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Friday, June 6, 2014

Chechen ghost Islamist: Profile of Doku Umarov

Doku Umarov
(Image: CBC News)
Doku Umarov, one of the most influential leaders of separatist and radical Islamist movements in Northern Caucasus and the world’s most wanted terrorist after Osama bin Laden, was officially announced dead on 18th March 2014. Kavkaz Center website, sympathizing with the Chechen and Northern Caucasian Islamist organizations including the terrorist groups has issued a statement regarding his death: “The Command of Caucasus Emirate officially announced the martyrdom of the Emir Doku Abu Usman (Umarov)”. No further details were given. Later the same website, which is actually the main information platform of the Northern Caucasus rebels, has stated about appointment of the Shari’a judge Ali Abu-Mukhammad Doku Umarov’s successor, and he has also confirmed “martyrdom” of Doku Umarov. Though it’s unclear whether Umarov was killed or died from the natural causes, as the form “to become a martyr” is being recently used by Kavkaz Center website in the both cases.


It’s worth mentioning also that Russian authorities and security forces haven’t confirmed the death of Doku Umarov, despite the fact that there were several reports regarding wither his death or his lethal wound before, and all these reports appeared to be false. 

Doku Umarov is a Chechen Islamist militant leader and warlord, who participated in the both Russian led Chechen wars and was a major military figure of the great insurgency in the Northern Caucasus. He is also a self-styled Emir of Caucasus Emirate – an Islamist umbrella organization aimed to unite Northern Caucasian states into one state based on Shari’a Law.

Doku Khamatovich Umarov, known also as Doku Abu Usman, was born on 13th April 1964 in a small Chechen village of Kharsenoy in a family of intellectuals. He has studied in Oil Institute in Grozny and graduated with the higher education degree as a construction engineer. After graduation he has been working in several USSR republics and in Moscow as well, but he came back to Chechnya, when the war has started in 1994, as he felt that he must “fulfill his patriotic duty”.

Doku Umarov is married and has six children. Two of his brothers, Isa and Musa, have been killed during the war. All of the members of his family have been abducted since 2003, with some of them released later (like his wife and one of the sons), and others disappeared and probably dead (like his father, kidnapped by the Russian security forces and intelligence). The method of taking hostages members of the families of the wanted rebels was introduced in 2004 by Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustiniov, who has also investigated Beslan school hostage crisis.

Thus, in 1994-1996, during the First Chechen War, Doku Umarov took part in the fights against Russian intervention and fought initially under command of Ruslan Gelayev, but later joined the units of Akhmad Zakayev, who was appointed later as a Prime Minister of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. During the war Doku Umarov has won two Chechnya’s highest military awards.

Following the Khasavyurt Peace Accord, signed in 1996 and ending the war, and 1997 presidential elections brought Aslan Maskhadov into the office, Doku Umarov was appointed as a head of national Security Council, tasked to contain growing chaos in the republic and stop the spread of the extremist and radical Islamism. However, Umarov was forced later to leave this position due to his failure to stabilize the situation and also due to the rumors of his alleged involvement in kidnapping people during the war.

During the Second Chechen War (1999-2000) and the following period of insurgency (2000-2010) Doku Umarov was a field commander, cooperating closely with Ruslan Gelayev. In 2000 he was forced to temporally leave Chechnya, as he was badly injured. According to some reports, Doku Umarov could have been hiding somewhere in Russia in a secret cooperation with the Russian federal forces and intelligence, though these allegations weren’t confirmed.

Later Doku Umarov came back to fight and was regarded as an ally of the Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who is responsible for several terrorist attacks carried out in Russia, including Moscow Theatre siege. In 2003 Doku Umarov and Shamil Basayev were suspected to be responsible for the bombings of the FSB headquarters in Magas (Ingushetia).

After Basayev’s death Doku Umarov has organized the new group with the significant transformation of its ideology, and the majority of Basayev’s men have joined the ranks of Umarov’s group.

There was a series of false reports about either death or a serious injury of Doku Umarov through 2005, but all of them appeared inaccurate, and after each of them Umarov issued video statements. In 2006 Umarov became Vice-President of the separatist government of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, and later, after the death of the President Abdul-Haleem Sadulayev, Doku Umarov succeeded him as a President and Commander of the Armed Forces.

Doku Umarov was a Chechen patriot and nationalist seeking liberty and independence from Russia for Chechnya, and this was the main goal of his fight. Later though his ideology and ideology of his group has transformed into pan-Islamism, as Doku Umarov was aimed to unite all the countries of the Northern Caucasus into the one united Islamic state, ruled by Shari’a Law, and to join the international jihad, what was announced by Doku Umarov in his statements. In 2007 he has declared creation of Caucasus Emirate and declared himself its Emir.

This transformation could be explained through the growing influence of the Wahhabist and jihadist ideology in Caucasus, brought by the non-Chechen and non-Caucasian fighters. Umarov though has been always denying that he is a radical Islamist and follower of Wahhabist ideology and caliming that he is the follower of the “traditional Islam”. He also denied tied of Caucasus Emirate with Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other radical Islamist and terrorist groups.

Doku Umarov is believed to be responsible for many terrorist attacks carried out on the territory of the Northern Caucasus states and also outside, as he vowed to expand the local conflict to many regions in Russia, targeting mainly military, security and “traitors of Chechnya”, who collaborated with the Russian occupants. He has announced the end of violence against civilians in 2006, but later this moratorium was lifted, as Doku stated: “There are no civilians in Russia, because genocide against Chechen people is being carried out with their tacit consent”.

Thus, he re-activated Riyadus-Saliheen group including the suicide bombers’ brigade, led earlier by Shamil Basayev, and Russia has faced another wave of terrorist attacks. Doku Umarov was declared to be personally responsible for the bombing and derailment of Moscow-St. Petersburg train (2009), Moscow Metro suicide bombings (2010) and Moscow Domodedovo airport bombing as well (2011), claiming the lives of dozens and leaving hundreds of injured.

In 2013 Doku Umarov has officially threatened to continue the fight and to disrupt Sochi Olympic Games, as three bombings have been carried out in the city of Volgograd, located close to the volatile Northern Caucasus region: bus explosion (October 2013), bombing of the railway station and in trolley-bus (both in December 2013). There were no other attacks since that time though, and no statements of Umarov as well.

Thus, Doku Umarov is considered being one of the most influential and dangerous militant leaders and terrorists in Russia and in the world and he is also in the international lists, wanted by US and Russian governments. UB Security Council has issued a resolution regarding the close ties of Umarov’s group with the international terrorist network including Al-Qaeda and Taliban, and the group Caucasus Emirate was declared as a terrorist organization by the Russian government.

The death of Doku Umarov could change a lot the situation in the region and could have a serious impact on the further activities of the radical Islamists of the region, though it’s believed that it will not be lasting, as Caucasus Emirate in its current state is actually a decentralized umbrella organization, focused more on inspiring the attacks rather than on their executing.

Originally published at Islamist Gate.