Dokka Umarov: A Hawk Flies to the Ichkerian Throne
Ruslan Isayev, special to Prague Watchdog
The death of the Chechen theologian Abdul-Khalim Sadullayev, who was little-known in wider circles and who after the killing of Aslan Maskhadov succeeded him as President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, will hardly influence the situation in the republic. The guerrillas have long been prepared for such a twist of fate.
The pictures of the half-naked body of slain Icherian President Sadullayev which were shown on Russian television channels testify once again to the impotent rage of the Russian military and the representatives of the Moscow-backed Chechen leadership about the fact that they could not manage to take him alive.
Sadullayev is the fifth Chechen leader to die a violent death in the last 10 years. Local and Russian political analysts have never been in any doubt that his place will be taken by Ichkerian vice-president Dokka Umarov. According to the constitution of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, he will be in his new post before the next presidential elections are held in the republic. The Ichkerian president’s responsibilities include not only the securing of the normal functioning of the Ichkerian official bodies, but also the leadership of the entire armed resistance in the North Caucasus.
Recipient of many Ichkerian awards
42-year-old Dokka Umarov, a native of the Shatoysky district village of Kharsenoy, is from the Mulkoy teip, or clan. Radical field commander Arbi Barayev and ex-foreign minister Ilyas Akhmadov are also members of this teip.
Before the first Chechen war Dokka Umarov was unknown in the republic. According to some reports he engaged in semi-criminal activity in Russia's Tyumen Oblast. After the outbreak of war, he took part in it, serving under field commander Ruslan Gelayev, and after Gelayev’s death in the mountains of Daghestan he began to lead the south-eastern front of the Chechen resistance.
A recipient of many Ichkerian awards and medals, Dokka Umarov was constantly at the centre of scandalous rumours about his participation in hostage-taking in Chechnya during the inter-war period.
In Maskhadov’s government Umarov did not hold the post of the leader of the Chechen Security Council for long, and was forced to resign when that power ministry was disbanded. However, according to other information Umarov was sacked by Maskhadov precisely for his participation in kidnappings.
Experienced guerrilla commander
The guerrilla units under his control, which on his orders are divided into small groups of 10-12 men, chiefly operate in Chechnya’s mountainous Shatoysky district, the Itum-Kalinsky district, and two foothill districts – the Urus-Martanovsky and the Achkhoy-Martanovsky. Armed clashes with numerous groups of the Russian special forces (spetsnaz) take place quite frequently in these regions, and are mainly of a random nature.
Combat tactics and strategy in Chechnya changed a long time ago. In view of the enemy’s superiority in manpower and technology, the armed underground does not place emphasis on close-contact fighting On the contrary, the fighters wage guerrilla warfare, while the federal forces in their turn have for several years been strengthening their network of agents, and it is precisely through this network that they try to catch guerrillas. That is what happened to Sadullayev.
Many of Dokka Umarov’s former companions-in-arms who have gone over to the side of the federal forces say that he has an innate ability to sense danger. He will not leave the forest unless absolutely necessary, and he endeavours to hold all meetings – even with people he knows very well – only after thorough preparation and checking. With his cunning, military inconsistency, and a rich store of practical experience, he is possibly second only to Shamil Basayev.
Dokka Umarov was wounded several times during the second Chechen war. He sustained his most serious wound – to his face - in the winter of 2000, as he was leaving the surrounded capital, Grozny. He still bears the marks of his damaged lower jaw. His most recent injury occurred in May 2005, when he hit an antipersonnel mine.
In recent years not a single serious military operation by the armed resistance has taken place without Umarov’s participation. These have included numerous attacks in Grozny, Ingushetia, and Nalchik. The Russian federal Procurator General’s office also considers him involved in the bombing of the bus carrying personnel from the Russian military airfield in Mozdok, and in the hostage-taking in Beslan, both North Ossetia.
His relatives taken hostage
Several attempts have been made to force him to surrender. A few years ago, law enforcement agents seized his brother, who has been missing ever since. During the Beslan crisis in 2004 Umarov’s close relatives were abducted and held for several days at the Russian military base in Khankala. Shamil Basayev’s male cousins and Maskhadov’s sister with her numerous family were also there.
A year ago Umarov’s wife, along with their 6-month-old son and his aged father Khamad, were also abducted. Later only Umarov's wife and son were freed. Nothing is known about the fate of his father and brother.
Dokka Umarov’s sister was also abducted in Urus-Martan more than six months ago. However, she was released again a few days later after local residents held a protest rally demanding her return.
The struggle must be carried on to the end
It will be hard for Dokka Umarov to transform himself from the hawk with which he has always identified himself on the Ichkerian Olympus into a "dove" with whom it is possible to conduct negotiations. The leaders who are emerging now are of a kind that is very welcome to the Kremlin, helping to make sure that the West will not even mention peaceful negotiations.
Abdul-Khalim Sadullayev, like any man of true religious belief, was gentle and inclined towards consensus. That cannot be said of his successor, Dokka Umarov, who considers that the struggle must be carried on to the end.
However, one should not expect a sharp aggravation of the military situation in Chechnya or the North Caucasus. The situation is stable but restless, and there is at present a sense, founded on a simple analysis of the mobilization of law enforcement agencies throughout the entire North Caucasus, that the guerrillas really are planning something on the eve of the G8 summit in St Petersburg which is due to take place in mid-July.
Of the veteran Ichkerian field commanders, only Dokka Umarov and Shamil Basayev remain. The day of other guerrillas who are younger, and true believers in the world Islamic revolution, has already arrived. They will part with their lives easily, confident that they will find eternal rest in the next world, and hoping that all who have perished in combat against them will be the steps that lead them to paradise. With such men it will indeed be impossible to conduct negotiations.
(Translation by DM)
(MD/T) RELATED ARTICLES:
· Statement by President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Dokka Umarov (Chechenpress, June 22, 2006)