Caucasus Emirate

Caucasus Emirate
Imarat Kavkaz / Имарат Кавказ  (Chechen)
Кавказский Эмират  (Russian)

Participant in the Insurgency in the North Caucasus and the Syrian civil war[1]

Flag of the Caucasus Emirate.
Active 7 October 2007 – present
Leaders Dokka Umarov  (2007–2013)[3]
Aliaskhab Kebekov  (2014–2015)
Magomed Suleimanov  (2015)
Zalim Shebzukhov  (2015-2016)
Headquarters North Caucasus
Area of operations Russia, Syria, Iraq, Georgia and Azerbaijan
Originated as
Battles and wars

The Caucasus Emirate (IK Chechen: Имарат Кавказ Imarat Kavkaz; Russian: Кавказский Эмират Kavkazskiy Emirat), also known as the Caucasian Emirate, is a militant Jihadist organisation active in southwestern Russia. Its intention is to expel the Russian presence from the North Caucasus and to establish an independent Islamic emirate in the region.[4] Caucasus Emirate also refers to the state that the group seeks to establish.[2][5][6] Partially a successor to the secessionist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, it was officially announced on 7 October 2007, by former President of Ichkeria Dokka Umarov, who became its first emir.[7]

The Emirate is included as a terrorist group on the War on Terror.



Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Chechen nationalists, led by Dzhokhar Dudayev, declared the secession of Chechnya from Russia as an independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI). Following two devastating wars with the Russian Federation in the nineties, the ChRI fought an insurgency against the Russian forces and their Chechen allies from 2000, initially under the leadership of Aslan Maskhadov. Although the ChRI was largely founded by Sufi Muslims motivated by nationalism, over time the literalist Salafist form of Islam became increasingly popular with some Chechens, leading to a schism between nationalists and Salafists. As many of the original nationalist figures were killed by Russian forces, the insurgency took on an increasingly Salafist tone embodied by commanders like Shamil Basayev and the Arab fighter Khattab. Many of the surviving nationalists gave up the fight, and by the time Dokka Umarov was declared President of Ichkeria in June 2006, Islamists held increasing influence in the movement.[2]


On 7 October 2007, President of Ichkeria Dokka Umarov abolished the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and its presidency and proclaimed an Emirate in the Caucasus, declaring himself its Emir.[7] The declaration of the Caucasus Emirate was quickly condemned by Akhmed Zakayev, Umarov's own minister of foreign affairs; Zakayev, who lives in exile in London, called upon all Chechen separatist fighters and politicians to pledge allegiance directly to his government in exile in an attempt to isolate Umarov from power.[8] Zakayev also expressed regret that Umarov had caved in to pressure from "provocateurs" and committed a "crime" that undermines the legitimacy of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.[9] Umarov said that he did not need any sanction from the Majlis-ul-Shura (the council of rebel field commanders) or anybody else to declare the Emirate, as it is "his duty as a Muslim" to establish an Islamic state "as required by Sharia."

Leadership crisis

On 1 August 2010 Kavkaz Center, the official web site of the Emirate, distributed a video where Dokka Umarov indicated that he had stepped down from his position as Emir and appointed Aslambek Vadalov to become his successor.[10] However, on 3 August 2010,.[11] A few days later Umarov said he had no intention of stepping down and called the video announcing his resignation a fabrication.[11][12][13] The announcements drove the emirate into a state of turmoil, with several key rebel leaders resigning their loyalty to Umarov.[14] This combined with the death of Muhannad is believed to have paved the way for Hussein Gakayev, Aslambek Vadalov and Tarkhan Gaziyev to re-affirm their allegiance to Umarov.[15] Umarov eventually died from food poisoning in September 2013. 6 months later, Aliaskhab Kebekov was announced as his successor.[3]


In the period from 2010 to 2014, the number of casualties in the North Caucasus insurgency declined each year, with the overall death toll falling by more than half.[16] Reasons suggested for the decline include the deaths of high-ranking insurgency commanders, the increased targeting by security forces of the support infrastructure relied on by the insurgents, and an exodus of insurgents to other conflict zones.[16]

Starting in November 2014, mid-level commanders of the Caucasus Emirate began publicly switching their allegiance from Emirate leader Aliaskhab Kebekov to the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, following al-Baghdadi and his group's declaration of a caliphate earlier in the year.[17] By February 2015, many commanders of the Emirate's Vilayat Nokhchicho and Vilayat Dagestan had defected.[17][18] Loyalists within the Emirate released statements denouncing them, and accused the most senior defector, Rustam Asildarov, of betrayal.[19][20] Vilayat Nokhchicho leader Aslan Byutukayev pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi in June 2015,[21] and an audio statement was released in the same month purportedly pledging allegiance on behalf of militants in Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria.[22] On 23 June 2015, ISIL's spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani accepted these pledges and announced the creation of a Caucasus Province, a new branch operating in the North Caucasus region. Adnani named Asildarov as its leader and called on other militants in the region to follow him.[23][24]

The Caucasus Emirate continued to operate independently,[25] but suffered further high-profile losses, including the killing by Russian security forces of Kebekov in April 2015,[26] and his successor Magomed Suleymanov several months later.[27][28] By late 2015, the militants operating in Russia's North Caucasus Republics had largely unified under ISIL's Caucasus Province.[29]

According from Russian intelligence, due to the decline of the group, the other members and leaders are thinking about unification of Caucasus Emirate with the Islamic State to escape the collapse of the Emirate in order to survive from the Russian operations.

Organizational structure


Proposed divisions of the Caucasus Emirate

The Caucasus Emirate is claimed to be composed of the following Vilayats (provinces):

In August 2008 Movladi Udugov, an ideologue and a spokesman for the Caucasus Emirate, said that "as Dokka Umarov very accurately observed, this Islamic state does not yet have any borders. It’s not correct to say that we want to build some sort of enclave on the territory of these North Caucasus republics. No, today many Muslims living in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Buryatia, Russians from the most widely differing regions of Russia who have accepted Islam, swear an oath of allegiance to Dokka Umarov as the legitimate leader of the Muslims. And wherever he is – in Moscow, Blagoveshchensk, Tyumen – when a Muslim swears that oath, he becomes a fighting unit. Just because these people are not visible in their cities just now and are not active, that doesn’t mean that they won’t become active in the future."[31]

In a May 2011 interview posted on the pro Caucasus Emirate Kavkaz Center website, Umarov stated "Now we know that we should not secede, but must unite with our brothers in faith. We must recapture Astrakhan, Idel-Ural, Siberia and indigenous Muslim lands."[32]


Professor Gordon M. Hahn of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, described the Caucasus Emirate to be a decentralized organisation, but structured hierarchically with Emir Dokku Umarov appointing the Emirs of each Vilayat or Province, who in turn swear him a bay'at or oath of allegiance. Each vilayat contains multiple Fronts or Sectors, which in turn contain multiple Jamaats or units. The vilayats, sectors and local jamaats independently raise funds, recruit members and carry out operations, while following the overall strategy as set by the Emirate's leadership.[33]

In May 2009, Umarov established a ruling consultative body, or Majlis al Shura, for the Caucasus Emirate consisting of his top commanders. At the time of the announcement, the positions and the individuals holding them were:[30]

The Caucasus Emirate maintains a Supreme Sharia Court, which is headed by a Qadi. This position has been held by Anzor Astemirov (killed in March 2010), Magomed Vagabov (killed August 2010), and Aliaskhab Kebekov (killed in April 2015).[34]

In early 2009, Dokka Umarov announced the revival of the shahid suicide attackers unit Riyad-us Saliheen Brigade of Martyrs,[35] which has been led by Said Buryatsky (killed March 2010) and Aslan Byutukayev.

Umarov died due to food poisoning on 7 September 2013.[3][36] He was succeeded by Aliaskhab Kebekov (killed April 2015)[26][37] and Magomed Suleymanov (killed August 2015).[28]


Caucasus Emirate receives significant funds from overseas Islam Terrorists Organization. but the primary source of funding for the Caucasus Emirate is a wide range of criminal activity. Militants extort money from local businessmen and residents in their areas of operation under the premise of a religious tax. Russian media reports in early 2011 claimed that militants extorted a 20 per cent "jihad" tax from prominent figures considered to be pro-government. In addition to extortion, Russian officials have alleged that Caucasus Emirate militants also derive funds from involvement in Drug trafficking and Robbery. [38]

External relations

Western Countries

In the same October 2007 statement in which Umarov proclaimed the Caucasian Emirate, he also described the United States, Great Britain and Israel as common enemies of Muslims worldwide.[39] However, on November 20, 2007, Anzor Astemirov, then head of the Vilayet KBK, said that "Even if we wanted to threaten America and Europe every day, it is clear for anybody who understands politics that we do not have any real clashes of interests [with the West]. The people in the White House know very well that we have nothing to do with America at the moment." In his statement, Astemirov not only described the Caucasian rebels' threats against the West as empty, but also even asked the United States for assistance in their fight against "Russian aggression."[40] Following its criticism, many rebel websites removed the phrase that regarded Western countries as enemies.[41]

Reaction to the 2008 South Ossetia war

On August 9, 2008 in response to the conflict between Georgia and Russia, Movladi Udugov stated that "for the time being neither Tbilisi nor Washington has appealed to us with any requests or offers" to fight alongside Georgian forces against the Russian forces. Udugov also noted: "But I clearly can say that the command of the Caucasus Emirate is following with great interest the development of the situation."

Syrian Civil War

A number of Chechen and other North Caucasian volunteers travelled to fight in the Syrian Civil War against the government of Bashar al-Assad. Dokku Umarov released a video in November 2012 expressing support for all those trying to install Sharia law in Syria, but rebuked those who had weakened the Jihad in the North Caucasus by leaving to fight there.[42] However, as the war went on and North Caucasians took an increasingly prominent role in the fighting owing to their combat experience, those who went to fight in Syria were viewed increasingly positively by the Emirate's websites and supporters.

In 2013, a Chechen known as Emir Salauddin was appointed as the official representative of the Caucasus Emirate in Syria.[42] In December 2013, the Chechen-led Syrian jihadist group Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA) split away from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and appointed Salauddin as their new commander, emphasising that they wished to continue respecting the Oath of Allegiance they had made to the Caucasus Emirate's Dokku Umarov.[43] Following his appointment as the Emirates new leader, Aliaskhab Kebekov advised the North Caucasians in Syria to remain independent rather than align with other groups. He also voiced support for Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and criticised Abu Omar al-Shishani, the Chechen commander who formerly lead JMA before joining ISIL.[44] In mid 2015, JMA suffered a leadership split, and Salauddin and those fighters loyal to him formed a smaller offshoot that reiterated their loyalty to the Caucasus Emirate.[45]

Designation as a terrorist organization

Country Date References
 Russia 8 February 2010 [46]
 United States 26 May 2011 [47]
 United Nations 29 July 2011 [48]
 United Kingdom December 2013 [49]
 Canada 24 December 2013 [50]
 United Arab Emirates 15 November 2014 [51]

Claimed and alleged attacks

List of Emirs of the Caucasus Emirate

Emirs of Caucasus Emirate
Order Name Tenure
1 Dokka Umarov 7 October 2007 – 1 August 2010
2 Aslambek Vadalov 1 August 2010 – 3 August 2010
3 Dokka Umarov 3 August 2010 – 7 September 2013 (deceased)[3]
4 Aliaskhab Kebekov 18 March 2014[65] – 19 April 2015 (deceased)[26]
5 Magomed Suleimanov 2 July 2015[27] - 11 August 2015 (deceased)[28]
6 Zalim Shebzukhov 11 August 2015 - 17 August 2016 (deceased)

*Note: There was confusion as to who was Emir, as Umarov issued a second video a few days later saying he had not stepped down.[12]

See also

Further reading


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Caucasus Emirate in Syria fighting in Aleppo". The Long War Journal. 17 May 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 "The Caucasus Emirate: From Anti-Colonialist Roots to Salafi-Jihad". CTC Sentinel. 26 March 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Insurgency Commanders Divulge Details Of Umarov's Death". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 23 July 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  4. "Profile: Caucasus Emirates". ADL. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  5. Karachaevo-Cherkessia Faces Renewed Militant Activity, Mairbek Vatchagaev, The Jamestown Foundation, September 26, 2008 09:56 AM
  6. The Caucasus Emirate on the road from Yemen to Algeria (Part 1), Sergei Davydov, "Prague Watchdog", June 6th 2009
  7. 1 2 "Two years of Imarat Kavkaz: jihad spreads over Russia's south", Caucasian Knot, 7 October 2009.
  8. Chechenpress; Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Archived August 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. "Chechnya: In Video, Separatist Leader Declares 'Jihad' On West". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  10. "Chechen rebel leader 'steps down'". August 2, 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  11. 1 2 Bill Roggio (August 4, 2010). "Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov retracts resignation". The Long War Journal.
  12. 1 2 "Chechen rebel chief denies quitting". August 4, 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  13. Mairbek Vatchagaev (August 6, 2010). ""Palace Coup" Reveals Split between Umarov and Rebel Commander Aslanbek Vadalov". Eurasia Daily Monitor. 7 (152).
  14. "Power Struggle Among Russia's Militants". Al Jazeera. August 19, 2010.
  15. "Internal divisions resolved, claims Caucasus Emirate". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  16. 1 2 "Why Is The Death Toll Tumbling In The North Caucasus?". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 10 February 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  17. 1 2 "Caucasus Emirate and Islamic State Split Slows Militant Activities in North Caucasus". Jamestown Foundation. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  18. Liz Fuller (2015-01-02). "Six North Caucasus Insurgency Commanders Transfer Allegiance To Islamic State". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  19. "Dagestani jihadist swears allegiance to Islamic State, invoking backlash". Long War Journal. 2014-12-31. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  20. "New jihadist leader in Dagestan denounces Islamic State defectors". Long War Journal. 2015-02-16. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  21. "What Caused the Demise of the Caucasus Emirate?". Jamestown Foundation. 18 June 2015.
  22. "Two North Caucasus Rebel Leaders Face Off in Islamic State–Caucasus Emirate Dispute". The Jamestown Foundation. 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2015-06-28. “We testify that all Mujahideen of the Caucasus—in the Velayats of Nokhchiycho [Chechnya], Dagestan, Galgaicho [Ingushetia] and KBK [Kabarda, Balkaria and Karachay]—are united in their decision and we do not have differences among ourselves.”
  23. "Islamic State spokesman calls on other factions to 'repent,' urges sectarian war". The Long War Journal. 23 June 2015. Baghdadi, the “Emir of the Faithful,” has “accepted your bayat and has appointed the noble sheikh Abu Muhammad al Qadarī as Wali [or governor] over [the Caucasus],” Adnani says.
  24. "ISIS Declares Governorate in Russia's North Caucasus Region". Institute for the Study of War. 23 June 2015.
  25. "Amid defections, Islamic Caucasus Emirate publicly recognizes new leader". Long War Journal. 6 July 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  26. 1 2 3 "Russia says kills head of North Caucasus Islamist insurgency". Reuters. 20 April 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  27. 1 2 "Appointment of new emir reaffirms Imarat Kavkaz's ties to Al-Qaeda". Jane's Information Group. 2 July 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2015. On 2 July, senior Imarat Kavkaz commanders in Dagestan announced via social media that Magomed Suleymanov (alias Abu-Uthman al-Ghaymrawi or Abu Usman Gimrinsky) had been appointed as the new emir of the group.
  28. 1 2 3 "Leader Of Self-Proclaimed Caucasus Emirate Killed In Daghestan". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 11 August 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  29. "Islamic State Apparently Wins Its Competition With Caucasus Emirate". Jamestown Foundation. 2015-11-13. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
  30. 1 2 Casey Britton. "New decrees of Dokka Umarov on formation of a Council of the Caucasus Emirate and abolition of the Province of Iriston - Caucasus - News :". Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  31. "We have taken up arms to establish laws (interview with Movladi Udugov)". Prague Watchdog. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  32. "Pro-Rebel Website Posts Transcript of Interview with Doku Umarov". Jamestown Foundation. 20 May 2011.
  33. Getting the Caucasus Emirate Right, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, 1 September 2011
  34. "Omra №24 : Appointement of Ali Abu-Muhammad al-Dagestani (ha) as the new Supreme Qadi of the CE". Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  35. Surge In North Caucasus Violence Reflects Diversification Of Resistance Tactics, Radio Liberty, August 18, 2009
  36. "Islamic Caucasus Emirate confirms death of emir Doku Umarov". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  37. Ali Abu Muhammad al Dagestani, the new emir of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate | The Long War Journal
  38. Imarat Kavkaz / Caucasus Emirate ,, 2014
  39. Dokka Umarov Declares The Islamic Emirate Of The Caucasus, Expands Jihad Archived January 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  40. ["[tt_news]=4596&tx_ttnews[backPid]=189&no_cache=1" Is the Caucasian Emirate a Threat to the Western World?]
  41. "North Caucasus Weekly". Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  42. 1 2 [[tt_news]=41091&tx_ttnews[backPid]=7&cHash=e52244ad41ac68df14f5f09a58799d97#.Utxt0qwzE5t Caucasus Emirate Reverses Position on Syrian Jihad], Mairbek Vatchagaev, The Jamestown Foundation, 28 June 2013
  43. "Syria crisis: Omar Shishani, Chechen jihadist leader". BBC. 3 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  44. "Statement by New Leader of Caucasus Emirate Creates Rift Among Chechen Groups Operating in Syria". Jamestown Foundation. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  45. "Chechen commander in Syria pledges to Islamic Caucasus Emirate". Long War Journal. 10 July 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  46. "Single federal list of organizations recognized as terrorist by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation".
  47. "Designation of Caucasus Emirate". US Department of State. 26 May 2011.
  48. "QE.E.131.11. EMARAT KAVKAZ". Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1989 (2011) concerning Al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities. 29 July 2011. Archived from the original on November 5, 2014.
  49. "Proscribed terrorist groups" (PDF). Home Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-01. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  50. "Currently listed entities". Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  51. "UAE publishes list of terrorist organisations". Gulf News. 15 November 2014. Archived from the original on November 17, 2014. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  52. "North Caucasus group in Russia train bomb web claim". BBC News. 2009-12-02. Archived from the original on 3 December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  53. "Chechen rebel claims Metro blasts". BBC News. March 31, 2010. Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  54. "Austria Arrests Chechen in Belgian NATO Plot". The Moscow Times. 2010-12-06.
  55. Steve Rosenberg (8 February 2011). "Chechen warlord Doku Umarov admits Moscow airport bomb". BBC News. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  56. "Twin bomb attacks kill 12 in Russia's Dagestan". Reuters. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  57. Weaver, Courtney; Clover, Charles (April 21, 2013), "Russian militant group denies Boston link", The Financial Times
  58. "Daghestani Insurgency Denies Any Role In Boston Bombings". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  59. "Statement of the Command of Mujahideen of Caucasus Emirate's Dagestan Province in relation to events in Boston". Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  60. "Caucasus Emirate Leader Calls On Insurgents To Thwart Sochi Winter Olympics". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  61. "A bus explosion killed 4 people in Russia". BBC News. 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  62. "Russian Islamic Video Threatens Sochi Olympics". Associated Press. 19 January 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  63. "Five killed in suicide bombing in Chechen capital". BBC.
  64. Атака на Грозный, Radio Liberty, December 6, 2014.
  65. "Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov 'dead'". BBC News. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
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