MOSCOW – Russia's most wanted man, Doku Umarov, is reportedly dead after a website that sympathizes with North Caucasus Muslim rebels published the news, asserting that the deceased leader has been replaced.
"The departure of Doku marks the end of the older generation of rebels, who began as separatist in Chechenya," the International Crisis Group think tank's North Caucasus director Yekaterina Sokirianskaya told Reuters on Tuesday, March 18.
The news, circulated before by the Kremlin-backed leader of the Chechnya region, was reported by the Kavkaz Centre website which issued an obituary, calling Umarov a martyr who had "given 20 years of his life to the Jihad."
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The site did not say how and when Umarov had died, but the simultaneous release of a video address by a militant introducing himself as Umarov's replacement indicated it may have been some time ago.
A bearded man named as Ali Abu Mukhammad says in the video posted on You Tube that he was asked to take Umarov's place.
"I am declaring that I am taking on this responsibility," he says, wearing combat fatigues and sitting on a grassy slope with an automatic rifle at his side and a black-and-white Islamist flag behind him.
Chechnya has been ravaged by conflict since 1994, with just three years of relative peace after the first war between Russian forces and Chechen fighters ended in August 1996.
The second war was ordered by late president Boris Yeltsin in 1999, just months before he resigned and was succeeded by Vladimir Putin, now the prime minister.
Tons of bombs rained the capital Grozny in 2002, leading the UN to describe it as "the most destroyed city on the planet".
Chechnya's "rebel" movement has undergone some significant changes since 2007.
Under the leadership of Doku Umarov, Chechnya's "rebel" movement has disavowed its long-term goal of creating an independent Chechnya in favor of establishing a "Muslim Emirate" encompassing the entire North Caucasus, which would be governed according to the principles of Shari`ah law.
The group is widely thought to have masterminded three deadly bombings that killed 41 in the southern Russian city of Volgograd in as many months, before Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea city of Sochi.
Umarov had urged his fighters in a video posted online last July to use "maximum force" to prevent Putin staging the Olympics.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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