Moscow: There is a fear of break out of violence between two different sects of the Muslims after a suicide bomber killed one of the most respected moderate Muslim clerics in Caucasus in Russia.
A Russian Islamic leader has warned that after the killing of the Islamic leader at the hands of hardline Islamist suicide bomber, clashes can break out between the two groups that would be devastating for the country.
According to a source in the Caspian Sea region of Dagestan, the suicide bombing, in which Muslim cleric, Said Afandi, was killed with six others, was staged by a 30-year-old widow of a radical fighter who was identified by an analysis of her severed head.
The attack appeared just a month after an assassination attempt against another prominent pro-government Muslim leader in a different region killing one and was claimed by a militant follower of the strict Wahhabism sect of Islam.
Fear of violence between Wahhabis and Sufi-sect followers, whose leader has been killed, were highlighted by both the Head of the National Clerical Council and the Chair of the Russian Parliament’s Religious Affairs Committee as well as the Head of Russia’s Orthodox Church.
Chief Islamic Council Cleric, Ravil Gaynutdin, said that the attacks threaten to destroy “the beginnings of inter-Muslim dialogue” along Russia’s impoverished and violence-plagued southern rim.
He said in a statement, “I call on you to adhere to a fraternal Muslim sense of responsibility before the danger of sectarian strife and the splintering of the Muslim religious community.”
The lower house of parliament’s religious affairs committee chief has accused radical forces outside Russia of “fomenting the flames” of Muslim-on-Muslim violence that could further destabilize the country.
Yaroslav Nilov stated, “Russia is coming under attack.”
Afandi was widely viewed as one of Dagestan’s most revered religious teachers whose funeral drew vast crowds only hours after his killing. The estimated attendance in his funeral was up to 150,000 people.
“It is as if they killed the president, the prime minister and the top arbiter of Dagestan all in one,” said the Russian Academy of Science’s regional analyst, Sergei Artyunov.
The overwhelmingly Muslim republic, the largest in the North Caucasus by far, has a tradition of Sufi culture that militant and long-outlawed leaders such as the warlord Doku Umarov have tried to break with radical teachings.
Umarov’s Caucasus Emirate group has been trying for the past five years to establish a pan-Caucuses Islamic state that includes neighboring Chechnya and other Russian territories such as Ingushetia and South Ossetia.
Its closely-linked KavkazCenter website called the slain cleric a “dissenter” who “actively promoted the Russian authorities in the Caucasus.” But there was no direct claim of responsibility for the attack.
Analysts said that Afandi’s death left Russian President, Putin, without a powerful religious authority to rely on and prevent movements like those run by Umarov from getting even stronger in Russia’s most violent region.
“Putin has always relied on loyal Islamic authorities and Afandi was taking a very active stance against the Salafists,” said Alexei Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Centre.
“But the young are joining the Wahhabists. The young see those who support the authorities as corrupt,” the analyst observed.