Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Turkistân Islamic Party eulogizes Doku Umarov and...

The author of this blog has „obtained“ a visual-audio message by Turkistân Islamic Party (TIP) Amîr ‘Abdullah Mansûr eulogizing the deceased Amîr of the Caucasus Emirate (CE) Doku Umarov. The message is about 7 minutes in length. Mansûr speaks in Uyghur with Arabic subtitles in one version and a Russian voice-over in the other version. The Arabic title means “Eulogy to the martyr Doku ‘Umar Abû ‘Uthmân – Amîr of the Islamic Emirate in the Caucasus.

The video opens with clips of Doku Umarov with his fighters. This is followed by a short clip of deceased AQAP scholar Anwar al-‘Awlaqî interpreting the Quranic verse 3:140 on martrs. A still of Mansûr whose face is blurred out takes up the screen for the rest of the video. The film is dated as 04/2014.

The deceased Amîr of the Caucasus Emirate Doku Umarov as shown in the recent TIP video

Interestingly the message has not been released officially (by the “shadowy AQ media front” al-Fajr on the known forums) at this time. This seems to be a growing pattern with the TIP as well as al-Qâ’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Both groups have released videos on YouTube or one of the many uploading services in recent months. 

While the occasional pre-release is not unheard of the magnitude seen a the recent months seems to indicate that either the groups have learned from the Syrian example – Accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube suffice – or there is something wrong with al-Fajr. 

At the moment I tend to the latter as the split between the Islamic State in ‘Irâq and the Levant (ISIS) and al-Qâ’ida Central (AQC) has led to a high number of defections from forum administrations (Shumûkh) and in some cases a general disruption of any efforts by the forum staff (Ansâr).

Regardless, the more interesting point about the video is the TIP’s growing interest in Russian speaking recruits, Russia and the Caucasus itself. While the mostly Uyghur group has shown Russian speaking members and translated some of its videos to Russian the new release is new step in this direction. Most of the video is taken up by the usual text modules on the virtue of fighting and martyrdom but there is a major development in the speech:

Mansûr gives condolences to “Commander ‘Abdullah” whom he calls “the representative of the Caucasus Emirate in Khurâsân”. He thereby confirms that there actually is a group of fighters in Afghânistân and Pâkistân (AfPak) that is loyal to the Caucasus Emirate.

'Abdullah in the March 2014 release, the caption reads "'Amîr of the Mujâhidîn of the Caucasus Emirate in the territory of Khurâsân

‘Abdullah had come forward in March 2014 claiming to be right that but there was no way to confirm this. See a great article on the North Caucasus Blog. Coincidentally, or rather not coincidentally the YouTube channel that released the two videos of Commander ‘Abdullah has also uploaded the Russian version of Mansûr’s speech.

After establishing a foothold in Syria via Jaysh al-Muhâjirîn wa-l-Ansâr and revealing this association early this year the Caucasus Emirate has also revealed a presence in AfPak thereby completing the metamorphosis from a national insurgency in the 1990s to a global-jihâdist group in the 2010s. It is obvious that they have linked up with the foreign fighter nexus in the AfPak region, amongst them the resurging TIP which has been responsible for a number of attacks in China in recent months.

This could well be the beginning of a renewed flow of know-how and money to the Caucasus as seen in the late 1990s. In my opinion foreign fighters in Afghânistân will have rather save bases to train and rather little fighting to do in a year or two from now.

The TIP's Amîr 'Abdullah Mansûr, notice that TIP's media group Islâm Awâzî (Voice of Islam) uses a new logo since April 2014.

Many of them will search for new battlefields and with Syria being a place of jihadist infighting the mountains of the Caucasus clouded in the ultimate jihadist legend of Commander Khattâb may be one of their destinations. Mansûr may even hint at this while saying that he is “with the Chechens in their fight against the Russians”.


 The Caucasus Emirate faction in AfPak was likely sent to the region as early as 2010. One of the videos showing 'Abdullah - the CE representative in Afghânistân has been released with an Arabic voiceover. One scene shows Doku Umarov and his deputy Sufyan Abdullayev in a video dated as August 2010. According to the Arabic voiceover (I don't speak Russian) Umarov and Abdullayev directly adress 'Abdullah as CE representative in Afghânistân and Pâkistân.

The fact that the clip is dated as August 2010 is very interesting. August 2010 was the beginning of a power struggle between Umarov and the main Chechen field commanders who withdrew their oaths to Umarov. It has been argued that this was the result of them not sharing Umarov's idea of an Emirate and having the wish to return to a more Chechen independence struggle.

Umarov and Abdullayev as seen in the recent video release of the Caucasus Emirate group in Afghânistân

This was refuted by the dissident commanders themselves who claimed to support the Emirate idea but not Umarov as its Amîr. When the power struggle ended about one year later with Umarov on the winning side the split was explained as the result of personal mistakes of Umarov regarding the allocation of funds and similar things.

My hypothesis is that the dispatch of CE fighters to Afghânistân is in one way or the other linked to this power struggle. Either the dispatch and the subsequent alignment to the global jihadist cause was one of the problems the dissident field commanders had with Umarovs leadership or it was Umarovs urgent response to the walk-out of most of his Chechen subordinates.

If the former is the case the point of dissidents is obvious: Why would Umarov send of fighters to faraway Afghânistân while not even having enough back home? On top of that the financial resources needed for the trip to Afghânistân would have been felt in their budgets, too.

If the latter is the case it is likely that Umarov hoped to acquire new lines of funding after a potential loss of funding by the Chechen diaspora who would rather support the dissident faction. Another motivation could have been the polishing of his image as an internationally active, respected commander in order to strengthen his position vis-à-vis the more popular younger dissident field commanders.

Apart from this, the fact that CE fighters have been in Afghânistân since 2010 without generating visible positive outcomes for the CE could mean that there won't be any in the future. Maybe there is only a way out for CE fighters and no way back in. If so Russia has not much to worry about the Chechens in Syria.