A Primer on the Evolution of Conflict in the North Caucasus

Although violence has declined significantly in recent years, foreign fighters and ideologues continue to reference “jihad” in Chechnya and many Russian-speaking fighters in Syria have previous experience of the North Caucasus conflict. In this article, Dr Cerwyn Moore and Mark Youngman outline the evolution of those conflicts.

Click here to read the rest of the article for Radicalisation Research.

Lessons From The Decline Of The North Caucasus Insurgency

The decision by the Islamic State group to proclaim a ‘caliphate’ in June 2014 was a watershed moment in the history of jihadism, but it was far from the first attempt at jihadist state-building. Examining the reasons for the failure of one such project, the Caucasus Emirate (IK) in Russia’s North Caucasus, and the demise of the regional insurgency under the banners of both IK and IS can help us better understand the relationship between a group’s ideology and its composition and operating environment.

Click here to view the rest of the article for CREST Security Review.

Learning From Ideological Variance And Change

We can learn a great deal from the ideologies of groups engaged in terrorism and other forms of political violence: how they shape perceptions of the problems facing their societies; what solutions and methods for implementing them they advocate; and how they mobilise supporters behind these solutions. However, ideologies do not exist in a vacuum, but instead adapt to specific contexts and cultures. They both influence, and are influenced by, their environment and the composition of the groups themselves. My PhD research seeks to explain ideological variance and change by examining this interactive process in the context of the insurgency in Russia’s North Caucasus. Through this, I aim to develop a richer understanding of what we can learn from the ideological statements of groups, beyond simply taking them at face value.

Click here to view the rest of the article for CREST.

Reflections on AQ’s Claims of Responsibility for the April 2017 St Petersburg Attack

Earlier today, I posted a series of tweets reflecting on a claim by the allegedly Al-Qaeda-linked “Katibat Imam Shamil,” posted to Ani.mr, claiming responsibility for the 3 April terrorist attack on the St Petersburg metro. I’ve compiled the text of tweets below for convenience, although obviously the issue requires more detailed reflection.

Continue reading “Reflections on AQ’s Claims of Responsibility for the April 2017 St Petersburg Attack”

Russia’s domestic terrorism threat is serious, sophisticated and complex

The April 3 bombing on the St Petersburg metro was the highest-profile terror attack on Russian soil since a suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport in January 2011. According to Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee, at least 14 people were killed and 49 injured by an improvised explosive device; further casualties were prevented when a second device was disarmed at another station. Days later, another bomb was found and defused in a residential building.

Click here to view the rest of this article for The Conversation.

Gendered Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in the North Caucasus

Media outlets and experts frequently treat women involved in insurgency and terrorism in highly gendered ways, depriving them of agency and relegating them to the role of mothers, monsters and whores. This gendered treatment has attracted some (albeit not enough) attention, including in relation to the North Caucasus itself – most notably in the work of Caron Gentry and Laura Sjoberg, whose excellent book Beyond Mothers, Monsters, Whores I just paraphrased. There is, however, a related issue that is even more frequently overlooked but that is highly deserving of consideration: gendered approaches to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism pursued by the authorities themselves. Continue reading “Gendered Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in the North Caucasus”

Broader, Vaguer, Weaker: The Evolving Ideology of the Caucasus Emirate Leadership

In October 2007, veteran Chechen field commander Dokka Umarov proclaimed the formation of the Caucasus Emirate (IK), formalizing the victory of the North Caucasus insurgency’s Islamist wing over its nationalist separatists. Despite the importance of this decision, however, the IK’s ideology and Umarov’s role in shaping it remain understudied. By analyzing Umarov’s statements throughout his lengthy tenure as leader, it is possible to identify three distinct phases to Umarov’s ideological positioning of the insurgency: nationalist-jihadist (June 2006-October 2007); Khattabist (October 2007-late 2010); and partially hybridized (late 2010-September 2013). Understanding these phases helps us gain a clear picture of the IK’s ideological transformation and the limits of its engagement with external actors, and suggests that weakness was a key factor driving that transformation.  Continue reading “Broader, Vaguer, Weaker: The Evolving Ideology of the Caucasus Emirate Leadership”

Between Caucasus and Caliphate: Understanding the Splintering of the North Caucasus Insurgency

In December 2014, several high-ranking field commanders from the Caucasus Emirate (Imarat Kavkaz, IK) pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS). Following the defection of many of the IK’s remaining commanders, IS in July 2015 established a formal branch, the Caucasus Wilayah (IS/CW), and is now the main insurgent grouping in the North Caucasus. This article argues that there are clear ideological differences in the positions adopted by the competing IK and IS/CW factions, but ideology is potentially more important in explaining the decisions of those leaders who remained loyal to the IK than those who defected – and the ideological divide was exacerbated by the communication difficulties facing groups.
Continue reading “Between Caucasus and Caliphate: Understanding the Splintering of the North Caucasus Insurgency”