Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Among the Sons of Togarmah, Part 4

In Part 1, we looked at the strategic significance of the Caucasus. We also considered how intractable the problem was for Moscow, especially considering the methods Russia is using to pacify the region.

In Part 2 we saw how the Kremlin was hoping to pacify the region by building it up economically with a focus on tourism; and how, in Kabardino-Balkaria, terrorists attacked that very tourism industry. It is interesting that, if security forces cannot defend the tourist industry where it is reasonably well-established, how can they defend its expansion into areas that have been at war for many years now?

Then, in Part 3, we saw, based on the example from Chechnya, that Moscow's main strategy was to support one local group - a clan, but essentially an organized crime faction - in its effort at "state capture" (that term was not used; do an internet search to see what it means) by a force that would do the Kremlin's bidding. We also saw how a policy of support for corruption, as long as the corruption was pro-Moscow, only served to drive people toward the jihadists, as their only alternatives were organized crime puppets of Moscow, or organized crime jihadists furthering the global caliphate.

We now consider an excerpt from Islamists Gain Upper Hand in Russian Republic: Part 2: Moscow Tries to Win Hearts and Minds by Matthias Schepp in Dagestan, July 30, 2010:

Seeking Revenge

Police investigators had leaked a list of "black widows" to the newspaper. The term is used by Russians for women whose husbands or brothers were killed by security forces and are thus suspected of seeking revenge by making themselves available to Islamists as suicide bombers. In the last 10 years, black widows have been responsible for at least 16 attacks, two of which resulted in plane crashes.

Ramazanova came into the crosshairs of investigators because of her brother Vadim, who was killed two years ago in a police raid in Makhachkala. "They don't even return the bodies to us," she says. "It's said that they even sell the organs of the people they've killed."

She recounts stories of police violence and of relatives and friends who have been tortured, of electric shocks and the "baklashka," a plastic bottle filled with water that police officers use as a particularly painful weapon to beat people with. "My brother had no choice," says Ramazanova. She insists that he was driven underground because he was constantly under suspicion and being harassed by the authorities.

A video obtained by Russian state security shows Vadim in an apartment. For 16 minutes and 7 seconds, he provides detailed instructions on how to commit a suicide bombing. He lists the ingredients for an explosive belt and names a store in Makhachkala that sells one of the ingredients, acetone, and another store where the parts for the detonator can be found. "The most important thing is that you do it for Allah. Bring chaos to the ranks of the infidels, and kill as many of them as you can," Vadim says as he calls upon the faithful to commit murder.

It's a vicious circle. Security forces crack down; the deaths of accused terrorists serve as fodder for more people to join the ranks of the terrorists. The suspicion that someone might join the jihadists furthers a dynamic which helps drive the suspect into the ranks of the jihadists. The increase in jihadist activity then justifies further crackdowns. Alleged police abuse of detainees, coupled with rumors of organ-harvesting, only cause the atmosphere to be more volatile.

To be sure, that story was about Dagestan. But, we now consider the situation in nearby Kabardino-Balkaria. From Kabardino-Balkaria Risks Becoming New Insurgency Hotspot, by Emil Souleimanov, March 2, 2011:

BACKGROUND: Until recently, the Northwest Caucasus had been considered rather immune to the manifestations of militant Islamism. Unlike the ethnic autonomous regions of the Northeast Caucasus, i.e. Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya, these tiny republics with less than a million (Kabardino-Balkaria) and half a million (Karachay-Cherkessia) inhabitants, with a sizable share of ethnic Russians, were significantly Europeanized during decades of Soviet rule. Importantly, local societies largely lack the attributes contributing to the swift mobilization in the Northeast Caucasus: the prevalence of highly traditional societies including tribalism, blood feuds, and a strong role for Islam in the public and private spheres.

Yet life in both republics is marked by considerable tension between representatives of Turkic (Karachay, Balkar) and Adyghe (Cherkess, Kabardey, Abaza) groups that does not confine itself only to the nationalist pamphlets of local (pseudo) historians. Economic and political power is concentrated almost entirely in the hands of demographically dominant Kabardians and Karachays in their respective republics, causing permanent discontent among groups that consider themselves discriminated against. Following centuries of forced migrations implemented by Russian authorities in attempts to pacify the region, ethnic groups also clash over certain disputed territories.

As a result, the ethno-nationalist split seemed to be the main, if not single, ideological force in the Northwest Caucasus only a decade ago. Yet the hunt for real and imagined "Wahhabis" in the North Caucasus that started in 1999-2001 and intensified during the desperate Nalchik attack of 2005, led by the first generation of local insurgents, provided for a deepening "Jihadization" of the political opposition. The ongoing process has been fueled by the strong desire among local youth to distance themselves from the Turkic-Adyghe split, put an end to the power of corrupt elites, retaliate against indiscriminate activities of the local police, and establish an independent Islamic state in the North Caucasus.

Notice that the above background talks about corruption among governing elites and police oppression. To me, it seems evident that the same dynamic is helping fuel the situation in the Northwest Caucasus, just as in the Northeast Caucasus. This is not surprising; on the one side, it is the same Kremlin, and on the other, it is the same drive to establish a Caucasian (and later world) caliphate. The opposing forces are the same, the social and geographic background is in many ways similar; how different can the process and the results be?

Indeed, the author goes on to reference another work addressing Dagestan; continuing:

IMPLICATIONS: The ongoing deterioration of the security situation in Kabardino-Balkaria testifies to the inability of local authorities to really combat terrorism, even though that task should have been the easiest in this particular part of the North Caucasus. Like elsewhere in the region, the brutal and unprofessional efforts of local security forces to rid the country of "Wahhabis" have only contributed to strengthening the Islamist insurgency (see the 09/29/2010 issue of the CACI Analyst).

The referenced article, entitled Dagestan: The Emerging Core of the North Caucasus Insurgency, explains the situation in Dagestan, but the lessons are not lost on the rest of the Caucasus:

IMPLICATIONS: Fifteen years ago, there was nearly no talk about Islamist insurgency in Dagestan, a decade ago its instances were extremely rare, yet since then it has been increasing drastically. Although some Dagestani communities were the first in the North Caucasus to embrace Salafism in the beginning of the 1990s, the failed incursion of the united Dagestani-Chechen Jihadist insurgents to Western Dagestan in August 1999 largely discredited the ideology across the republic. What happened since then? First, since "Islamist terrorism" was widely recognized as a primary threat to national security in 1999-2001, thousands of mostly young Dagestanis, accused of terrorism and "Wahhabism", have been taken into custody by local authorities where they were often subjected to Soviet-style interrogation. Deep religiosity has been considered especially suspicious by the authorities, which have been waging full-scale war against real and alleged "Wahhabis" and their sympathizers. Yet for many undereducated, underpaid and corrupt policemen facing impunity, capturing people for ransom has provided for a source of solid income. As authorities have lacked enough evidence to put alleged "Wahhabis" in jail, these were eventually set free following a few months of torture. Many of them never made peace with what was done to them in prisons, and have turned to violence to retaliate the humiliation. In case someone's relative was killed or seriously wounded, their brothers, sons or cousins have pledged oaths to take revenge for the sake of family honor. As it is difficult for individuals to combat authorities on their own, many young Dagestanis have joined the insurgent movement in the mountains, where there were exposed to the basics of Salafism. The adoption of a common ideology of resistance has cemented the insurgence, shaping specific – now rather de-individualized – goals (the establishment of an Islamic state independent from Moscow) and targets (the Russian occupiers and their Dagestani "marionettes"). The collective memory of Dagestani peoples draws upon the notion of age-old anti-colonial, e.g. anti-Russian, resistance. Fighting local renegades is an even more important task.

Likewise, many Dagestanis have joined the insurgency in protest of the societal sins, be it corruption, erosion of traditional values, inability to realize themselves professionally or in search for a better, Islamic, future for their homeland. Most importantly, membership in Jihadist groups (jamaats) has helped individual combatants to overcome ethnic, sectarian and clan-based loyalties, forging an unprecedented sense of social solidarity based on religion. Thus, the ideologization of resistance has evolved side by side with the politicization of violence.

As a result, a regular civil war is now underway in Dagestan. Approximately 2,500 young Dagestanis are involved in the insurgency, which makes up at least a half of all North Caucasian combatants. Yet their numbers grow as more and more desperate youngsters join their ranks. Unlike neighboring Chechnya with its "normalized" public space, insurgents rely on sufficient sympathies and support from ordinary Dagestanis who are antagonized by both corrupt local authorities and increasingly violent and indiscriminate police forces. While many Chechens have postponed revenge to "better times" in order to avoid reprisals, this process is ongoing daily in Dagestan, where the insurgency has expanded from areas dominated by the Avars, Dargins, and Laks to the Lezgi-dominated south and Kumyk east. Moreover, in some areas of Dagestan local authorities as well as businesses have become targets of racketeering by insurgents. To survive physically, they have to pay those they are supposed to combat; something unheard of in contemporary Chechnya.

With this understanding of the situation, we now consider the calls of "Emir Dokku Abu Usman" for jihad against the infidels; from Appeal by Emir Dokku Abu Usman to Muslims of Caucasus and Russia: "Fight enemies wherever your hand reaches them!"

I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan, in the name of Allah the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Whom we ask forgiveness, seek refuge from the evil of our own selves and from evil consequences of our actions.

He whom Allah guides to the straight path, he will never be, and he whom Allah leaves, no one can guide him to the straight path.

I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah. I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.

"O you who believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die as others but Muslims".

May peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be upon you, dear brothers and sisters, dear brothers Mujahideen.

I, Abu Usman, your brother in religion, appeal to you and want to begin with the words of our great Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

"Whoever died and did not fight or intend to fight died in one of the kinds of hypocrisy".

These words show us that Jihad is the greatest act of Islam, that Jihad is becoming mandatory for the salvation of the Ummah.

This call to jihad is especially resonant with groups seeing corruption and abuse of power by authorities that are essentially organized crime, and elsewhere rightly described as puppets of Moscow.


Today, dear brothers, Ummah is in such a degraded state, in such a poor condition that Jihad becomes obligatory for all of us. Jihad is a fard al-ayn.

Today, children are allowed not to ask permission from their parents go to the Jihad, debtor may not ask the permission from lender to go to Jihad, today wives may not ask permission from their husbands to participate in Jihad as far as they can, and help the Mujahedeen.

Dear brothers the Mujahideen, we see in what disastrous state our Ummah is. Today, the Ummah is 1.5 billion in numbers, and we know that even .05% of these numbers of this Ummah do not wage the Jihad, .05% of this Ummah wage the Jihad neither with their souls, nor with their property. Therefore, we see in what miserable condition the Ummah is.

In this regard, I recall a hadith of our great Prophet (pbuh) when he told his companions:

"'Peoples will fall upon you like greedy eaters upon a bowl of food'. And the companions asked the Prophet (pbuh): 'Will that be because we are small in numbers?' The Prophet (pbuh) replied: 'No. You will then be too many but rather like foam floating over water. And Allah will take off from the hearts of your enemies fear of you, and cast Wahn into your hearts'. So the companions asked: 'O Messenger of Allah, what is Wahn?' He said: 'The love for this world, and the fear of death'."

And today, we see that our Ummah loves this world and hates death. Today, there exists such a situation, as it was described by the Prophet (pbuh).

I appeal to the Mujahideen: we are today the vanguard of the Jihad, we are today the saviors of this Ummah.

The call is for true Muslims to love death and hate this world; the call is supported by Islamic scripture, and implicitly carries the powerful promise of an eternity in Paradise for those who hate this world and die forcing it to submit to Allah's will.

Skipping down:

The Prophet (pbuh) said:

"Similarity of the believers in their mutual love and brotherhood is similarity of the single organism. When one part hurts, the whole body hurts".

Therefore, dear brethren, we are the one Ummah, we are the single organism. If there is the Jihad here in the Caucasus against the enemy that wants to destroy Islam, then for you it is also the Jihad, for you it becomes a fard al-ayn.

I urge you to destroy the enemies of Allah wherever you are. I urge you to destroy the enemies wherever your hands reach them, that you open the fronts of the Jihad.

Today there is a total war going on. It is not us who had declared it on Russia, it was Russian who declared it on us. When there is a total war, there are not peaceful people left. If we have been declared a total war, then Allah permits us to fight with them as they fight with us.

Therefore, today we have the right to fight against them the way they are fighting against us. I urge you, fight with them, destroy them. This is the order of Allah. And we, as God-fearing, sincere believers, must obey the orders of Allah.

I also want to warn you that you do not yield to puppets of Satan who promote their venality and promote how they sold the religion of Allah for this worldly life. They sold their honor, they sold Islam.

Implicit also is a warning to those Muslims who do not support the jihad; they are takfir, and will suffer in the fate of the infidels - and perhaps even worse.

Given the extensive corruption of the pro-Moscow forces, and the powerful appeal to religiously-sanctioned total war - jihad - it is surprising the region isn't far more violent than it is.

How long can that last? Not just in the Caucasus, but closer to home?

Because, after all, this is just one facet of a larger problem...

The ties run to Osama bin Laden, and to the organized crime that funds terrorism.

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