Belgian police’s raid against Imarat Kavaz

by Giuliano Bifolchi

In Belgium, the local police conducted 28 searches against the terrorist organisation Imarat Kavkaz. This event underlines the impact of the jihadist propaganda in the Russian language in Europe and the possible ramification of the Caucasus Emirate among the North Caucasian diaspora on the European soil.

According to the Belgian press, a total of 28 searches were conducted in the country among members of a charity organisation that raised money for banned terrorist groups, including the Caucasus Emirate. The searches took place mainly in the western part of Flanders.

Belgian police had conducted the raid in January 2021 but the local media reported the news only at the beginning of February because the information was not disclosed for the purpose of the investigation. As a result of the searches, no arrest warrants were issued.

Earlier it was reported that a group of militants, including Amir Aslan Byutukayev, was liquidated in Chechnya. According to the Chechen Head of State Ramzan Kadyrov, this was the last active group of militants from the number created during the existence of the underground armed group in the North Caucasus known as Imarat Kavkaz

The self-proclaimed ’emir’ Doku Umarov created the Caucasus Emirate in 2007 with the purpose of establishing an imamate or Islamic state in the North Caucasus based on shari’a (Islamic law) and independent from the Russian central authority. Since its establishment, Imarat Kavkaz has organised different terrorist attacks on the Russian soil.

In 2013 the Russian special forces killed Doku Umarov and between 2013-2015 some of the most prominent leaders of the Caucasus Emirate were liquidated thanks to military special operations. The leadership vacuum in the Caucasus Emirate pushed many local militants to swear allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi since in 2015 the Islamic State created Vilayat Kavkaz (Caucasus Province). Despite the rise of the Islamic State in the North Caucasus, there is still evidence that Imarat Kavkaz has not entirely disappeared in the region.

Why this matters? Because the European Union cannot underestimate the possible threat represented by the jihadist propaganda in the Russian language which has a significant impact on the North Caucasian diaspora. If we link this event with the recent terrorist attack occurred in France in October 2020 when an 18-year-old Chechen born in Moscow beheaded a professor of history and geography ‘guilty’ of showing the cartoons of Muhammad in class (Terrorist attack in France and the Chechen diaspora in Europe), it possible to state that Europe is not immune to those terrorist organisations which have mainly organised their violent attacks in the post-Soviet republics.