Dagestan and Daesh threat

The Republic of Dagestan currently is considered the most dangerous republic in the Russian North Caucasus Federal District (NCFD) and the last events confirmed that the Republic of Dagestan is becoming the ground where Daesh, well-known in the West as Islamic State or ISIL, has decided to challenge Russian authorities and security forces and establish its outpost in the region.

On February 15, a suicide attack killed two police officers and injured at least 7 people in Derbent region in the South of Dagestan. This attack is the second in the region in the last two months claimed by Daesh and proves the interest of the group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for the so-called Vilayat Dagestan, the name given by the Islamic State to the region.

According to the National Anti – Terrorism Committee (NAC), the bomb used in the car explosion was equivalent to 30 kg of TNT and detonated near the Road Patrol Service post in the Derbent region. As stated by the NAC, the Dagestan’s Yuzhnaya (Southern) sabotage and insurgent group is the organiser of the suicide bomb attack. This group, which pledged allegiance to Daesh in the summer of 2015, is headed by Abutdin Khanmagomedov, a 30-year-old who joined the Northern Caucasian world of insurgency and militancy in 2013.

In the last three years Dagestan has never experienced an attack of such a kind; the suicide bomb explosion could represent a “new model” used by terrorist groups to hit the Russian security forces.

The current situation in the country is worsening because of Daesh’s threat and the local terrorist groups. Moreover, ethnic tensions due to Abdulatipov’s leadership and management and economic problems have been seriously afflicting the republic of Dagestan enlarging the contrasts and divisions between authorities, local population and different ethnic groups.

On February 17, the Head of the Republic of Dagestan, Ramazan Abdulatipov, said that the police do not qualify the explosion near the Dzhemikentsky post in Derbent region as a terrorist act. According to Yuga.ru, a portal which focuses its attention on the Southern Russia, Abdulatipov stressed that the law enforcement agencies believe that the explosion cannot be qualified as a terrorist act because there are no political demands or statements.

Although the Dagestan president denied any implications of terrorist groups, the NAC has confirmed the version of the involvement of Daesh which claimed the responsibility for the explosion through one of its Twitter accounts. Abdulatipov’s statements could be motivated by the will of the Dagestan president to confirm the stability and security of the country and to chase away the shadow of terrorism. Indeed, earlier in December in an interview published by Vedemosti, Ramazan Abdulatipov claimed that the security situation in the republic was steadily improving and that the threat of extremist groups and militants was represented by a few group of people.

Daesh, has already taken the responsibility of other attacks in the region; the last was that which occurred on December 29 in Derbent which involved an armed group that carried out an attack at the Naryn-Kala fortress. After the attack a border guard officer was killed and 11 people were injured.

On February 17, a counter-terrorism operation regime has been imposed on three southern districts of Dagestan. The NAC in Dagestan said that in the morning at 7 a.m. a counter-terrorism operation regime was introduced in the territories of the Khuvsky, Suleyman-Stalsky and Tabrasaransky districts of Dagestan with the aim at searching militants in the area which led the security forces to liquidate two militants. This operation could be seen as a response by the authorities to the attack which occurred on Monday; in addition, this event is another sign of instability and insecurity in the country which can be fought only through counter-terrorism regime and special operations.

According to Akhmet Yarlykapov, a Moscow-based Dagestani social scientist, these terrorist attacks conducted by Russian groups which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State underline that the insurgency and militancy in the region have created relations with the international terrorism obtaining financial aids and propaganda support. In Yarlykapov’s opinion, there is not a direct connection between the Russian campaign in Syria and the recent attacks in the North Caucasus.

As the Federal Security Service (FSB) reported, around 7,000 Russian citizens and citizens of other countries of the former Soviet Union are fighting in the Middle East; among those, there are about 900 Dagestanis.

Daesh’s influence in the region is growing and putting in risk the leadership of the Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate) regarding the jihad and militancy against Russian and local authorities. In 2015 the Kremlin changed its attention and shifted its focus from Imarat Kavkaz to Daesh; the group led by al-Baghdadi could have the power, thanks to its media branch and popularity among young Muslims, to influence the Muslim population in the Russian Federation (around 30 million of people) and could harshly hit the Kremlin and its presence in the southern region.

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AUTORE

Giuliano Bifolchi. Analista geopolitico specializzato nel settore Sicurezza, Conflitti e Relazioni Internazionali. Laureato in Scienze Storiche presso l’Università Tor Vergata di Roma, ha conseguito un Master in Peace Building Management presso l’Università Pontificia San Bonaventura specializzandosi in Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) applicata al fenomeno terroristico della regione mediorientale e caucasica. Ha collaborato e continua a collaborare periodicamente con diverse testate giornalistiche e centri studi.