Insurgency in the North Caucasus

Insurgency in the North Caucasus
North Caucasus insurgency
Dmitry Medvedev 27 March 2009-2.jpg
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev meets with Alexander Bortnikov on 27 March 2009, to discuss the ending of the "counter-terrorism operation" in Chechnya
Date April 15, 2009 - present
Location North Caucasus, Russia
Result Ongoing
 Russia Flag of Jihad.svg Caucasus Emirate, Ingush Jamaat, Shariat Jamaat, Yarmuk Jamaat, other groups and foreign fighters
Commanders and leaders
Russia Dmitry Medvedev
Russia Vladimir Putin
Anatoliy Serdyukov
Vladimir Boldyrev
Rashid Nurgaliyev
Alexander Bortnikov
Alexander Khloponin
Ramzan Kadyrov
Yunus-bek Yevkurov
Magomedsalam Magomedov
Flag of Jihad.svg Dokka Umarov
Aslambek Vadalov
Aslan Byutukayev
Khuseyn Gakayev
Tarkhan Gaziyev
Supyan Abdullayev 
Omar Sheikhulayev 
Umalat Magomedov 
Magomed Vagabov 
Israpil Velijanov 
Isa Khashegulgov
Ali Taziev (POW)
Anzor Astemirov 
Said Buryatsky 
Asker Dzhappuyev 
Undisclosed 5,000 fighters (rebel claim; January 2010)[1]
1,000 fighters (government claim; September 2011)[2]
Casualties and losses
9,134 security forces killed[3] and 1,512 wounded[4] 556 militants killed and 858 captured[5]
211 civilians killed
2 prosecutors killed
3 investigators killed
16 politicians killed[6]
Map of the North Caucasus

The insurgency in the North Caucasus continues despite the official end of the decade-long Russian "counter-terrorist operation" in Chechnya on 15 April 2009.[7] The violence appears to be concentrated mostly in the North Caucasus republics of Chechnya, Dagestan,[8] Ingushetia[9] and Kabardino-Balkaria, with only occasional clashes and bombings elsewhere (including Moscow and North Ossetia), but there are also concerns it may compromise safety of the planned 2014 Winter Olympics.[10]



Some observers have argued that Russia’s efforts to suppress insurgency in the North Caucasus— a border area between the Black and Caspian Seas that includes the formerly breakaway Chechnya and other ethnic-based regions—have been the most violent in Europe in recent years in terms of ongoing military and civilian casualties and human rights abuses.[11] In late 1999, Russia’s then-Premier Putin ordered military, police, and security forces to enter the breakaway Chechnya region. By early 2000, these forces occupied most of the region. High levels of fighting continued for several more years and resulted in thousands of Russian and Chechen casualties and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. In 2005, then-Chechen rebel leader [[Abdul-Khalim Saydullayev]] decreed the formation of a Caucasus Front against Russia among Islamic believers in the North Caucasus, in an attempt to widen Chechnya’s conflict with Russia. After his death, his successor, Doku Umarov, declared continuing jihad to establish an Islamic fundamentalist Caucasus Emirate in the North Caucasus and beyond. Russia’s pacification policy in Chechnya has involved setting up a pro-Moscow regional government and transferring more and more local security duties to this government. An important factor in Russia’s seeming success in Chechnya has been reliance on pro-Moscow Chechen clans affiliated with regional President Ramzan Kadyrov. Police and paramilitary forces under his authority have committed flagrant abuses of human rights, according to rulings by the European Court of Human Rights and others. Terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus appeared to increase substantially in 2007-2010. In the summer of 2009, more than 442 persons died in North Caucasus violence in just four months as compared to only 150 deaths reported in the entire year of 2008.[12] In the whole year 2009, according to the official figures by the Russian government, 235 Interior Ministry personnel (Defense Ministry and the FSB losses not included) were killed and 686 injured,[13] while more than 541 alleged fighters and their supporters were killed and over 600 detained.[14] In the period from January to June 2011, 95 law enforcement and security agents had been killed and more than 200 wounded fighting militants.[15] Although the rate of increase of terrorist incidents may have lessened in 2010 from the high rate of increase in 2008-2009, the rate of civilian casualties substantially increased throughout the North Caucasus in 2010 and a rising number of terrorist incidents took place outside of Chechnya.[16]


The insurgency in the North Caucasus is a direct result of the two post-Soviet wars fought between Russia and Chechnya. The First Chechen War was a secular, nationalist struggle for independence from Russia and took place between 1994-96; after a vicious struggle between Russian federal forces and Chechen separatist guerrillas, Chechnya was granted de facto independence per the terms of the Khasavyurt Accord signed on 30 August 1996. With a devastated infrastructure and various armed factions subordinate to specific warlords, the next three years saw Chechnya devolve into a corrupted criminal state rife plagued by armed gangs, an epidemic of kidnappings-for-ransom, and the rise of radical Islam in the region.

An August 1999 armed incursion of 1,500 Islamic radicals led by Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and notorious Saudi jihadist Khattab in support of a Dagestani separatist movement combined with a series of apartment bombings in Russia gave Moscow sufficient reasoning for re-invading Chechnya, thus triggering the Second Chechen War, a conflict fought with significant jihadist overtones.

Having learned harsh lessons for the first war, the Russian military - rather than get entangled in messy urban engagements such as that seen in Grozny in 1994-95 - relied heavily on aerial bombardment and artillery such as ballistic missiles and fuel air explosives, typically surrounding and then destroying any towns or villages that put up resistance before sending in ground forces for mop-up operations. The second Battle of Grozny in 1999-2000 saw the bulk of Chechen resistance smashed, particularly after a column of some 2,000 fighters attempted to break out of the besieged city in February of 2000 and instead walked directly into a minefield that Russian forces had prepared for an ambush. What remained of the decimated rebel units then withdrew into the inaccessible Vedeno and Argun gorges in the southern mountains of the republic in order to wage a guerrilla campaign.

Despite the official claims of peace in the supposedly pacified Chechnya, the republic remains a major center of violence even according to the government statistics. According to the official Russian figures, in the course of one-year period between April 2009 (when the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya was officially ended) and April 2010, 97 servicemen have been killed on the territory of Chechnya; at the same time, government forces there have killed 189 persons claimed to be militants or their collaborators.[17]


Dagestan is the most religious, populous and complex of all the north Caucasian republics.[18] It is double the size of Chechnya and consists of several dozen ethnic groups, most with their own language.[18] The conflict in Dagestan, however, is not between ethnic groups but between Sufism, a syncretic form of Islam which includes local customs and recognises the state, and Salafism, a more traditional form which rejects secular rule and insists that Islam should govern all spheres of life.[18]


Along with Dagestan, Ingushetia has borne the brunt of the violence in the North Caucasus in recent years. The Islamist insurgency in the republic sprang from the wars in neighbouring Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s.

In June 2004, Ingush and Chechen fighters launched a large-scale attack on Ingushetia’s biggest town, Nazran, killing scores of civilians, policemen and soldiers.

As elsewhere in the North Caucasus, the brutality of state security forces has been a major factor driving young men to join the Islamists. Under the presidency of the former KGB officer, Murat Zyazikov, teams of masked operatives kidnapped, tortured and killed suspected rebels and members of their families. Zyazikov’s successor, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, appointed in 2008, has had some success in dampening the violence, although he was seriously injured in a suicide bombing by the militants during his first year in office. Human rights violations by Russian commandos have decreased but remain widespread.[19]

The capture in June 2010 of Magas, an ethnic Ingush and one of the top leaders of the Caucasus Emirate, dealt a blow to the jihadis in Ingushetia.


The insurgency in Kabardino-Balkaria began in the early 2000s and was led by the Yarmuk Jamaat, a militant Islamist jamaat which flourished as a result of persecution of pious Muslims by police and security forces.

In October 2005, several score of the militants launched a raid on the capital of the republic, Nalchik, which left 142 people dead. The guerrillas have also carried out numerous assassinations of government officials and law enforcement officers.

The republic saw a flare-up of violence in late 2010 and early 2011, in the wake of the death of Anzor Astemirov, the head of Yarmuk Jamaat who was a senior figure in the Caucasus Emirate. The new leaders of Kabardino-Balkaria’s guerrilla movement, Emir Abdullah (Asker Dzhappuyev) and Emir Zakaria (Ratmir Shameyev), preferred a more aggressive approach and the militants murdered several civilians in the republic, including Russian tourists. In response, a shadowy vigilante group called the Black Hawks threatened the relatives of some of the Islamists.[20]

Dzhappuyev and Shameyev were killed in a special operation by security forces in April 2011.[21]

North Osetia-Alania

On September 9, 2010, a car-bomb attack occurred at a crowded marketplace in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, killing 19 adults and children and injuring over 190. President Medvedev responded that “we will certainly do everything to catch these monsters,… who have committed a terrorist attack against ordinary people. What's more, a barbarous terrorist attack. We will do everything so that they are found and punished in accordance with the law of our country, or in the case of resistance or other cases, so that they are eliminated.” The Caucasus Emirate’s Ingush Vilayet reportedly took responsibility, stating that the attack was aimed against “Ossetian infidels” on “occupied Ingush lands".[22]

See also


  1. ^ Ваха Умаров: «На Кавказе действуют до 5 тысяч моджахедов», Kavkaz Center, 26 January 2010 (Russian)
  2. ^ Some 1,000 militants 'still active' in North Caucasus
  3. ^ 235 killed (2009),[1] 440 killed (2010),[2] 207 killed (2011),[3] total of 882 reported killed
  4. ^ 686 wounded (2009),[4] 826 wounded (2011),[5] total of 1,512 reported wounded
  5. ^ 270 killed and 453 captured (2009),[6] 80 killed and 180 captured (2010),[7] 206 killed and 225 captured (2011)[8] total of 556 killed and 858 captured
  6. ^
  7. ^ Russia 'ends Chechnya operation', BBC News, 16 April 2009
  8. ^ Dagestan's deadly Islamic insurgency, BBC News, 18 November 2010
  9. ^ Ingushetia Under Siege, Human Rights Watch, 1 July 2009
  10. ^ Caucasus insurgency casts pall over Russian Olympics, Reuters, 19 April 2010
  11. ^ Bringing Peace to Chechnya? Assessments and Implications, by Jim Nichol
  12. ^ Moscow and Grozny Evince Growing Nervousness Over Regional Security, The Jamestown Foundation, 9 November 2009. Retrieved on 21 August 2010.
  13. ^ North Caucasus saw over 230 Interior Ministry deaths in 2009, RIA Novosti, 16 January 2010. Retrieved on 21 August 2010.
  14. ^ Кавказский Узел|Нургалиев: с начала года на Северном Кавказе нейтрализовано более 700 боевиков. Retrieved on 21 August 2010. (Russian)
  15. ^ "Russia says militant attack foiled in Moscow". Reuters. 18 July 2011. 
  16. ^ Gordon Hahn, “Trends in Jihadist Violence in Russia During 2010 in Statistics,” Islam, Islamism and Politics in Eurasia Report, Monterey Institute for International Studies, January 26, 2011
  17. ^ Chechen Fighters Hold their Ground Against Kadyrov, The Jamestown Foundation, 28 May 2010
  18. ^ a b c "From Moscow to Mecca: As this part of Russia's empire frays, fundamentalist Islam takes a stronger hold". The Economist (The Economist Newspaper Limited) 399 (8728): 24–26. 9 – 15 April 2011. 
  19. ^ A Fear of Three Letters, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, 8 March 2011
  20. ^ Blood Relations, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, 21 February 2011
  21. ^ Clashes in Russia's Caucasus Kill 10 Rebels, Reuters, 29 April 2011
  22. ^ CEDR, September 9, 2010, Doc. No. CEP-950171

External links

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