Islamist rebels take aim at Russia ahead of election year

February 8, 2011

(Doku Umarov (C) with Chechen rebels in an undated video/ TV)

A suicide attack on Russia’s busiest airport shows Islamist rebel leader Doku Umarov is serious about inflicting “blood and tears” on the Russian heartland ahead of the 2012 presidential election. Umarov, a 46-year-old rebel leader who styles himself as the Emir of the Caucasus, claimed responsibility for the January 24 attack that killed 36 and said he had dozens of suicide bombers ready to unleash on Russian cities.

Russia is struggling to contain a growing Islamist insurgency along its southern flank nearly 12 years after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rose to popularity by leading Russia into a second war against Chechen separatists.

In his 16-minute video, posted on several Islamist websites, Umarov vowed more attacks “on the territory of Russia. They will be carried out, God willing, there is no doubt about it.”

Chechen-born Umarov wants to create a separate state with Sharia Islamic law across the patchwork of Muslim republics along Russia’s south that he considers to be “occupied” territory.

“There will be hundreds of brothers who will be ready to sacrifice themselves for the establishment of the word of God,” Umarov, clad in camouflage and sporting a long black beard, said. On Friday he said that five or six dozen men were presently ready for “martyrdom.”

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