Islamist Rebel Leader Renounces Female Suicide Terrorism

By Nabi Abdullaev
The Moscow Times | Jun. 30 2014

Female suicide bombings have become a trademark war tactic of the North Caucasus Islamist insurgents, with sensationalist media quickly dubbing the female attackers “black widows.” Sergei Porter / Vedomosti

In an unexpected departure from one of the most dreaded terrorist strategies, a leader of the North Caucasus Islamist rebels has called on his followers to put an end to female suicide bombings that have claimed hundreds of civilian lives, including in Moscow.

"We categorically ban our sisters from doing this," Aliaskhab Kebekov, known under the alias of Ali Abu Muhammad, emir of the Caucasus Emirate group, said in a lengthy interview with the rebel website Kavkaz Center posted on YouTube on Saturday.

"We monitor how jihad is practiced in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Mali, and there was not a single case [of a female suicide bombing] there. Women there are not allowed to do this," he said. "My order to brothers is not to use sisters for this."

Female suicide bombings have become a trademark war tactic of the North Caucasus Islamist insurgents, with sensationalist media quickly dubbing the female attackers "black widows."

Since June 2000, when the first such bombing happened in Chechnya, women have been involved in 24 more terrorist attacks, both alone and as part of groups. According to The Moscow Times’ count, these attacks have claimed a total of 847 lives, averaging 61 deaths a year.

Eight of those attacks took place in Moscow, including the 2002 Dubrovka theater hostage-taking in which 19 female suicide bombers from Chechnya took part, and more recently, the 2010 twin metro bombings by two women from Dagestan.

There has been a visible shift in the origin of these attacks over the years. In the vast majority of cases from 2000 to September 2004, when two female suicide bombers took part in the attack on a packed school in the town of Beslan, they hailed from Chechnya, which has fought two separatist wars with Moscow. Following a lull in attacks after Beslan, from 2010 to the latest female suicide bombing of a bus in Volgograd in October 2013, most of the bombers came from the neighboring Russian Muslim-populated province of Dagestan where Islamist radicals have been waging a low-intensity deadly campaign against local security and law enforcement officials for nearly two decades.

Kebekov, 42, also a native of Dagestan, assumed his role as rebel leader in March after his notorious predecessors, the ethnic Chechens Shamil Basayev and Doku Umarov, were killed by Russian security forces. His group, the Caucasus Emirate, has been designated a terrorist organization by both Russia and the United States.

"Only in Dagestan is this [female suicide bombings] practiced," he said in the hour-long video interview.

Female suicide attacks have been used occasionally by Palestinian terrorists, Tamil Tigers rebels in Sri Lanka and by the Kurdish Workers’ Party. But while those groups resorted to using women after security services became suspicious of men, the North Caucasus rebels starting using female attackers for bombings before it ever used men.

Kebekov cited practical reasons as the rationale behind ending the practice of female suicide bombings.

"It does not have any effect on infidels," he said. "It will be better if these women stay alive and raise their children in the spirit of jihad."

He added that there are dozens of women willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of jihad in the North Caucasus.

Contrary to Kebekov’s arguments, female suicide bombings have been effective, as demonstrated by the death toll above and the factors of shock and fear that have helped terrorists to get their messages across. Two deadly suicide bombings in Volgograd late last year — one of which was blamed on a female terrorist — led to an international discussion over whether the Russian government would be able to provide adequate security for February’s Sochi Olympic Games.


Chechen in Syria a Rising Star in Extremist Group

The Associated Press | Jul. 02 2014

Omar al-Shishani, one of hundreds of Chechens who have been among the toughest jihadi fighters in Syria. AP

A young, red-bearded ethnic Chechen has rapidly become one of the most prominent commanders in the breakaway al-Qaida group that has overrun swaths of Iraq and Syria, illustrating the international nature of the movement.

Omar al-Shishani, one of hundreds of Chechens who have been among the toughest jihadi fighters in Syria, has emerged as the face of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, appearing frequently in its online videos — in contrast to the group’s Iraqi leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdad, who remains deep in hiding and has hardly ever been photographed.

In a video released by the group over the weekend, al-Shishani is shown standing next to the group’s spokesman among a group of fighters as they declare the elimination of the border between Iraq and Syria. The video was released just hours before the extremist group announced the creation of a caliphate — or Islamic state — in the areas it controls.

"Our aim is clear and everyone knows why we are fighting. Our path is toward the caliphate," the 28-year-old al-Shishani declares. "We will bring back the caliphate, and if God does not make it our fate to restore the caliphate, then we ask him to grant us martyrdom." The video is consistent with other Associated Press reporting on al-Shishani.

ISIL Commander in Syria — and Beyond?

Al-Shishani has been the group’s military commander in Syria, leading it on an offensive to take over a broad stretch of territory leading to the Iraq border. But he may have risen to become the group’s overall military chief, a post that has been vacant after the Iraqi militant who once held it — known as Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Bilawi al-Anbari — was killed in the Iraqi city of Mosul in early June. The video identified al-Shishani as "the military commander" without specifying its Syria branch, suggesting he had been elevated to overall commander, though the group has not formally announced such a promotion.

As the militant group’s operations in Iraq and Syria grow "more and more inter-dependent by the day, it is more than possible that someone like (al-Shishani) could assume overall military leadership," said Charles Lister, Visiting Fellow with the Brookings Doha Center.

The extremist group began as al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq, and many of its top leaders are Iraqi. But after it intervened in Syria’s civil war last year, it drew hundreds of foreign fighters into its operations in Syria. Now with victories on the two sides of the border, the two branches are swapping fighters, equipment and weapons to an even greater extent than before, becoming a more integrated organization. Its declaration of the caliphate — aspiring to be a state for all Muslims — could mean an even greater internationalization of its ranks.

Chechens ‘Considered Some of the Best Fighters’

Alexei Malashenko, an expert with the Carnegie Endowment’s Moscow office, said ethnicity is not a major factor in jihadi movements, only dedication to jihad. Al-Shishani "is a fanatic of Islam with war experience, and he obviously has had a strong track record (among fellow fighters)," he said.

Syria’s civil war, in its fourth year, has attracted militants from around the world. Some estimates run as high as 10,000 foreign fighters in the country. But the Chechens — hardened from years of wars with Russia in the Caucasus region — are considered some of the best fighters.

Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor agency known under its Russian acronym FSB, said last October that about 500 militants from Russia and hundreds more from other ex-Soviet nations are fighting in Syria.

Al-Shishani’s Background

Al-Shishani, whose real name is Tarkhan Batirashvili, is an ethnic Chechen from the Caucasus nation of Georgia, specifically from the Pankisi Valley, a center of Georgia’s Chechen community and once a stronghold for militants.

He did military service in the Georgian Army but was discharged after an unspecified illness, said one of his former neighbors, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. At one point, Georgian police arrested him for illegal possession of arms, the neighbor said. As soon as he was released in 2010, Batirashvili left for Turkey. Georgian police refused to comment.

He later surfaced in Syria in 2013 with his nom de guerre, which means "Omar the Chechen" in Arabic, leading an al-Qaida-inspired group called "The Army of Emigrants and Partisans," which included a large number of fighters from the former Soviet Union. A meeting was soon organized with al-Baghdadi in which al-Shishani pledged loyalty to him, according to Lebanon’s al-Akhbar newspaper, which follows jihadi groups.

Rising Through the Ranks

He first showed his battlefield prowess in August 2013, when his fighters proved pivotal in taking the Syrian military’s Managh air base in the north of the country. Rebels had been trying for months to take the base, but it fell soon after al-Shishani joined the battle, said an activist from the region, Abu al-Hassan Maraee.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant entered the Syria conflict in 2013, and initially it was welcomed by other rebels. But rebel groups — including other Islamic militant factions — turned against it, alienated by its brutal methods and kidnappings and killings of rivals, and accusing it of trying to take over the opposition movement for its own ambitions of creating a transnational Islamic enclave. Rebel factions have been fighting against the group since last year in battles that have left thousands dead. Al-Qaida’s central command ejected the extremist group from the network.

For the past two months, al-Shishani has led an offensive in Syria’s eastern Deir el-Zour province against rival rebels, seeking to solidify his hold on a stretch of territory connected to neighboring Iraq.

ISIL’s Media Darling

In May, some Arab media organizations reported that al-Shishani was killed in the fighting. An activist in Iraq in contact with members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant said al-Shishani suffered wounds in his right arm and was taken into Iraq where he underwent treatment before returning to Syria. He spoke on condition of anonymity for security concerns.

Since then, al-Shishani has appeared multiple times in photos and videos put out by the group. The photos and videos are consistent with the AP’s reporting from activists on the ground. In a recent photograph, the young, round-faced al-Shishani, wearing a black cap and beige gown, is seen with a big smile as he examines a Humvee said to have been captured in Iraq and brought into Syria.

Hussein Nasser, spokesman for the Islamic Front coalition group of rebels, said Chechens are among the most feared fighters in Syria.

"A Chechen comes and has no idea about anything (in the country) and does whatever his leader tells him," Nasser said. "Even if his emir tells him to kill a child, he would do it."

FSB Veterans Unhappy about New Special Forces Training Center in Chechnya

Mairbek Vatchagaev
Eurasia Daily Monitor
Volume: 11 Issue: 116 – June 26, 2014

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov stated recently that a new training center for special forces will be built on the territory of the Chechen Republic. Russian forces are expected to use the facility for training (, June 21). “There are no similar centers in Russia and there are only several of them in the world,” Kadyrov said. “The facility has a dual purpose. The MVD [Ministry of Interior], MO [Ministry of Defense], Federal Security Service [FSB] and other security agencies will have the opportunity to train their units. They will be able to train combat swimmers, to train special forces conducting operations in a mountainous, forested-mountainous terrain, as well as in urban areas” (Ramzan Kadyrov’s Instagram Page, June 20). Kadyrov specified that “athletes would receive training in 12 sport disciplines, including airborne forces training, practical shooting, diving, go-karting, gliding, flying in a wind tunnel.” Moreover, he said that the center will be commercial, which will make it self-sustainable.

Why does Kadyrov need to build his own center, when there are similar centers in the neighboring regions of Russia? For example, seven years ago, in March 2007, a special FSB training center was opened in vicinity of Dagestan’s capital Makhachkala. Hailing the center, then FSB director Nikolai Patrushev said that Kavkazsky Dvorik (Caucasian Yard), a unique special training center for FSB servicemen, was built on the Caspian Sea shore on 25 hectares of land (, September 8, 2010).

At the time the center in Dagestan was opened, it was said there was nothing like it in the entire world—that even the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) training center in the United States would envy the FSB’s center in Dagestan (Kavkaz Uzel, March 15, 2007). It was noted that the special services could train in rural and urban conditions. The center had unique simulators, an obstacle course and three gyms. Several unique training grounds included a seven-story transformer building. Yuri Saltykov, the head of the FSB special training center, described it: “Every floor of the building has a special arrangement. For example, the first floor is a stylized grocery store, the second floor is a department store, the third is a daycare [center], [and] the fourth is a stylized flat from the 1970s. Apart from that, industrial alpinism can be drilled there” (, March 18, 2007).

The center in Grozny is being described in the same terms. Thus, Moscow has opened two very similar centers, practically in the same region—the distance between Grozny and Makhachkala is only 166 kilometers—and over the seven years between the openings of the two centers, the sales pitch has not changed.

These are not the only FSB training centers in the North Caucasus: one of the oldest in the country exists in Karachaevo-Cherkessia. The FSB training center there is designed specifically for the FSB border service and includes a dog training facility (, December 24, 2011).

Another training center for the FSB border service exists in Kabardino-Balkaria, where personnel receive training in how to operate in high altitudes and obtain mountain climbing experience (, April 29).

Thus, practically the entire North Caucasus is under the close watch of the FSB. So why was a new center needed in Chechnya? The answer emerges once it becomes known that a retired FSB major, Daniil Martynov, is responsible for the implementation of this project. Martynov belonged to the famous Alfa spetsnaz (special forces) group, and later became Ramzan Kadyrov’s aide for setting up a special unit for the Chechen Republic manned by Chechens. He was one of Kadyrov’s personal bodyguards. According to some sources, out of all the regional leaders, only two have personal guards from the FSB’s spetsnaz unit—Chechnya’s Kadyrov and Ingushetia’s Yunus-Bek Yevkurov (, December 4, 2013).

Martynov’s official title is that of assistant to the head of Chechnya on security issues. “But he is not simply my assistant, he is a close friend, with whom I ended up in various difficult situations in the past,” Kadyrov said of Martynov (, December 4, 2013). After being discharged from service, Martynov remained in Chechnya with Kadyrov and created from the ground up the special unit comprised of Chechens. “We have never made it a secret in Chechnya that a group of future instructors is being trained in anti-terrorist activities in forested mountainous terrain,” Kadyrov said. “All instructors are officers and policemen” (, May 21). Kadyrov confirmed that a special police unit, the Terek group, is being created in the republic. It can be deduced from this statement that upon receiving official status from Russia, the center will prepare professionals to fight Kadyrov’s adversaries.

Former Alfa servicemen in Russia were unhappy with the fact that one of their former comrades was passing on secret techniques of combat to the Chechens. In particular, the president of the International Association of Veterans of the Alfa Antiterrorism Unit, Sergei Goncharov, said such a move was not justified (BigCaucasus, December 6, 2013). The BigCaucasus website believes that an alternative center for training special forces will appear in Chechnya that will produce personnel able to fight not only the terrorists, but also the best specialists from Alfa. This could cause discontent within some circles of the FSB in Moscow, which could lead to a conflict between Moscow and Grozny over Kadyrov’s desire to have his own special forces.

Officials in Grozny have failed to grasp that the Russian FSB creates centers across the North Caucasus not to strengthen the local forces, but to keep the situation there under Moscow’s control. The Kremlin, however, does not trust the locals when it comes to keeping the situation in the region under control. The FSB exists for suppression, not for friendly coexistence with the forces of regional khans and dukes. Therefore, Ramzan Kadyrov’s training center is unlikely to become the pride of the Chechen special forces, but rather to fall under the tight control of Moscow over time.

Transgressive Sanctity: The Abrek in Chechen Culture

Rebecca Gould
Yale-NUS College
March 29, 2010

Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 271-306, Spring 2007


The ancient tradition of the abrek (bandit) was developed into a political institution during the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century by Chechen and other Muslim peoples of the Caucasus as a strategy for dealing with the overwhelming military force of Russia’s imperial army. During the Soviet period, the abrek became a locus for oppositional politics and arguably influenced the representations of violence and anti-colonial resistance during the recent Chechen Wars (1994-indefinite). This article is one of the first works of English-language scholarship to historicize this institution.

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Las Violencias: Comparing Colombia’s and the North Caucasus’ Violence

Renée Gendron
Vitae Dynamics
February 11, 2010


This article compares the conflicts in Colombia and the North Caucasus. This article argues that there are similarities in the nature of the conflicts. The Colombian period of La Violencia began with two parties to the conflict. After La Violencia, new groups, guerrillas, entered the conflict which prompted a response from the Colombian military. In turn, these dynamics gave rise to the paramilitary organisations. In the North Caucasus, the First Chechen War was fought between two parties: the Chechen government and the Russian Federation. This conflict also evolved to include warlords, terrorists, separatists and insurgents. Both conflicts experience circular violence and in both instances, there is a strong degree of state clientelism present, which hampers the installation of effective rule of law.

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Russian analyst says east Ukraine is not like 1990s Chechnya

Text of report by Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda on 5 June

[Report by Aleksandr Grishin: "Fighting in Donbass and Chechen War: Why They Should Not Be Compared – Seven Differences between Regions of East of Ukraine That Have Risen Up against Kiev Junta and Rebellious Ichkeria"]

During recent weeks the Ukrainian media have been intensely discussing the idea of the supposed justification for a punitive operation by Kiev in Donbass. And as an argument they cite the point: "Why could Russia conduct military action in Chechnya while Ukraine is not allowed to do so in the southeast, if in both places separatists have risen up against the central government?" Well, let us examine whether Donbass-2014 really is that similar to Chechnya-1994.

First. The "acquisition of independence" in Chechnya and Donbass has taken place in line with absolutely different scenarios.

In Groznyy in 1991 Dzhokhar Dudayev supported the State Committee for the State of Emergency and after its collapse he was clearly frightened of the "debriefing". As a result, on 6 September 1991 Dudayev announced the dissolution of state power in the republic, and seized the Supreme Soviet building, the television centre, and radio broadcasting house. Dudayev’s men beat up many of the deputies from the Supreme Soviet of Checheno-Ingushetiya and threw the chairman of the Groznyy city council out of a window; he fell to his death. Dudayev proclaimed Chechnya’s independence, no-one asked the people.

In Donetsk and Luhansk, the leaders of the resistance to the Kiev junta were nominated at mass popular rallies. And they were able to organize and hold a referendum on independence on 11 May, in which the overwhelming majority of the population participated. People stood in kilometre-long queues in order to vote. And around 90 per cent came out in favour of independence from Kiev. It was only after this that the leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics started to organize their own real power structures.

Second. After the proclamation of Chechnya’s independence, the Russian population there was subjected to mass oppression. More than 250,000 Russians were forced to leave the republic’s territory. According to official data, between 1991 and 1999 more than 21,000 civilian (non-military) Russian-speaking citizens were killed in Chechnya, more than 100,000 apartments and houses were seized from representatives of non-titular (non-Chechen) ethnicities, and around 46,000 people were turned into slaves. Moreover, the banditry that flourished on the territory of Chechnya spilled over the republic’s boundaries. Hundreds of billions of roubles were cashed in on forged Chechen advice notes and the looting of passing trains, including passenger trains, became systematic – in 1993 alone Chechen gangs robbed 559 trains. The seizure of hostages, including foreign hostages, torture and executions became the norm. And, most interestingly, during all this time Moscow was transferring money to Chechnya as a component part of the federation from its own budget.

And Donbass? Are they expelling or robbing Ukrainians there? No. Not a single case of the forcible seizure of anyone’s property has been recorded. No persecution on ethnic, linguistic, or any other humanitarian grounds (indeed, none at all!). The local militia, on the contrary, strictly (up to and including the use of wartime legislation) stops cases of looting and ensures order. However, Kiev has already refused to pay public sector wages and pensions to old people in some towns of the region, including Slovyansk.

Third. Chechnya existed de facto as an independent state, although it was not recognized by anyone, during the period after the signing of the Khasavyurt agreements, but the wave of banditry and extremism did not abate there.

Who knows, it is quite possible that the "proud Ichkeria" would have existed even now if Khattab’s and Basayev’s gunmen had not gone on a military campaign in Russian Dagestan with the intention of adding neighbouring territories to Chechnya. It was after this that the decision was taken to conduct a second Chechen campaign, in which Moscow was supported by the larger part of the Chechen people.

No-one in Luhansk and Donetsk is planning to march on Kiev or Lviv, Poltava, Chernihiv… The only desire of both the leaders of the republics and their entire population is to be left in peace, for the bombing and killing, just for their decision to become independent from today’s Ukraine, which has turned into a nationalist quasi-state, to cease.

Fourth. The separatists in Chechnya declared war on a lawful Russian regime, which due to its legitimacy had the right to introduce a state of emergency and conduct a counter-terrorist operation. As far as Donbass is concerned, its population did not wish to submit to the junta that came to power as a result of a coup d’etat, the treacherous violation of signed agreements, and which unleashed terror against the local population.

Fifth. The Chechen terrorists were received at the highest level in Europe and America, they were given military and financial aid by the Persian Gulf monarchies, not to mention the huge flow of mercenaries made up of Islamic radicals from the entire world, including international terrorists from al-Qa’idah.

Donetsk and Luhansk rely primarily on their own resources. The weapons with which the militia oppose aggression from Kiev were obtained from the Ukrainian army, some of the volunteers are from neighbouring Russia – less than 10 per cent of the militia, and more than 90 per cent are made up of local residents from Slovyansk, Horlivka etc, and from various regions of Ukraine, including from Kharkiv, Odessa, and even Lviv. Not one of the countries of the West has considered the leaders of Novorossiya and its population party to the negotiation process.

Sixth. Russia conducted negotiations with the separatists both in Groznyy and in Moscow, trying to resolve everything peacefully. And at the end of the forcible phase of the counterterrorist operation, Russia sent huge funds to Chechnya for restoration and the republic is now one of the best-equipped regions of the country.

As for Novorossiya, no-one in Kiev is conducting any negotiations with Donetsk and Luhansk, not a single call for peace has been heard from the current junta, and from the very start there was the aim of forcible punitive suppression. A clear directive was imposed in relation to the people of the regions that rose up – consider them second-class citizens, not even people but "Colourados". No-one intends to invest any additional (or even mandatory) funds in the development of Donbass and Luhansk. These regions interest the Kiev regime exclusively as "cash cows" – a territory providing two-thirds of Ukraine’s exports and foreign currency earnings.

Seventh and most important. The overwhelming majority of the population of Chechnya was in favour of the existence of their republic within the framework of the Russian Federation. It was the population’s refusal to support the gunmen that ultimately led to their collapse. As for Novorossiya, the will of the people here is absolutely clear and it has been demonstrated categorically in referendums, and the right to defend the people’s will using all available means has been delegated to the new power structures in the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.

Source: Komsomolskaya Pravda website, Moscow, in Russian 5 Jun 14


Slain teacher said involved in rebel leader’s murder

Rebels in Russia’s North Caucasus region claimed that a school-teacher killed in Dagestan on the night of 2 June had been involved in an operation to kill a Chechen rebel leader in 2003.

"[Rebels in] Dagestan confirmed the earlier report about the elimination of a participant in the operation against Chechen amir Khamzat [Ruslan] Gelayev [in Dagestan in 2003]. It was found out that the apostate worked as a teacher in a village school," North Caucasus jihadist website Kavkaz-Tsentr reported on 6 June.

The website noted that Akhtubek Malayev, who was killed in the village of Komsomolskoye in Dagestan’s Kizilyurtovskiy District on the night of 2 June, was awarded the Order of Courage following the operation.

"’The murder was probably linked to those events’ – local puppets admitted in interviews with Russian mass media and disclosed that Malayev had been repeatedly threatened for assisting Russian infidels [security agents]," the report added.

On 2 June, the Dagestani state-run local news agency RIA Dagestan reported that masked persons had come to the house of the teacher and fired point-blank at him. He died of gunshot wounds on the way to a hospital, the report added.

Sources: Kavkaz-Tsentr news agency website in Russian 6 Jun 14; RIA Dagestan, Makhachkala, in Russian 0518 gmt 2 Jun 14