Insurgency in the North Caucasus
The insurgency in the North Caucasus was a low-level armed conflict between Russia and militants associated with the Caucasus Emirate and, since June 2015, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) groups. It followed the official end of the decade-long Second Chechen War on 16 April 2009. It attracted people from the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Central Asia, who then participated in the conflict, but volunteers from the North Caucasus are also fighting in Syria. Also used is the name Armed Conflict in the North Caucasus (Russian: Вооружённый конфликт на Севером Кавказе).
The insurgency has gone relatively dormant in recent years. During its peak, the violence was mostly concentrated in the North Caucasus republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. Occasional incidents happened in surrounding regions, like North Ossetia-Alania, Karachay-Cherkessia, Stavropol Krai and Volgograd Oblast.
History and background
In late 1999, Russia's Premier, Vladimir Putin, ordered military, police and security forces to enter the breakaway region of Chechnya. By early 2000, these forces occupied most of the region. High levels of fighting continued for several more years and resulted in thousands of Russian and Chechen casualties and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. In 2005, Chechen rebel leader, Abdul-Halim Sadulayev, decreed the formation of a Caucasus Front against Russia, among Islamic believers in the North Caucasus, in an attempt to widen Chechnya's conflict with Russia. After his death, his successor, Dokka Umarov, declared continuing jihad to establish an Islamic fundamentalist Caucasus Emirate in the North Caucasus and beyond. Russia's pacification policy in Chechnya has involved setting up a pro-Moscow regional government and transferring more local security duties to this government.
An important factor in Russia's apparent success in Chechnya has been reliance on pro-Moscow Chechen clans affiliated with regional President Ramzan Kadyrov. Police and paramilitary forces under Kadyrov's authority have committed abuses of human rights, according to rulings by the European Court of Human Rights and others. Terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus appeared to increase substantially in 2007–2010. In the summer of 2009, more than 442 persons died in North Caucasus violence in just four months as compared to only 150 deaths reported in the entire year of 2008. In the whole year 2009, according to the official figures by the Russian government, 235 Interior Ministry personnel (Defense Ministry and the FSB losses not included) were killed and 686 injured, while more than 541 alleged fighters and their supporters were killed and over 600 detained. The rate of increase of terrorist incidents lessened in 2010, as compared to 2008–2009, however the rate of civilian casualties substantially increased throughout the North Caucasus in 2010 and a rising number of terrorist incidents took place outside of Chechnya.
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. 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. A special investigation by Reuters claimed that in the lead-up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russian security services had allowed and encouraged militants to leave Russia to fight in the Syrian Civil War, in order to reduce the risk of domestic attacks.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November 2010)
The insurgency in the North Caucasus is a direct result of the two post-Soviet wars fought between Russia and Chechnya. The First Chechen War was a nationalist struggle, with both secular and Islamist overtones, for independence from Russia and took place between 1994 and 1996. After a vicious struggle between Russian federal forces and Chechen separatist guerrillas, Chechnya was granted de facto independence per the terms of the Khasavyurt Accord, signed on 30 August 1996. With a devastated infrastructure and various armed factions, subordinate to specific warlords, the next three years saw Chechnya devolve into a corrupted and criminal state, plagued by armed gangs, an epidemic of kidnappings-for-ransom and the rise of radical Islam in the region as a response to suppression.
In August 1999, an armed incursion of 1,500 Islamic radicals, led by Chechen warlord, Shamil Basayev, and Arab jihadist, Ibn al-Khattab, in support of a Dagestani separatist movement, combined with a series of apartment bombings in Russia, gave Moscow sufficient reasoning for re-invading Chechnya, thus triggering the Second Chechen War, a conflict fought with significant jihadist overtones.
Having learned harsh lessons from the first war, the Russian military, rather than getting entangled in messy urban engagements such as that seen in Grozny in 1994–95, relied heavily on aerial bombardment and artillery such as ballistic missiles and fuel air explosives, typically surrounding and then destroying any towns or villages that put up resistance before sending in ground forces for mop-up operations. The second Battle of Grozny in 1999–2000 saw the bulk of Chechen resistance smashed, particularly after a column of some 2,000 fighters attempted to break out of the besieged city in February 2000 and instead walked directly into a minefield that Russian forces had prepared for an ambush. What remained of the decimated rebel units then withdrew into the inaccessible Vedeno and Argun gorges in the southern mountains of the republic in order to wage a guerrilla campaign.
The republic remained a major center of violence for many years. According to Russian figures, between April 2009 (when the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya was officially ended) and April 2010, 97 servicemen were killed in Chechnya; at the same time, government forces killed 189 persons claimed to be militants or their collaborators. Reported casualties declined, with 26 security forces and 24 suspected militants being killed in 2014.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November 2010)
Dagestan is the most religious, populous and complex of all the north Caucasian republics. It is double the size of Chechnya and consists of several dozen ethnic groups, most with their own language. The conflict in Dagestan, however, is not between ethnic groups but between Sufism, a syncretic form of Islam which includes local customs and recognises the state, and Salafism, a more traditional form which rejects secular rule and insists that the Salafist interpretation of Islam should govern all spheres of life.
Dagestan has the highest levels of violence and extremism in the North Caucasus republics. The Russian Interior Ministry stated that of the 399 terrorist crimes committed in the North Caucasus in 2013, 242 were in Dagestan.
Along with Dagestan, Ingushetia bore the brunt of the violence in the North Caucasus in the Insurgencies early years. The Islamist insurgency in the republic sprang from the wars in neighbouring Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s. In June 2004, Ingush and Chechen fighters launched a large-scale attack on Ingushetia's biggest town, Nazran, killing scores of civilians, policemen and soldiers.
As elsewhere in the North Caucasus, the brutality of state security forces has been a major factor, driving young men to join the Islamists. Under the presidency of the former KGB officer, Murat Zyazikov, teams of masked operatives kidnapped, tortured and killed suspected rebels and members of their families. Zyazikov's successor, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, appointed in 2008, had success in dampening the violence, although he was seriously injured in a suicide bombing by the militants during his first year in office. Human rights violations by Russian commandos decreased, but remained widespread.
The capture of Ali Taziev in June 2010, an ethnic Ingush and one of the top leaders of the Caucasus Emirate, dealt a blow to the jihadists in Ingushetia, with the number of attacks falling substantially over the next 5 years. In mid-2015, Ingushetia's president, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, stated that the insurgency in the Republic had been 'defeated'.
The insurgency in Kabardino-Balkaria began in the early 2000s and was led by the Yarmuk Jamaat, a militant Islamist jamaat which flourished as a result of persecution of pious Muslims by police and security forces.
In October 2005, several score of the militants launched a raid on the capital of the republic, Nalchik, which left 142 people dead. The guerrillas have also carried out numerous assassinations of government officials and law enforcement officers.
The republic saw a flare-up of violence in late 2010 and early 2011, in the wake of the death of Anzor Astemirov, a senior figure in the Caucasus Emirate and the head of its United Vilayat of Kabarda, Balkaria and Karachay. The new leaders of Kabardino-Balkaria's guerrilla movement, Asker Dzhappuyev and Ratmir Shameyev, preferred a more aggressive approach and the militants murdered several civilians in the republic, including Russian tourists. In response, a vigilante group called the Black Hawks threatened the relatives of some of the Islamists. Dzhappuyev and Shameyev were killed in a special operation by security forces in April 2011.
Casualties fell in the following years. There was a total of 49 people (militants, security forces and civilians) reported killed in the republic over the whole of 2014.
On 9 September 2010, a car-bomb attack occurred at a crowded marketplace in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, killing 19 adults and children, and injuring over 190. President Medvedev responded, that "we will certainly do everything to catch these monsters, who have committed a terrorist attack against ordinary people. What's more, a barbarous terrorist attack. We will do everything, so that they are found and punished in accordance with the law of our country, or in the case of resistance or other cases, so that they are eliminated."
Vilayat Galgaycho reportedly took responsibility, stating that the attack was aimed against "Ossetian infidels" on "occupied Ingush lands".
List of clashes in the North Caucasus
- List of clashes in the North Caucasus in 2009
- List of clashes in the North Caucasus in 2010
- List of clashes in the North Caucasus in 2011
- List of clashes in the North Caucasus in 2012
- List of clashes in the North Caucasus in 2014
- List of clashes in the North Caucasus in 2015
- List of clashes in the North Caucasus in 2016
- List of clashes in the North Caucasus in 2017
- List of clashes in the North Caucasus in 2018
- List of clashes in the North Caucasus in 2019
Note: The casualty totals are compiled by the news site Caucasian Knot, which does not vouch for the data's 100-percent accuracy.
- 2009 Nazran bombing
- 2009 Nevsky Express bombing
- 2010 Moscow Metro bombings
- 2010 Kizlyar bombings
- 2010 Stavropol bomb blast
- 2010 Tsentoroy attack
- 2010 Vladikavkaz bombing
- 2010 Chechen Parliament attack
- Domodedovo International Airport bombing
- 2012 Makhachkala attack
- October 2013 Volgograd bus bombing
- December 2013 Volgograd bombings
- 2014 Grozny bombing
- 2014 Grozny clashes
- Metrojet Flight 9268
- 2017 Saint Petersburg Metro bombing
- 2018 Kizlyar church shooting
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- The Chechens: A Handbook, p. 237, at Google Books
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- "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.
- "ISIS Declares Governorate in Russia's North Caucasus Region". Institute for the Study of War. 23 June 2015.
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- Russlands Innenministerium: 600 militante Extremisten im Nordkaukasus aktiv, Sputnik News, 25 January 2013
- 235 killed (2009), 225 killed (2010), 190–207 killed (2011),"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 27 August 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) 211 killed (2012), 127 killed (2013), 41–55 killed (2014), 18 killed (2015), 32 killed (2016), total of 1,079–1,110 reported killed
- 686 wounded (2009), 467 wounded (2010), 462–826 wounded (2011),"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 27 August 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) 405 wounded (2012), 166 wounded (2014), 31 wounded (2015), 65 wounded (2016), total of 2,282–2,646 reported wounded
- 270 killed and 453 captured (2009), 349 killed and 254 captured (2010), 384 killed and 370 captured (2011), 391 killed and 461 captured (2012), 260 killed (2013), and 88 captured  259 killed and 445 captured (2014), 172 killed (2015), 162 killed and 377 captured (2016), total reported 2,247 killed and 2,448 captured
- 356 killed (2010–2011), 78 killed (2012),"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 October 2013. Retrieved 24 September 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) 104 killed (2013), 37 killed (2014), 19 killed (2015), 32 killed (2016), total of 602 reported killed
- "Six Russian soldiers killed in Chechnya". BBC News. 2017-03-24. Retrieved 2017-10-03.
Russian troops in Chechnya have faced a low level insurgency for years ... They still face a low-level insurgency in the mainly Muslim region in Russia's volatile North Caucasus area.
- "Russia's North Caucasus Insurgency Widens as ISIS' Foothold Grows". www.worldpoliticsreview.com. Retrieved 2017-10-03.
Russia's North Caucasus insurgency has gone relatively quiet, but reduced casualty numbers belie a still-worrying situation where long-standing grievances remain.
- Walker, Shaun (2017-04-04). "Why suspicion over St Petersburg metro attack is likely to fall on Islamist groups". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 2017-04-03. Retrieved 2017-10-03.
A renewed crackdown on any suspected militant activity in the run-up to the Sochi winter Olympics in 2014 and the departure of many militants to fight in Syria led to a weakening of the North Caucasus insurgency.
- Russia 'ends Chechnya operation', BBC News, 16 April 2009
- Cerwyn Moore (2015). "Foreign Bodies: Transnational Activism, the Insurgency in the North Caucasus and "Beyond"". Terrorism and Political Violence. 27 (3): 395–415. doi:10.1080/09546553.2015.1032035.
- Жертвами вооруженного конфликта на Северном Кавказе с 29 декабря по 4 января стали не менее шести человек // Кавказский узел, 05.01.2015
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- Gordon Hahn, "Trends in Jihadist Violence in Russia During 2010 in Statistics", Islam, Islamism and Politics in Eurasia Report, Monterey Institute for International Studies, 26 January 2011
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- Chechen Fighters Hold their Ground Against Kadyrov, The Jamestown Foundation, 28 May 2010
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- "From Moscow to Mecca: As this part of Russia's empire frays, fundamentalist Islam takes a stronger hold". The Economist. The Economist Newspaper Limited. 399 (8728): 24–26. 9–15 April 2011.
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- Kaukasus: Extremismusrate in Dagestan verdreifacht, Sputnik News, 15 February 2013
- Extremismus im Nordkaukasus nimmt spürbar zu, Sputnik News, 28 November 2013
- A Fear of Three Letters, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, 8 March 2011
- "Yevkurov Says Insurgency 'Defeated' In Ingushetia". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. 19 May 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
- Blood Relations, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, 21 February 2011
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- Global Terrorism Database
- Darion Rhodes, Salafist-Takfiri Jihadism: the Ideology of the Caucasus Emirate, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, March 2014
- Caucasus jihad: Terror tactics back on the horizon?, The Long War Journal, 21 May 2009
- "What Your Children Do Will Touch Upon You", Human Rights Watch, 2 July 2009
- Russia: Protect Rights in North Caucasus Insurgency No Excuse for Abandoning Rule of Law, International Federation for Human Rights, 7 July 2009 (UNHCR)
- Terrorism and the North Caucasus: An Overview