excessive loyalty to everything that emanates from the Kremlin.

Yet the appeal for negotiations made by the Mothers of Dagestan for Human Rights had a surprising postscript: during a press conference in Makhachkala on December 3, the chairman of Dagestan's Committee on Religious Affairs, Akhmed Magomedov, also insisted that it is necessary to conduct a dialogue with the militants ( During the press conference it became clear that he had engaged in this initiative earlier, having held talks with the leader of Dagestan's Salafis, Magomed Kebedov, in the late 1990s. According to Magomedov, however, the authorities set preconditions that could not have been fulfilled each time, which made the meetings fruitless. Even today he is skeptical about their efficacy.

Nonetheless, we are witness to the fact that the idea of holding dialogue with the militants has re-emerged for the first time since 1999 events. It is likely that this was undertaken for the purpose of gauging public attitudes. Dagestan is not an ordinary Russian region, where each committee chairman can have his own opinion. Even though it is difficult to imagine that the authorities would spearhead negotiations with militants under current conditions, Magomedov's deserves attention. What is most important is that someone voiced what has been considered taboo since 1999.

The aforementioned appeal sounds even more relevant against the backdrop of the assassination of Jabir Kamaludiov, the 23-year-old nephew of the leader of Dagestani Salafis, Magomed Kebedov (Kommersant, December 4). The republic's police already declared that the deceased was a supporter of militants, although Jabir repeatedly stated that he was pursued by law enforcement authorities because they wanted to exert pressure on his uncle and even suggested that he kill Magomed Kebedov. The Mothers of Dagestan for Human Rights expressed doubts that Jabir was involved with the militants given that today, any young man who refuses to follow the tenants of Sufism, which has been the traditional Islamic movement in Dagestan for the past two centuries, is considered a potential militant sympathizer. The vogue of Sufism among the ruling elites has undermined young people's trust in the Sufi sheikhs and Sufism in general. A negative attitude toward Sufism is also becoming prevalent among Dagestan's secular intelligentsia.

Dr. Mairbek Vatchagaev is the author of the book, "Chechnya in the 19th Century Caucasian Wars."