Ingush Cleric Denounces Republic Head, Prominent Sufi Brotherhood

RFE/RL Caucasus Report | July 06, 2014

Yet another new protagonist has come forward with damaging allegations against Republic of Ingushetia head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.

Ingush Muslim cleric Sheikh Salekh Khamkhoyev has accused Yevkurov of complicity with a Sufi brotherhood he believes is responsible for attacks on his home or property and appealed for protection to Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov, with whom Yevkurov is engaged in a protracted low-level feud.

Khamkhoyev, 58, belongs to the generation of Chechens and Ingush born in exile in Kazakhstan to parents deported in 1944. He graduated from the Bukhara madrasah (religious school), one of two functioning in Uzbekistan during the late Soviet period. In 1990, he founded an Islamic institute in Nazran, of which he served as rector. Between 1990 and 1997 he also worked as an adviser on religious affairs to Ruslan Aushev, the first president of the Republic of Ingushetia; as a consultant to the Russian Nationalities Ministry; and as an adviser to the chairman of the Russian State Duma.

Khamkhoyev was one of 34 candidates who sought to register for the April 2002 early presidential election occasioned by Aushev’s resignation. A spokesman recently confirmed that he is currently Ingushetia’s representative to the Council of Muftis of Russia, but a search of that organization’s website does not yield a single mention of him.

Khamkhoyev claimed in late June that his armored Mercedes had been blown up outside his Moscow home. But Moscow police denied this, saying the vehicle may have caught fire as a result of a short circuit.

Khamkhoyev, however, construed the incident as the latest in a series of attempts by the Sufi Batal-hadzhi vird (brotherhood) to intimidate and pressure himself and members of his family. (The plot of John le Carre’s 1994 novel "Our Game" hinges on the clandestine influence wielded by Ingush Sufis in Moscow.)

In January 2013, unidentified perpetrators subjected Khamkhoyev’s home in Nazran to machine-gun fire.

In addition, Khamkhoyev wrote in a July 1 telegram to Kadyrov, a scanned authenticated copy of which has been posted on the opposition website ingushetiyaru.org, that members of the Batal-hadzhi vird have tried to extort $10,000 from him, physically attacked his two sons, and threatened to kill him — apparently because they believe he furnished Colonel General Sergei Chenchik, head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for the North Caucasus Federal District, with evidence of their involvement in criminal activities.

The Batal-hadzhi vird is named after Batal-hadzhi Belkhoroyev, an Ingush who was a murid (disciple) of Kunta-hadzhi Kishiyev, the 19th-century Chechen Sufi preacher who has been elevated to cult status within the framework of Kadyrov’s concept of "traditional Chechen Islam." After Kunta-hadzhi’s death in 1867, his followers split into four virds, of which the Batal-hadzhi vird is one.

The Belkhoroyev extended family continues to play a prominent role both within the Batal-hadzhi vird and in republican politics. Ingushetian opposition parliament deputy Akhmed Belkhoroyev, who recently went public with criticisms of corruption and mismanagement within the republican leadership, is a member of that clan.

Khamkhoyev subscribes to the view that, as he informs Kadyrov, the Batal-hadzhi vird "no longer bears any relation to the great sheikh Batal-hadzhi or to the true murids of that vird." He says the brotherhood has split into two parts, of which one has made Yevkurov its puppet, while the second has "found refuge" with Kadyrov, presumably meaning in Chechnya. Professing to be a follower of Kunta-hadzhi, Khamkhoyev demands that Kadyrov protect him from the Batal-hadzhi vird, warning him that in the event that he ignores that request, "I reserve the right to testify against you on the Day of Judgment."

If, as Khamkhoyev claims, Kadyrov has indeed come to an accommodation with some members of the Batal-hadzhi vird, possibly with a view to using them as a tool in his feud with Yevkurov, then the chances he will respond positively to Khamkhoyev’s veiled threat are minimal. One blogger even claims that the Batal-hadzhi vird has acknowledged Kadyrov as its spiritual leader.

In addition, Khamkhoyev tells Kadyrov that he earlier appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for protection from the Batal-hadzhi vird, naming specifically Yakub Belkhoroyev, former mayor of the Ingushetian capital, Magas, and Yevkurov’s brother-in-law; Yakub’s nephew, Ingushetian Deputy Minister of Communications Ibragim Belkhoroyev; Ingushetian Deputy Minister of Sport Daud Alkhazurov; and three more members of the Belkhoroyev and Alkhazurov families.

Putin, however, passed that appeal to Yevkurov, who in turn passed it on to the brotherhood. (A scanned copy of Khamkhoyev’s telegram to Putin, dated March 7, is also posted on ingushetiyaru.org.) Given that Kadyrov never passes up an opportunity to profess his loyalty to Putin and sing his praises, it is unlikely he would take any action that would call Putin’s judgment into question.

Indeed, Putin is not the only senior Russian official to whom Khamkhoyev has appealed. On May 18, he contacted Chenchik, having learned that the Batal-hadzhi brotherhood has decided to kill him after receiving from Chenchik what purported to be a letter (which Khamkhoyev denies ever having written) apparently containing incriminating evidence against them. Khamkhoyev asks Chenchik to try to trace the provenance of that letter.

http://www.rferl.org/content/caucasus-report-ingushetia-sufis/25447148.html

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Ingush Parliamentarian Seeks Putin’s Protection After Criticizing Republic Head

RFE/RL Caucasus Report | June 22, 2014

Just nine months after his reelection for a second term as Republic of Ingushetia head, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov is once again facing allegations of corruption and mismanagement on the part of the regional government.
 
Such allegations are not new: for years the opposition Mekhk Kkhel (shadow parliament) bombarded Moscow with denunciations of Yevkurov and his entourage, and pleas to replace him. Then, in June 2013, 17 political parties and groups convened a congress in Moscow at which delegates demanded not only Yevkurov’s resignation, but also the holding of a referendum on whether the republic head should be elected by popular ballot or by the parliament.
 
This time, however, the criticism of Yevkurov came neither from the Mekhk Kkhel nor the broader informal congress, nor from indefatigable oppositionist Magomed Khazbiyev, but from Akhmed Belkhoroyev, an Ingush parliamentarian who began his career in the Interior Ministry, and Israil Arsamakov, a former advisor to Yevkurov. 

Belkhoroyev, 28, is the sole representative in the Ingushetian legislature of the A Just Cause party. In May 2013, he was the only lawmaker to vote against amending the republic’s constitution to abolish direct elections for the post of republic head.
 
One month later, he told the Moscow daily "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that it was endemic corruption and the republican leadership’s inability to bring about any improvement in socioeconomic conditions in Ingushetia, which are among the worst in the entire Russian Federation, that impelled some 50,000 Ingush (out of a total population of 412,500) to sign a petition demanding such direct elections in the hope of voting Yevkurov out of office.

The Ingushetian human rights organization MASHR designated Belkhoroyev as one of its 2013 "heroes of civil society" for "decency in discharging his official duties."
 

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Ingush parliamentarian Akhmed Belkhoroyev

Belkhoroyev repeated his criticisms of Yevkurov earlier this month. On June 9, he was quoted by the daily "Izvestia" as accusing Yevkurov of devoting his entire energy to undermining his political opponents rather than focusing on improving the socioeconomic situation.

Belkhoroyev said the republic is mired in corruption; that embezzlement of federal funds is "the norm;" that both the Russian Constitution and the law are routinely ignored; and that official statistics are falsified to show a steady decline in unemployment.
 
Arsamakov, for his part, told "Izvestia" that the process of creating a civil society has not even started in Ingushetia. He said the lack of employment prospects impels young men to "head for the forest" to join the Islamic insurgency, while government officials ignore the region’s problems rather than seek solutions to them.
 
Moscow Unmoved
 
A commentary in "Moskovsky komsomolets" titled "Is Yevkurov Losing Control?"  characterized the situation in even more apocalyptic terms as "an undeclared civil war" replete with "the killings of innocent civilians, abductions, interclan conflicts and political intrigue."
 
Belkhoroyev’s allegations of corruption and embezzlement are apparently not unfounded. Just days earlier, "Izvestia" had reported that a probe conducted early this year by the North Caucasus Federal District Directorate of the Russian Prosecutor General’s office revealed "a whole series of gross violations" in the use of budget funds that could jeopardize the successful implementation of a 79-billion-ruble ($2.23-billion) federal development program for Ingushetia approved by the Russian government in 2009.
 
Bekhoroyev has since appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for protection, claiming to have received threats from Timur Khamroyev, head of the Interior Ministry Center for Combatting Extremism. Both in his appeal to Putin and in a separate letter to the Investigative Committee at the Prosecutor General’s office, Belkhoroyev enumerated three instances of the recourse to torture by Republic of Ingushetia Interior Ministry personnel.

Meanwhile, Yevkurov convened a meeting with senior siloviki, parliamentarians and Security Council officials at which he made pejorative comments about Belkhoroyev and Arsamakov, thereby indirectly corroborating the former’s charge that he spends too much time and energy trying to neutralize his political opponents.
 
The recently published effectiveness ratings for the heads of the 85 federation subjects nonetheless suggests that the Russian leadership is still inclined to believe Yevkurov’s version of the state of affairs in Ingushetia.

Yevkurov ranked in joint 35th-38th place in that rating, in the second category (a score of 65-75 out of a maximum 100), after Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov (7th-9th place with a score of 92), Rashid Temrezov (Karachayevo-Cherkessia, 19th-20th ) and Ramazan Abdulatipov (Republic of Daghestan , 21st-22nd), but ahead of Aslanchery Tkhakushinov (Republic of Adygheya, 46th-48th),  Yurii Kokov (Kabardino-Balkaria, 65th-69th) and Taymuraz Mamsurov   (North Ossetia, 75th).
 
At the same time, it is conceivable, as this blog has hypothesized
once before, that as long as the Kremlin continues to regard Yevkurov as a valuable counterweight to Kadyrov, any efforts to undermine him are a waste of time and energy.
 
Sergei Melikov, whom President Putin appointed in early May to head the North Caucasus Federal District, is currently touring the region and meeting one on one with republic heads. He has not yet visited Magas, but when he does, the published reports of his talks with Yevkurov may yield some indication of how seriously the Kremlin takes Belkhoroyev’s corruption allegations.

Ingush militants respond to death of their leaders

Eurasia Daily Monitor
June 12, 2014 — Volume 11, Issue 106

Ingush Authorities Open Pandora’s Box by Calling for Blood Vengeance to Counter Insurgent Threat

As was previously announced, the leader of Ingushetia’s insurgents, Artur Gatagazhev (Emir Abdullah), was killed in the village of Sagopshi on May 24. Officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) blockaded and then attacked the house of a police officer where a group of militants were hiding, killing all seven of them. The militants were allegedly planning several terrorist attacks in Ingushetia, and were also tied to the assassination of the secretary of Ingushetia’s Security Council, Ahmed Kotiev (Interfax, May 24).

The head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, said the special operation in the village of Sagopshi “was carried out at a high professional level” and said the elimination of Gatagazhev’s bandit group would improve the crime situation in the republic (Kommersant, May 26). Moreover, some officials prematurely suggested that the militants would disappear from Ingushetia’s political arena altogether.

However, the Ingush militants did not wait long to retaliate for the killing of their leader. CCTV cameras captured the two young men who moved briskly toward the hospital guards’ building in Nazran, Ingushetia on the evening of June 6. The two men parked their car near the city morgue and opened fire on the checkpoint of the hospital with automatic weapons (lifenews.ru, June 7).

According to law enforcement officials, the police guards were having supper at the time. Through a strange coincidence, out of the 14 people who were packed into a tiny room, only four were affected. According to official sources, two officers, 32-year-old Alexander Belyaev and Valery Razuvaev, were seriously wounded. Two others, 32-year-old Mikhail Kraft and 31-year-old Ivan Chekalin, were slightly injured (kavkazpress.ru, June 7).

Official sources and rebel resistance sources gave different estimates of the number of casualties. According to the rebels, seven people were killed and four were wounded. All of the victims were officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Ministry of Interior. To avoid leaks after the attack, FSB officers reportedly confiscated the registration book at the hospital, in which the dead and wounded were registered. A video posted to the Internet showed a person escaping from the building at the time of the shooting, falling to the ground and then being picked up by his colleagues (06-ingushetiya.livejournal.com, June 7—Page Removed).

The attackers used up the magazines in their rifles, returned to their car in the parking lot and sped away (lifenews.ru, June 7).

According to the Russian press, which has invariably failed to learn anything about the traditions and customs of the people it describes, the attackers tried to steal the body of Ingush rebel leader Gatagazhev from the morgue. The Russian law on terrorism prohibits returning bodies of slain militants to their relatives, so the Russian media assumed that the insurgents had tried to snatch it. However, the jihadist militants are indifferent to what happens to the corpses of their slain comrades. According to their beliefs, what happens to the body is unimportant, because the soul of the slain person enters heaven with the status of a shahid, i.e. someone who died for the faith. Also, it would have been an unlikely endeavor for two people to attack a crowd of armed FSB and police officers at one end of the hospital and be able to take away corpses from the morgue, which is at the other end of the hospital.

In fact, it was an operation by Ingush militants that aimed not at taking something or someone away, but at striking and leaving the place without being harmed. The attackers chose the time of the changing of the guards for the attack, which explains why there were so many people in a small room. The room is not suitable for eating, so it is out of the question that 14 people were simply sitting there eating supper.

The attack also may have been in response to a speech made by Yevkurov on May 24, after the operation in Sagopshi was over, in which he attempted to pressure the families of the slain militants. “Until now we have acted with utter restraint and attempted to hold back relatives of the victims of the militants, who wanted to take blood vengeance against the relatives of the militants, but we will not do that anymore,” the Interfax news agency quoted Yevkurov as saying. “I ordered the Security Council to spread the information and pictures of all bandits on the wanted list and those who they killed. Let everyone look and know that” (newsru.com, May 29).

Thus, the authorities in essence pit people against each other and call on them to take blood revenge on members of the armed underground. The government’s attempts to deal with the insurgency through blood vengeance will result in a higher level conflict, as relatives of slain police officers seek revenge. The authorities are opening a Pandora’s Box. It will be difficult to close, given the spread and popularity of the blood vengeance custom among the Chechens and the Ingush, unlike elsewhere in the Caucasus.

The government’s threat to use the blood vengeance custom is unlikely to stop the militants, who attach little importance to ties between relatives. The brazen attack at the hospital in Nazran showed that the government was too hasty in declaring that the problem of jihadists in Ingushetia had been solved. In fact, it is even possible that the new, as yet unannounced leader of Ingushetia’s militants will be more active than his predecessor.

–Mairbek Vatchagaev

Did Ingush militants once again lose their emir?

Eurasia Daily Monitor
May 29, 2014 — Volume 11, Issue 100

Leader of Ingushetia’s Rebels Reportedly Killed in Special Operation

On the morning of May 24, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) reportedly carried out a special operation jointly with police near construction sites in the village of Sagopshi in Ingushetia’s Malgobek district. According to eyewitnesses, however, the special operation looked more like the indiscriminate shooting of everyone who happened to be in the home of police officer Umar Korigov. The government forces opened fire without any warning (http://slonus2012.livejournal.com/174991.html).

First, the government forces mistakenly set fire to the house belonging to Korigov’s neighbor. Only after they realized their error did they switch to attacking Korigov’s house. The government forces did not give anyone the chance to surrender. As a result, the spouse of the head of the household also died, and the police were forced to claim that she had also been a rebel. The law enforcement agencies apparently had no intention of taking anyone in the house alive. After they ascertained that everyone in the house was killed, they rammed the walls with heavy machinery, and then mined and blew up the remains of the house several times. The government’s account of the events was different: it declared that “explosives were found in the house of the police officer where the special operation was carried out [and] were destroyed on the spot” (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/243160/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter).

Russian law enforcement agencies also had their own version of how the operation started. “A 30-year-old employee of the 3rd police battalion, Umar Korigov, along with his wife, hid five militants in their house,” a law enforcement source said. “The militants were suspected of involvement in the murder of the secretary of the Security Council of the republic, Akhmed Kotiev, and attempts on the lives of police officers. After being offered the chance to surrender, Korigov fired shots” (http://www.gazeta.ru/social/news/2014/05/24/n_6178037.shtml).

According to eyewitnesses, however, the operation was carried out in the most barbaric fashion. The home was first fired upon by all types of weaponry, including the latest grenade launchers, as a result of which the house burned down (http://slonus2012.livejournal.com/174991.html). Officials emphasized the fact that the militants lived under the protection of Korigov, a police officer, raising questions about the reliability of the local police (http://itar-tass.com/proisshestviya/1212046). In fact, the reliability of the local police has been in question for quite some time. The FSB does not share information with the local police, relegating it to the role of organizing the outer ring of defense during special operations.

The leader of Ingushetia’s militants, Emir Abdallah, was identified among those killed in the special operation. The rebel leader, a.k.a. Artur Gatagazhev, was 39 years old and believed to be from the village of Sagopshi in Ingushetia’s Malgobek district, where his ancestors had lived, although he was actually born in the city of Mary in Turkmenistan. Gatagazhev became the leader of Ingushetia’s jamaat, the Velayat Galgaiche, after the previous emir of the republic’s rebels, Jamaleil Mutaliev (Emir Adam), was killed in May 2013 (http://lifenews.ru/news/114104).

Emir Abdallah was officially introduced by the leader of the North Caucasian resistance movement, Doku Umarov, who himself was killed in 2013 (http://ummanews.com/news/last-news/12011-2014-01-16-13-38-42.html). Umarov’s statement was interesting both for its timing and its message. The video address was leaked only this past January, after Umarov’s death. In it, Umarov urged the Ingush rebel rank and file to refrain from discussing Gatagazhev’s candidacy and accept him as the envoy of the Caucasus Emirate. This means that there was opposition among the insurgents to the appointment of Emir Abdallah, and the video was broadcast to bolster his position in Ingushetia.

Timur Bokov, a spokesman for the governor of Ingushetia, confirmed Gatagazhev’s death, saying that he had been positively identified as one of the seven slain militants by his fingerprints. Bokov hastily declared that the organized underground movement had been destroyed: “We can say with certainty that the days of the organized bandit underground in Ingushetia are over, the centralized structure of the bandit underground has been destroyed” (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/243160/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter). The statement was quite optimistic and probably also quite irresponsible, given the history of changes in the leadership of the North Caucasian insurgents over the past 15 years. In a republic as small as Ingushetia, reorganizing the local cells will not take that much effort. The militants’ websites have not yet confirmed the death of Emir Abdallah (http://kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/05/25/104800.shtml).

Russian law enforcement agencies stated: “Gatagazhev and his gang’s involvement in the murder of the secretary of the Security Council of Ingushetia, Ahmed Kotiev, the murder of the Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Magomed Korigov in Malgobek, suicide attacks in the village of Sagopshi during the funeral of a police officer, a suicide attack at the checkpoint Kizlyar and others, has been established” (http://www.rg.ru/2014/05/24/reg-skfo/gatagazhev-anons.html). Also among the slain militants was Ahmed Yevloev, who reportedly also led the Malgobek district rebels. Yevloev was suspected of involvement in the killing of Ingush Security Council secretary Ahmed Kotiev and several other crimes (http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2479293).

The operation in Sagopshi was also noteworthy because it marked the first time that Ingushetia’s Security Council demanded that residents of the village surrender if they had cooperated with the insurgents. The authorities apparently had information that local residents were supporting the militants (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/243160/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter). Moreover, the Security Council’s demand suggests that the supporters of the insurgency in the village were from influential local circles that have substantial sway across the republic.

Thus, even though the Ingush rebels suffered significant losses in the Sagopshi operation, the militants will undoubtedly regroup, meaning that the killing of Ingushetia’s rebel chief will lead to few substantial changes in the militant underground.

–Mairbek Vatchagaev

Chechnya Accuses Ingushetia of Seizing its Land Russia

RIA Novosti
22:04 26/08/2012

Russia’s North Caucasus Republic of Chechnya is set to ask federal authorities to demarcate an administrative border between Chechnya and Ingushetia, saying its lands are being seized, the Chechen leadership’s website said on Sunday.

Continue reading

Chechnya Lays Claim to Ingush Land

By Nikolaus von Twickel
The Moscow Times
28 August 2012

A standoff between Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his Ingush counterpart, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, heated up Monday when Chechnya declared the creation of a "bilateral commission" to delineate the internal border with Ingushetia.

Continue reading

Kadyrov Plays The ‘Vainakh’ Card

Liz Fuller
RFE/RL Caucasus Report
August 22, 2012

Predictably, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov has used the August 19 suicide bomb attack in Ingushetia’s Malgobek Raion as ammunition in his ongoing private feud with his Ingushetian counterpart, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.

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