Category Archives: Russia

ISIS launches Russian channel, social media

In recent weeks Russian-speaking militants have been using the channel to put out their own messages, as The Guardian reported on Monday.

Furat, which was launched on June 5 and began tweeting on June 18, published a professionally produced video, “Unity Of The Mujahideen Of The Caucasus”, which reportedly includes interviews with Russian-speaking militants in ISIS, with many more videos available for download from their site.

Infographic: Abu Omar Al Chechani – an ISIS leader who decided to join the global jihad after an experience fighting the Russians as a member of the Georgian army. (Courtesy: GNI)

It was through Furat that ISIS declared the establishment of a province in the North Caucasus, inside the Russian Federation.

The official shutdown of Furat has so far been unsuccessful, however its homepages on Russian social website VKontakte have been closed.

Despite crackdowns on pro-ISIS accounts by Twitter and Facebook, the number of accounts broadcasting and sharing militant material is vast. According to the Brookings Institute, there were over 46,000 accounts with over a thousand followers used by ISIS supporters until late in 2014.

This Russian-language channel is yet another sign that ISIS is becoming more powerful in post-Soviet countries.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, recently said that 2,000 Russian nationals are currently fighting in ISIS.

Russia and Islamic State: Caucasian jihad

MAKHACHKALA//  IN OCTOBER 1832 Russian soldiers besieged the village of Gimry (pictured) in the mountains of Dagestan in an effort to capture Gazi-Muhammad, the first imam of the Caucasus Imamate, who had defied their rule. He was killed, but his follower, Imam Shamil, jumped over the line of Russian bayonets and escaped. Ever since then, Gimry has been a symbol of defiance and a stronghold of Islamic rule.

In the autumn of 2014 Russian soldiers again besieged the village. They were trying to capture Magomed Suleimanov, a native of Gimry who had been proclaimed emir of the Emirate Caucasus, an al-Qaeda-linked insurgency launched in 2007. The soldiers sacked a neighbouring settlement, forced out its population of 1,000 and looted their houses. Mr Suleimanov escaped, but Gimry remains surrounded by Russian soldiers; only residents are allowed in.

Yet the Russian army, it seems, is fighting yesterday’s war. While it is still trying to catch Mr Suleimanov, his insurgency seems to be on its way out. “The Emirate Caucasus is dead,” says Abdurakhim Magomedov, an aged leader of the puritanical Salafi movement from the village of Novosasitli. “It has not been effective.”

The Emirate Caucasus has been replaced by something even nastier: Islamic State (IS). Up to 2,000 young men from Chechnya and Dagestan may be fighting for IS, according to estimates by Russian security experts. Several commanders from the Emirate Caucasus in Chechnya and Dagestan have switched their allegiance to the IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Young men are drawn to IS by its perceived strength and success, says Abas Makhmudov, an ex-member of the shura, or Islamic council, of Chechnya and Dagestan. Others speculate that the risks of fighting in Syria are less awful than at home: a young jihadi may be killed, but his killers will not be able to threaten his family back in Dagestan or Chechnya. Mr Makhmudov opposes IS, yet his own son was recently killed fighting for the group in Syria. “I tried to stop him, but he was enticed by his friends and the images on the internet—particularly the ones of atrocities by the Assad regime,” he says.

What baffles Mr Makhmudov is how his son, who had a criminal record, obtained the Russian passport needed to travel abroad—even after he alerted the authorities to his son’s intentions. It is even less clear how Nadir Medetov, a radical preacher who had been under house arrest in Dagestan, made his way to the Middle East, where he swore allegiance to IS.

In a recent interview Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, claimed it would be impossible to stop the flow of recruits to IS. Coming from an official of the security apparatus that sealed off the entire region ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, that sounds disingenuous. Most people interviewed for this article who have had contact with those who have gone to Syria suggest that Russian security services have been complicit. “They are certainly not trying to stop them,” says Magomedrasul Saaduev, the chief imam of the central mosque in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital.

Formally, Russia supports the regime of Bashar Assad and deems IS illegal. It recently outlawed the participation of Russian citizens in armed conflicts abroad with aims that “contradict the interests of the Russian Federation”. (The caveat is presumably meant to distinguish IS fighters from Russians fighting in eastern Ukraine.)

However, Russia may hope that letting jihadists leave the country is good riddance. Insurgent activity in the North Caucasus has certainly gone down. The chances of IS militants returning are slim; Russia does, in fact, tightly control its borders. Yet Akhmet Yarlykapov, a Dagestan expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences, says the tactic is short-sighted. Russia itself is faced with a major threat from IS: it recently claimed the entire territory of Caucasus as one of its provinces (see article).

Over the past two years, the regional commanders of the Emirate Caucasus pledged not to target civilians and ruled out the use of female suicide bombers. But switching allegiance to IS may entail employing its methods, says Mr Yarlykapov.

As a preventive measure, the authorities are piling pressure on anyone who practises Salafism. Ikramudin Aliev, who was fired as a co-ordinator of the pro-Kremlin youth movement in Dagestan for growing a beard, says the authorities are trying to shut down his Salafi mosque by planting weapons and drugs on its clerics. Ziyautdin Uvaisov, a young Salafi imam who opposes IS, argues that instead of letting people like him do his job and educate Muslims, the authorities are radicalising them and pushing them into the hands of IS or the local insurgency.

A recent report by Human Rights Watch found that the use of extra-judicial harassment is widespread. Yet while the state can apply force, it can scarcely supply social services or justice. Magdi Kamalov, the editor of Chernovik, an independent newspaper, says the presence of Russian power in Dagestan is mainly decorative. “We see more and more people coming to us for justice,” says Mr Saaduev, the imam of the main mosque in Makhachkala, who adheres to the state-endorsed Sufi creed.

Just a few years ago, Dagestan’s Salafi and Sufi leaders were on the verge of religious conflict. Now they are uniting in the face of twin threats: IS recruitment and the Russian government’s lawlessness. The Emirate Caucasus might be losing its grip. So, however, is the Russian state.

Russia: Vulnerable to ISIS

A video appeared on the Internet several days ago in which bearded men from the Islamic State declare that the North Caucasus are part of the Islamic State. In another video, commanders from North Caucasus guerrilla groups agree to join the Islamic State and recite the requisite oath.

By Ivan Sukhov// Russians discussed various options concerning Chechnya’s future back in the 1990s. Chechnya first declared its independence in 1991 and twice fought for it — not without some success. However, the average Russian is always inclined to look at things through the prism of conservative politics.

Even while Russian soldiers were dying on the streets of Grozny, Muscovites sitting in their kitchens or bars would lightly curl their lips and agree that Russia could let the North Caucasus go, but would inevitably add: “But what good are the North Caucasus without Russia?”

Indeed, a look at the map always showed that the North Caucasus was in relative safety. From the conservative Soviet point of view, real danger lies in the possibility of some other power snatching away a piece of territory. But who would try to encroach on a nuclear power? And from where would they do it? After all, over the mountains lie Georgia and Azerbaijan. Are Turkey or Iran a threat? They might cast a covetous glance now and then on the Caucasus, but that is about the extent of it.

In short, even if things were not going smoothly within North Caucasus, the region needn’t have worried about its territorial integrity: nobody seemed to have any designs on it.

And then, just last week, something happened that hadn’t occurred in a very long time. A political entity lacking the status of a full-fledged state or recognition as a participant of the world community, but with sufficient influence to remain on television screens and newspaper headlines for months on end, announced that it claims a part of Russian territory as its own.

The Islamic State is not recognized by anyone as a legitimate structure, and yet no one has the audacity to say it isn’t, either. And not only has it laid claim to a part of Russia’s territory, but there are people living there who have said: “Yes, that is exactly what we want. We are ready to defend this idea with arms.”

Under different circumstances, it might have been possible to simply ignore such pronouncements. A few commanders from the North Caucasus guerrilla underground represent a mere handful of malcontents and their equally scant number of followers — all of whom are already under surveillance by the Federal Security Service and military intelligence. If Russia’s domestic affairs were more or less in order, it could blithely ignore those threats.

However, Russia’s domestic affairs are not in order. According to the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, 5,000 Russians are fighting with the Islamic State in the Middle East. As of the last few months, that figure makes Russia the largest supplier of manpower to the Islamic State among non-Islamic countries.

Strictly speaking, now that the Islamic State has declared the North Caucasus as its own province, its supporters have no need to travel to distant Syria or Iraq in order to fight. Right at home they have hundreds of like-minded people who would like nothing more than to go to war for Islam.

Until now, only one thing was stopping them — the great distance they had to travel to reach Islamic State forces. Now they can simply grab a gun and stroll just beyond the limits of their village — already ordinary behavior for that region.

In part this is because the North Caucasus has de facto become a region where Russian law and the influence of the Russian state are applied only unevenly. In general, a state can be defined as such whenever a legitimate government is capable of establishing rules of conduct and can demand their execution under the threat of force.

There are regions in the North Caucasus that have withdrawn from such a system and set up virtual enclaves, places where the authorities apply force only occasionally at best, and where those who apply that force must first leave their heavily fortified, fortress-like bases and travel in armored vehicles.

And even if a legitimate government does exist, under such conditions its ability to apply force or influence becomes so limited that the very existence of the state comes into question. When that happens, the ominous statements made by bearded outlaws sitting in a desert 700 kilometers from Makhachkala — which is, in fact, closer than Sochi or Moscow — cease to be idle threats.

That reduces the state to some sort of quasi-state. Of course, the fact that citizens of that state can apply for disability benefits or receive passports enabling them to travel, makes the Russian presence in the Caucasus somewhat less ephemeral than the Islamic State. But on the whole, the gradual erosion of Russia’s presence and influence in the North Caucasus plays into the hands of those who argue: “Since things haven’t worked out so well with Russia, why not try the Islamic State?”

Something has gone wrong in Russia: people have lost their sense of solidarity with the country, a sense of allegiance to the flag. The imam of the Voronezh mosque, a man that Russians might call a “traditional Muslim,” posted information on social networks that he had traveled to Syria to fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad. However, the Kremlin considers Assad a leader who is fighting a justified war against bandits and terrorists. But isn’t that imam a part of the Russian nation?

Those Russians who believe that President Vladimir Putin is the be-all and end-all and those who hate Putin are like two different peoples. In a sense, the first group carries a national flag with Putin’s image on it, while the second carries a similar flag, but with a red line through the picture.

One advocates the free market, another a return to communism, a third simply wants to earn money without excessive government interference. Still another supports the Islamic State while another opposes it. One is alarmed at the legalization of same-sex marriages in the United States even though his own “acceptable” family is falling apart. And some are doing so well that they could care less about politics, Putin or the Islamic State.

Each of these groups is like a separate nation, a different people, and they have not yet managed to forge a single country for all. Each group holds views of what is proper and acceptable that are too much at odds with the others to be reflected by a single national flag.

One group wants to join the Islamic State, the other the EU. But a way out exists for both groups: If you can’t ensconce the Islamic State in your own backyard, you can always join your brethren in the Middle East. If you can’t integrate with Europe, just retire to your dacha and plant enough flowers to imagine you live in Holland.

It might be a hackneyed metaphor to call a country a common home for all, but as long as discord reigns in your home, one group after another will continually claim rights to your room.

And if you, like Russia, claim to be the hot shot of the neighborhood and have even managed to alienate your neighbors and the local sheriff — who would ordinarily help you fight back the gangs on your street — you will find yourself in an unenviable position when it turns out that the Islamic State lays claim to your basement or to that new room you have added.

Russian Islamists pledge allegiance to Islamic State


Islamist militants in four regions of Russia’s Caucasus have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, according to a recording which was welcomed by IS after being posted online.

The news sparked fears that the jihadist group’s influence is growing among the region’s younger generation of Islamists, and that they may try to prove themselves by staging brutal attacks on Russian soil.

Jihadists from the Caucasus seen here in a video posted on Facebook (screen capture: YouTube)

The voice recording posted on YouTube on Sunday said militants in Russia’s Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria regions had all sworn fealty to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“We testify that all mujahedeen of the Caucasus… are united in this decision and there are no disagreements among us on this issue,” the male voice says, listing the four Russian regions in the recording both in Arabic and Russian.

An IS spokesman on Tuesday welcomed the news, naming a young local warlord as the group’s Caucasus leader.

“We congratulate the soldiers of Islamic State in the Caucasus… We congratulate them for making allegiance to the caliph,” Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said in a recording of his own.

“He accepts your allegiance and names Sheikh Abu Mohammad al-Qadari as (governor) of the Caucasus.”

Photos on jihadist websites identified al-Qadari as Rustam Aselderov, a former “amir” for the Dagestan region in the Caucasus Emirate insurgent group who was ousted after pledging allegiance to Baghdadi in December, becoming the first major leader to do so in the Caucasus.

He is a “young man who represents what the insurgency is today” who has no serious religious education and is oriented towards jihad, said Varvara Parkhomenko, a consultant for the International Crisis Group (ICG) and an expert on the North Caucasus.

Parkhomenko said the pledge is the latest event in the evolution of the Caucasus insurgency from a nationalist regional force to part of a global phenomenon where few members participated in the wars for Chechen independence over the last two decades.

“When the insurgency was local, they had to take into account that they act on their own territory, brutal attacks were not supported by the population,” she said. “Now if they get tied up to foreign structures, such methods may become relevant.”

“This is a very serious process and a challenge for Russia,” she said.

Alexei Malashenko, an expert on religion and security at the Carnegie Center in Moscow, said the latest pledge could be mere words, but could also lead to attacks in Russia by IS converts, who are essentially adopting a foreign agenda.

“Since they’ve joined, now they have to somehow show themselves, with attacks in Russia,” he said. “I don’t exclude future attacks.”

Though it is relatively far from its domain, the Islamic State group has shown interest in Russia in the past, even launching a Russian-language glossy magazine last month.

Last year, IS militants issued a threat to President Vladimir Putin, vowing to oust him and “liberate” North Caucasus.

On Wednesday, the deputy secretary of Russia’s security council Yevgeny Lukyanov estimated there are “up to 2,000″ Russians fighting with IS, adding that many “pretend to be tourists who lost their documents” when they return, usually via Turkey.

Early this month Turkish authorities detained a 19-year-old female student from Moscow who quit philosophy studies to fly to Istanbul and tried to cross into Syria.

Parkhomenko of the ICG said that the new generation of Caucasus Islamists may not be after the same goals as the old guard who fought to create a state for themselves.

“Now many are ideologically motivated,” she said. “They want to die and go to heaven.”

Russia lifts ban on supplying S-300 missiles to Iran

Like I said Israel needs to fire up the bombers sooner than later..

President Vladimir Putin on Monday lifted a ban on supplying Iran with sophisticated S-300 air defense missile systems, the Kremlin said, after Tehran struck a deal with the West over its nuclear programme.

A decree signed by Putin lifts a ban on “the shipment from Russia to Iran” of the S-300 missiles, the Kremlin said in a statement. Moscow had blocked delivery of the surface-to-air missiles to Tehran in 2010.

Reports Indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia Planning Military Action in Libya

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya
  • Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization
  • Egypt and Turkey may try to create a ‘Sunni front’ with Saudi Arabia

Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya

Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)
Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)

Various unconfirmed reports are emerging indicating that there may be joint international action planned in Libya as early as next week.

Egypt is already conducting air strikes against ISIS-linked targets in Derna, close to where Egyptian Coptics were massacred recently, as displayed in a gruesome video. Debka reports that Egypt’s president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is planning further action in Libya, including more air strikes and possible ground troops, within a few days. According to the report, Egyptian commando and marine forces are preparing for sea landings to seize Derna and destroy the terrorist elements there. If this attack is actually launched, it will be the first time in modern times that an Arab country has sent ground forces into another Arab country.

Al-Jazeera television reports that the Italian navy is getting ready to carry off sophisticated military drills off the coast of Libya as early as Monday. Although Italy claims that it will be a regular exercise, there are many more vessels taking part in this year’s exercise than have in the past, which Italy explains by saying that they are testing out sophisticated new technologies.

There are several reasons why Italy is pursuing this show of force:

  • Italy considers the flood of migrants from Libya into Italy to be an existential threat to Italy itself, because there may be ISIS-trained terrorists smuggled in, along with the other migrants. Italy may be planning some kind of military action in Libya in conjunction with Egypt’s air strikes and other operations.
  • The GreenStream pipeline is a gas pipeline running underneath the Mediterranan Sea from Libya to Sicily. The pipeline is vital to economic relations between Italy and Libya. In recent months, there have been attacks by gunmen on oil installations in Libya, forcing some ports to shut down. The new show of naval force may be related to threats of attack or sabotage on the pipeline.
  • For over a year, Italy ran a search and rescue program called “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea”) that saved the lives of thousands of migrants attempting to travel from Libya to Italy. This program required Italian naval vessels near the Libyan coast. In November, the program ended and an EU program called Triton replaced it, but Triton restricts its operations to only 30 miles off the Italian coast. Triton has been considered unsatisfactory because many more migrants are drowning. Italy’s new show of naval force may be an attempt to restore a portion of the Mare Nostrum program.
  • Related to the last point, on Saturday there were large demonstrations in Rome by Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party for the government to do more to keep immigrants out. The naval show of force may help to mollify the protestors.

Some reports indicate that Russia has hinted at a willingness to participate in a naval blockade of Libya to prevent arm supplies from leaving Libya for other countries. Russia could play a role in this because it already has a naval fleet in the Mediterranean.

These are all unconfirmed reports of possible military action in Libya by Egypt, Italy and Russia. There are no reports of possible participation by Nato or the United States. Debka and Cairo Post

Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization

Egypt on Saturday became the first Arab country to name Hamas as a terrorist organization. The U.S. and the European Union have named Hamas as a terror group. An EU court took Hamas off the list in December 2014, ruling that the designation was not based on solid legal evidence, but the EU is appealing the court’s decision.

According to a decision on Saturday from the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters:

It has been proven without any doubt that the movement has committed acts of sabotage, assassinations and the killing of innocent civilians and members of the armed forces and police in Egypt.

It has been also ascertained with documents that [Hamas] has carried out bombings that have taken lives and destroyed institutions and targeted civilians and the armed forces personnel. It has also been ascertained that this movement works for the interests of the terrorist Brotherhood organization [which Egypt has already declared to be a terrorist organization].

About a month ago, the same court declared Hamas’s military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, to be a terrorist organization. Saturday’s ruling makes the political wing a terrorist organization as well.

A Hamas spokesman denied all the charges and said that the ruling was “dangerous”:

History has recorded Egypt’s support to national liberty movements in the Arab world and Africa, particularly in Palestine. … This ruling serves the Israeli occupation. It’s a politicized decision that constitutes the beginning of Egypt evading its role toward the Palestinian cause. This is a coup against history and an Egyptian abuse of the Palestinian cause and resistance, which fights on behalf of the Arab nation. We call on Egypt to reconsider this dangerous decision.

Al Jazeera and Al Ahram (Cairo) and CS Monitor and Al Resalah (Palestine)

Egypt and Turkey may try to create a ‘Sunni front’ with Saudi Arabia

By coincidence or by planning, the presidents of both Egypt and Turkey will be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week. Egypt’s Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan will both be visiting King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the new king of Saudi Arabia, who has replaced King Abdullah, who died last month.

It is not known whether Erdogan will ever be in the same room as al-Sisi. The two have been bitter enemies ever since a coup by al-Sisi ousted Egypt’s elected president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, and later declared MB to be a terrorist organization. Erdogan’s own political party, the AKP, is an Islamist party like the Muslim Brotherhood, and they had good relations while Morsi was in power.

There has been some speculation that King Salman is going to completely reverse King Abdullah’s policy on the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) had branded MB as a terrorist organization, but some are wondering if Salman is going to shift from that policy. The Saudi foreign minister recently said that his government has “no problem with the Muslim Brotherhood; our problem is with a small group affiliated to the organization,” suggesting that shift is in the works.

Other problems make an Egypt-Turkey rapprochement unlikely: Erdogan vitriolicly hates Israel and supports Hamas. Al-Sisi vitriolicly hates Hamas and works closely with Israel on military matters, especially in North Sinai. It does n0t seem likely that any meeting, if one even occurs, will be pleasant.

If King Salman is able to pull off a miracle and mediate a new relationship between Egypt and Turkey, then it would appear to be the establishment of a new “Sunni front” in the Mideast, to oppose Iran, Hezbollah and the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Al Arabiya and Kurdistan and Arab Times

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Egypt, Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, Libya, GreenStream pipeline, Italy, Mare Nostrum, Triton, Northern League, Russia, Hamas, Gaza, Al-Qassam Brigades, Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Abdullah II, Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, United Arab Emirates, UAE, Sunni Front, Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, Bashar al-Assad

The Supreme Council of Cyberspace


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,593 other followers

%d bloggers like this: