Russia: Jihadi call for Winter Olympics disruption

A man identified as Chechen Islamist rebel leader Doku Umarov appeals for disruption of the Sochi games. Picture: AFP/Kavkazcenter
A man identified as Chechen Islamist rebel leader Doku Umarov appeals for disruption of the Sochi games. Picture: AFP/Kavkazcenter
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RUSSIAN Islamist leader Doku Umarov has urged his followers to use “maximum force” to prevent president Vladimir Putin staging the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

In an online video recorded in a forest, Umarov said an order not to attack Russian targets outside the North Caucasus had been cancelled and likened holding the Games in the Black Sea city to performing “Satanic dances” on the graves of Muslims killed fighting Russians there in the 19th century.

Umarov sat wearing camouflage fatigues and a cap in front of a black jihadist flag, flanked by two fighters who, like him, were bearded..

Sochi, which is due to host the Games next February, is a few hundred miles from the volatile and mountainous North Caucasus region in southern Russia where there is almost daily violence. It was the homeland of Circassians until they were expelled in the 19th century.

Mr Putin has promised tight security at the Games, on which Russia is spending more than $50 billion (£33bn), and sees it as a chance to show the world what his nation can achieve.

“They (Russia) plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims, buried on the territory of our land on the Black Sea, and we as mujahideen are obliged to not permit that, using any methods allowed us by the almighty Allah,” Umarov said in the four-minute video released yesterday.

“I call on you, every mujahid, either in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan or on the territory of the Caucasus to use maximum force on the path of Allah to disrupt this Satanic dancing on the bones of our ancestors,” he said, referring to predominantly Muslim regions in Russia that are far from the North Caucasus.

Russia’s most wanted man, Umarov leads a group called the Caucasus Emirate which has taken responsibility for organising many attacks, including suicide bombings which killed 37 people at a Moscow airport in 2011 and at least 40 people on the Moscow subway in 2010.

Mr Putin expressed concern last year that violence involving Muslims could spread to Tatarstan, in central Russia, after a leading Muslim official there was wounded in a bomb attack.

In February 2012, Umarov ordered a moratorium on attacks on Russian targets outside the North Caucasus and called for a halt on attacks that would harm civilians, but made clear in the new video that this order had been rescinded.

The order was issued at the height of a protest movement against Mr Putin’s more than decade-long rule and before last year’s presidential election, which Mr Putin won.

However, the protests have dwindled and Russia has killed a number of insurgency leaders including Umarov’s right-hand man in the Ingushetia region.

Many Circassians, an indigenous people of the North Caucasus, were killed or expelled by Russian imperial soldiers in the 19th century in and around Krasnaya Polyana, the planned site of Olympic skiing events.

“Umarov is announcing this now to increase the Caucasus Emirate’s visibility by using Sochi, which has attained international recognition before the Olympic Games,” said an expert on the region, Mairbek Vatchagayev.

Analysts are divided over the emirate’s ability to carry out a large-scale bomb attack on Sochi, but Umarov has been under pressure form some of his supporters to repeal the moratorium on attacks outside the North Caucasus.

In an online video recorded in a forest, Umarov said an order not to attack Russian targets outside the North Caucasus had been cancelled and likened holding the Games in the Black Sea city to performing “Satanic dances” on the graves of Muslims killed fighting Russians there in the 19th century.

Umarov sat wearing camouflage fatigues and a cap in front of a black jihadist flag, flanked by two fighters who, like him, were bearded..

Sochi, which is due to host the Games next February, is a few hundred miles from the volatile and mountainous North Caucasus region in southern Russia where there is almost daily violence. It was the homeland of Circassians until they were expelled in the 19th century.

Mr Putin has promised tight security at the Games, on which Russia is spending more than $50 billion (£33bn), and sees it as a chance to show the world what his nation can achieve.

“They (Russia) plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims, buried on the territory of our land on the Black Sea, and we as mujahideen are obliged to not permit that, using any methods allowed us by the almighty Allah,” Umarov said in the four-minute video released yesterday.

“I call on you, every mujahid, either in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan or on the territory of the Caucasus to use maximum force on the path of Allah to disrupt this Satanic dancing on the bones of our ancestors,” he said, referring to predominantly Muslim regions in Russia that are far from the North Caucasus.

Russia’s most wanted man, Umarov leads a group called the Caucasus Emirate which has taken responsibility for organising many attacks, including suicide bombings which killed 37 people at a Moscow airport in 2011 and at least 40 people on the Moscow subway in 2010.

Mr Putin expressed concern last year that violence involving Muslims could spread to Tatarstan, in central Russia, after a leading Muslim official there was wounded in a bomb attack.

In February 2012, Umarov ordered a moratorium on attacks on Russian targets outside the North Caucasus and called for a halt on attacks that would harm civilians, but made clear in the new video that this order had been rescinded.

The order was issued at the height of a protest movement against Mr Putin’s more than decade-long rule and before last year’s presidential election, which Mr Putin won.

However, the protests have dwindled and Russia has killed a number of insurgency leaders including Umarov’s right-hand man in the Ingushetia region.

Many Circassians, an indigenous people of the North Caucasus, were killed or expelled by Russian imperial soldiers in the 19th century in and around Krasnaya Polyana, the planned site of Olympic skiing events.

“Umarov is announcing this now to increase the Caucasus Emirate’s visibility by using Sochi, which has attained international recognition before the Olympic Games,” said an expert on the region, Mairbek Vatchagayev.

Analysts are divided over the emirate’s ability to carry out a large-scale bomb attack on Sochi, but Umarov has been under pressure form some of his supporters to repeal the moratorium on attacks outside the North Caucasus.