Circling the Lion's Den

All roads lead into Nalchik

Its likely to explode the situation in entire North Caucasus from Kabardino-Balkarya. Al-Qaeda already understood it, special services did not

Andrei Soldatov, Irina Borogan, Agentura.Ru / Moscow - Nalchik / Published in Novaya gazeta 3.07.06 /

We continued our research of tragic events in Nalchik on October 13, 2005, when one-and-a-half hundred local residents, who called themselves the followers of pure Islam, attacked the city. Then 92 attackers were killed and 65 were arrested. After which in the republic external calmness was restored. The mosques, in which prayed the brothers from kabardino-balkarian jamaat, were closed, the bodies of those been killed do not issue to relatives, but now these problems disturb only them. In the previous material we wrote that Shamil Basaev, who led attack from the mountain Small Kizilovka near Nalchik, left the town without giving his forces to the aid to the perishing Kabardinians. Anzor Astemirov, leader of Jamaat, who exercised tactical leadership of operation,alsohas left from the city together with Basaev. Other two spiritual leaders of jamaat - Musa Mukozhev and Rasul Kudaev (dont mix him with Rasul Kudaev, Guantanamo prisoner, who also took part in this attack) - disappeared from the republic long before the attack. Today jamaat remained without the leadership, and to the bitterness of the carried losses was added offence to Basaev and Astemirov, which threw those attacked. The community of the followers of true Islam is not destroyed.

Question is, which way the remained part of jamaat choose, what forms of resistance they select. Where are only two abilities: withdrawal into the political opposition or the continuation of jihad via guerrilla war like in Dagestan. There is still the third way, the most extreme - participation in the global jihad.

In our investigation we obtained information about the fact that after attack on October 13 Kabardino-Balkariya was interested Al-Qaeda. In January this year special forces killed fighter near Nalchik with audio-letter. This record would be very important for fighter. Audio proved to be message of one of the leaders of jamaat Rasul Kudaev to the killed friend. When we learned the record, it became clear, why fighet so valued it. On the record Kudaev, which left Nalchik in 2004 into Jordan to continue Islamic education, tells his friend about his contacts with the representatives of Al-Qaeda. According to Kudaev, in Jordan he was attracted the attention of serious people, which manifest interest to Kabardino-Balkarya - they are going to open here new direction". That is this direction becomes clear, when Kudaev describes some terrorist attacks, which masterminds he did know. He talk about the terrorist attack in Iraq, after which this country even on several months broke diplomatic relations with Jordan.The person, who took responsibility for this attack, was az-Zarkawi.

Message of the sheik

Rasul Kudaev grew up in the intelligent family. His father-historian was dead, when Rasul was small, his mother works at the local radio, where she conducts talk-shows about the Kabardian people and its traditions. Close familiar of Rasul described us that he has interested Islam in the early childhood, when great-grandmother learned him to read the Koran. From the 7th class he attended the lectures of the Jordan theologians, who in the end of the 80-s went in Nalchik. In 90s Kudaev continued Islamic edication inUniversity in Saudi Arabia. Then he had friendship with Anzor Astemirov. After returning to Kabardino-Balkariya, Rasul Kudaev decided to became theologian. Inside Jamaat he was considered as the main expert of Islam, hes alias was sheik.

After the seizure of school in Beslan, when mosques in Kabardino-Balkaria began to be shut, Astemirov and Kudaev decided to leave the country. But authorities refused to give foreign passport for Astemirov. Rasul Kudaev managed to leave. He left to Jordan. As its familiar explained, he selected Amman, because of the Diasporas, who promised to assist with apartment. Then, as far as is known, Kudaev moved into Turkey. First in Istanbul, after in Kaysari - the city, where there is a big Kabardian diasporas.

As we understood by the content of audio record, it was made in Istanbul, several months after October 13. Kudaev discusses in it the need for jihad, approving it, but he condemns the behavior of Astemirov Then for long he talk about suicide terrorism, and then it passes to the main subject.

Being person with a large quantity of contacts at the Islamic universities in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, he attracted the attention of the brothers of other entirely scale.

Here is small fragment from this record, in which Kudaev speaks in Russian. His father was Balkarian, and Rasul cannot speak Kabardinian fluently:

- One serious theme was. But I did not want to report it to you, until I verify to the end. But they were thus far checked, until we with them calved somewhere half a year, they laid them in Syria... They also did not reveal their cards to the end, but, shortly, they began too steeply, and then I did not extend conversation so steeply, but I thought: I will first verify them at the initial and average level.

I met them at first time when I has just arrived into Jordan. And they were almost ready to open new direction. Specifically, to open jihad, precisely, for some reason in Kabardino-Balkaria. I then probed them. They worked in the direction of Iraq, clearly and they worked well. They work concrete through Circassians of Jordan. Brothers specifically ploughed, I tell you, they drove to Iraq as for the hunting. They went, blew up the pair of the US tanks, and returned. There was one Circassian there, he owns store of fruts, such beard, to the navel, more shortly it went, he shot out, returned. He sells vegetables-fruits in other days.

But then pale-yellow it occurred, when my nearest friend, but this it takes a long time to say, shortly, he produced one operation, killing at once 150, he flew in into one point, where munafiks were gathered. And near 450 were injured. This was my nearest friend. I was with him from my first days in Jordan, Raid Banna. After it, Iraq and Jordan even broke diplomatic relations, then restored... Then it produced my basic problems. But then, when I returned to Syria, I back on them left, and they speak - we have group in Yemen sitting, the group well equipped there, all forms specialists, on the tanks etc, and on the anti-aircraft, and they wanted to go to our side for some reason. I tell them: Why here? Here Iraq, what here, why not into Palestine?". They said: No, we want there, we want new direction to open. But I decided to probe them: Give me, I tell, for the beginning, although some finances. But then, I speak, as a minimum, once you such, in you all prepared, well send some quietly person there, into Moscow, to check situation. There he will be encountered, he will have a talk on the spot, then more closely hei will take a trip, into Minvody, Pyatigorsk

As we succeeded in research, Kudaev mentioned the terrorist attack in the Iraqi city Hilla on February 28, 2005. Then 32-old Jordanian Raid Mansur al-Banna became suicide car bomber, pulling off the deadliest single attack in Iraq. U.S. authorities said he killed 132 Iraqis. Iraq and Jordan even strained official relations because of wedding of martyr established by al-Bannas femaly.

Story of al-Banna was not typical for the person, who decided to become martyr for Islam. By 2002 al-Banna lived in USA, their American friends described him as a person, who was far of religion, calling him Arabian playboy. In 2002 his visa was ended, he returned at home, but he did not find any work there. In the summer of 2003 he has attempted to come back to America. But immigration officer in the airport of Chicago annulled his visa. After this, he has turned to Islam.

Responsibility for the organization of this attack took now deceased Abu Musab az-Zarkawi, head of the Iraqi network of Al-Qaeda. This act of terror was one of three largest in his terrorist career.

Possibly this person sent his emissaries to Kudaev in order to estimate, which way Kabardino-Balkarian jamaat will select for itself.

Weak component

However, they did not see wide selection. Young Moslems had already the chance to become political force, but they did not use it.

The previous President of Kabardino-Balkaria Valery Kokov, governed republic since 1992, pressed any opposition. As in many other Caucasian republics, at the beginning of the 90-s opposition in Kabardino-Balkaria grew up on the base of nationalism. Kokov immediately destroyed these national motions, considering it as the main threat to its regime. But he underestimated danger from another side - from the side of Islamist opposition.

Young people, gone at the beginning of the 90s for the studies into the Arab countries, returned at home as supporters of clean islam. Being gradually converted into ever more serious force, young Moslems remained thing in itself, and political opposition disturbed them lastly.

Former KGB officer Ruslan Nakhushev, being completely secular person, was the first, who has estimated the political potential of young Moslems. He created the institute of Islamic studies, hiring the leaders of Kabardino-balkarian jamaat. As result he has immediately became the most known opposite politician in republic. He managed to use even the former leaders of the national motions: now the human rights activists they protect young Moslems from the repressions of law-enforcement agencies.

However, jamaat had its own understanding how it is necessary to fight in the republic, and young Moslems choose armed fight.

The key role in jamaats converting to military way played the second person in the jamaat Anzor Astemirov. Psychologically its understandable, why Astemirov has gone to Basaev. Astemirovs are aristocratic family in republic: Kabardian village Vernhny Akbash earlier was called Astemirovo. With the Soviet regime they were punished and expelled from KBR. Astemirovs family could return only after the decades. Furthermore, the father of Anzor was interested entire life in Islam and boy from the childhood read the Koran in Arabian. Therefore his expectations were large, but he was constantly on the second roles: he was deputy of jamaat lyder Musa Mukozhev, and he was also only deputy in the institute of Islamic studies.

It proved to be thus the weak component, which was calculated and used by Basaev.

In January 2005 after the killing of the leader of jamaat Yarmuk Muslim Attaev, Astemirov took his Islamic name Seyfullakh. Together with the new name he obtained the possibility to satisfy his ambitions: Basaev was appointed him as emir of the Kabardino-Balkarian sector of Caucasian Front.

By the way, Yarmuk became famous to the entire world because of the efforts of the Generals of MVD, who accused it of the organization of attack on October 13. Although Yarmuk was the small Balkarian group, and attack in Nalchik was planned by Basaev, its deputy - Ingush Illes Gorchkhanov and Kabardian Anzor Astemirov.

Today jamaat is looking for future. The road to political opposition was closed after attack. The way to Astemirov - to conduct diversionary war in the republic, does not attract majority.

By spring 2006 Astemirov also understood it. Kavkazcenter began to publish one after another letters of Seyfullakh (three only in May), in which he blames Kabardians in the inaction, criminal for the muslim. These calls are not thus far too successful. For eight months after October 13 in the republic there were not one act of terror, but all [skhrony], which find special services, they were made even to the attack.

However, jamaat remains sufficiently serious force, also because of its locked nature.

In the hostile environment

Last year Kabardino-Balkarian Jamaat was found in the conflict not only with Spiritual management of the Moslems of republic (DUM), but also with regular Moslems, increasingly being more converted into that locked and group of adherents.

Rejection occurred gradually, as for instance, in the settlement Zalukokoazhe, located in 60 kilometers fromNalchik, whose 14 inhabitants participated in the attack on October 13 (9 of them they perished, 5 arrested). In the end of the 90th here among the adherents clean Islam appeared the active leaders, who could draw young people and organize the group of believers, contradicted themselves to the opinion of majority.

The inhabitant of the settlement Irzhib Shogenov doesnt hate participants in the assault, although the fighters shot down his cousin brother - militiaman. I knew those been killed, and to me it is very pity that everything thus came out. Somewhere four year ago they began to be separated among other Moslems, who attended mosque. I argued frequently with them, because they did not respect elders and only their authorities recognized, they could say even old man in the mosque: you that, you sit as Jew, remove feet.

Meanwhile, rigid repressions by law enforcement agencies after an attack on October, 13th have not attracted new people to jamaat or growth of their support among the population of republic. Followers of a "pure" islam have appeared even in greater isolation. And the isolated group of people existing in a hostile environment, is capable of the most radical actions.

What is in Kabardino-Balkariya for al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda should have very good reasons to prefer small Kabardino-Balkariya to the Chechnya or Dagestan, as example. Most likely, Al-Qaeda has simply understood that yet our secret services didnt understand: through local jamaat it is possible to blow up a situation not only in the republic, butpractically on all Northern Caucasus if to use connections inside Adyghes which are settled from Black sea to Caspian sea.

Adyghe brotherhood exists not only in words. Once, in the beginning of 90s, Kabardino-Balkariya has already united adygi within the limits of Confederation of mountain people of Caucasus. This Confederation supported all separative movements on Caucasus - from Abkhazes up to Chechens, having own armed forces diriged by Shamil Basayev.

By 1993 under Valery Kokov's direct pressure it has collapsed, but after death of president Kokov national Adyghe movements again have developed. In January 2006 in Abkhazia the Union of veterans of Confederation which was headed by its former president Jury Sanibel has been created. As Shanibov explained to authors, the purpose of the organization is to unite not only participants of military operations, but also those who helped to them, that essentially expands base of movement. The Union already has branches in Adygea, Abkhazia, Karachaevo-Circassia and Dagestan.

In May the leadership of the main organization of Adyghe diasporas - the International Circassian Association - was replaced. In June in Nalchik the Kabardian Congress which the same Jury Shanibov has headed has been established.

Adyghe theme has already started to appear on web-sites of the Chechen separatists where there was a videoclip about events in Nalchik in Adyghe language. The explaining text affirms: "After events in Nalchik on October, 13th, 2005 even most stupid sceptics have understood, that Adyghes (kabardians, Circassians, shapsugs) will not stand away from Jihad on Caucasus. Adyghes mojaheds battled together with the brothers Chechens even in the first war. Very few people are known, that the first 15 kabardians, students of one of Islamic institutes in Saudi Arabia, have thrown education and have arrived to the aid to moslems in Grozny in December, 1994. Almost all of them became shahids".

By the way, the head of Iraq network of Al-Qaeda az-Zarqawi perfectly knew opportunities and the sizes of Circassian Diasporas. He was born in Jordan, and his nickname occurs from the city of Zarka, where Chechens live. The idea to use Diasporas as the horizontal structure having reference points in different countries, is attractive in itself - so easier to throw group of people, the weapon to adjust information interchange. And it is possible to make it, not informing a top level of Diasporas, loyal to authorities of Jordan.

In June az-Zarqawi was killed. But who knows, whether his successor will refuse his plans. But we have to remember Al-Qaeda for the first time in history has grasped and executed Russian diplomats. Actually it was the first operation direct against Russia lead by Al-Qaeda.

Jumping-off place in Abkhazia

Certainly, we do not know, what emissaries which were studying conditions in Kabardino-Balkariya through Rasul Kudaev are now planning. They have thrown this invention after death of az-Zarqawi, or, on the contrary, just now study routes of transporting of terrorists.

But there is information confirmed that Adyghe connections are working. Now 24 participants of an attack to Nalchik are in wanted list. In such small republic it is difficult to disappear, so the main question - where they ran. According to our sources in Ministry of Internal Affairs of KBR, five of them - Valery Etezov, Ahmadia Malkarov, Rustam Mameev, Hakim Jangurazov and Zalim Tehajev - are living in Abkhazia. Some more people from the wanted list appear in Abkhazia periodically.

By the way, Abkhazia became a refuge place for many before attack to Nalchik. Zaurbek Kushkhov, the head of group "Don", has been declared in federal search in the summer of 2004 for participation in an attack on Ingushetia. All this time he disappeared in Abkhazia, and even he had the passport issued on other name with registration in Sukhumi. Besides two more killed participants of an attack in Nalchik - Anzor Chochev and Vyacheslav Shogemov - took part in the Georgian-Abkhazian war.

Dossier: Adyghes or Circassians

The name Circassians has been broadly applied to all peoples of the North Caucasus, and somewhat more restrictively to all the peoples of the Northwest Caucasus (the Adyghe, the Abkhaz, and the vanished Ubykhs, to the exclusion of the eastern Chechens and the peoples of Dagestan.) Most precisely, the name refers to a group of tribes who inhabited the territory of Circassia, and who call themselves Adyghes.

The Circassians first emerged as a coherent entity somewhere around the tenth century A.D., although references to them exist much earlier. They were never politically united, a fact which reduced their influence in the area and their ability to withstand periodic invasions from groups like the Mongols, Avars, Pechenegs, Huns, and Khazars.

This lack of unity eventually cost the Circassians their independence, as they were slowly conquered by Russia in a series of wars and campaigns in the late 18th and early to mid-19th centuries. During this period, the Circassians plight achieved a certain celebrity status in the West, but pledges of assistance were never fulfilled. After the Crimean War, Russia turned her attention to the Caucasus in earnest, starting with the peoples of Chechnya and Dagestan. In 1859, the Russians had finished defeating Imam Shamil in the eastern Caucasus, and turned their attention westward, finally subjugating the Circassians in 1864.

Circassians have lived outside the Caucasus region since the Middle Ages. They formed a tradition of joining foreign armies, including those of Persia, Rome, Byzantium, and the Golden Horde. They were particularly well represented in the Mamluks of Turkey and Egypt.

Much of Circassian culture was disrupted after their conquest by Russia in 1864. This lead to a Circassian Diaspora, mostly to various parts of the Ottoman Empire. Today, significant communities of Circassians live in Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel, Libya, and the United States.