Daghestan Suicide Bomber Kills Venerated Sufi Sheikh

Liz Fuller
RFE/RL Caucasus Report
August 28, 2012

The killing on August 28 by a woman suicide bomber at his home of Sheikh Said-Afandi Chirkeisky will almost certainly take the spiraling violence and anarchy in Daghestan to a new level. Said-Afandi was the republic’s most venerated clergyman, eclipsing the head of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of Daghestan, Akhmad-hadji Abdullayev. More important, his murids (disciples) included numerous government officials and thousands of members of the police and security services.

Said-Afandi’s death is therefore likely to bring to an abrupt end the dialogue that began in late April with his support between Daghestan’s Sufis and the Salafi minority in the hope of bridging the gulf between them. The Salafis are regarded with suspicion and hostility by the siloviki, who equate Salafis en masse with the armed Islamic insurgency that professes the same strain of “pure” Islam. Oleg Orlov, head of the Russian human rights organization Memorial, identified Daghestan’s security forces, together with the Islamic insurgency, as having a vested interest in sabotaging that dialogue.

Said-Afandi is the second prominent Sufi sheikh to be assassinated in Daghestan in the past year. Sirajudin Israfilov, 56, the imam of a Sufi mosque in the town of Derbent, was shot dead at his home in October.

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