The insurgency in the North Caucasus was a low-level armed conflict between Russia and militants associated with the Caucasus Emirate and, since June 2015, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) groups. It followed the official end of the decade-long Second Chechen War on 16 April 2009. It attracted people from the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Central Asia, who then participated in the conflict, but volunteers from the North Caucasus are also fighting in Syria. Also used is the name Armed Conflict in the North Caucasus (Russian: Вооружённый конфликт на Севером Кавказе).
The insurgency has gone relatively dormant in recent years. During its peak, the violence was mostly concentrated in the North Caucasus republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. Occasional incidents happened in surrounding regions, like North Ossetia-Alania, Karachay-Cherkessia, Stavropol Krai and Volgograd Oblast.
|Insurgency in the North Caucasus|
|Part of the Chechen-Russian conflict and military intervention against ISIL (since 2014)|
Former President of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, meets with FSB head, Alexander Bortnikov, in March 2009, to discuss the ending of the counter-terrorism operation in Chechnya.
Pro-secular and/or nationalist Chechens
|Commanders and leaders|
Rustam Asildarov †
(Emir of ISIL in the North Caucasus)
~40 operating groups in the North Caucasus:
|Casualties and losses|
|1,101–1,132 killed and 2,313–2,677 wounded||2,329 killed and 2,744 captured|
|632 civilians killed (2010–2017)|
In late 1999, Russia's Premier, Vladimir Putin, ordered military, police and security forces to enter the breakaway region of Chechnya. By early 2000, these forces occupied most of the region. High levels of fighting continued for several more years and resulted in thousands of Russian and Chechen casualties and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. In 2005, Chechen rebel leader, Abdul-Halim Sadulayev, decreed the formation of a Caucasus Front against Russia, among Islamic believers in the North Caucasus, in an attempt to widen Chechnya's conflict with Russia. After his death, his successor, Dokka Umarov, declared continuing jihad to establish an Islamic fundamentalist Caucasus Emirate in the North Caucasus and beyond. Russia's pacification policy in Chechnya has involved setting up a pro-Moscow regional government and transferring more local security duties to this government.
An important factor in Russia's apparent success in Chechnya has been reliance on pro-Moscow Chechen clans affiliated with regional President Ramzan Kadyrov. Police and paramilitary forces under Kadyrov's authority have committed abuses of human rights, according to rulings by the European Court of Human Rights and others. Terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus appeared to increase substantially in 2007–2010. In the summer of 2009, more than 442 persons died in North Caucasus violence in just four months as compared to only 150 deaths reported in the entire year of 2008. In the whole year 2009, according to the official figures by the Russian government, 235 Interior Ministry personnel (Defense Ministry and the FSB losses not included) were killed and 686 injured, while more than 541 alleged fighters and their supporters were killed and over 600 detained. The rate of increase of terrorist incidents lessened in 2010, as compared to 2008–2009, however the rate of civilian casualties substantially increased throughout the North Caucasus in 2010 and a rising number of terrorist incidents took place outside of Chechnya.
In the period from 2010 to 2014, the number of casualties in the North Caucasus insurgency declined each year, with the overall death toll falling by more than half. Reasons suggested for the decline include the deaths of high-ranking insurgency commanders, the increased targeting by security forces of the support infrastructure relied on by the insurgents, and an exodus of insurgents to other conflict zones. A special investigation by Reuters claimed that in the lead-up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russian security services had allowed and encouraged militants to leave Russia to fight in the Syrian Civil War, in order to reduce the risk of domestic attacks.
The insurgency in the North Caucasus is a direct result of the two post-Soviet wars fought between Russia and Chechnya. The First Chechen War was a nationalist struggle, with both secular and Islamist overtones, for independence from Russia and took place between 1994 and 1996. After a vicious struggle between Russian federal forces and Chechen separatist guerrillas, Chechnya was granted de facto independence per the terms of the Khasavyurt Accord, signed on 30 August 1996. With a devastated infrastructure and various armed factions, subordinate to specific warlords, the next three years saw Chechnya devolve into a corrupted and criminal state, plagued by armed gangs, an epidemic of kidnappings-for-ransom and the rise of radical Islam in the region as a response to suppression.
In August 1999, an armed incursion of 1,500 Islamic radicals, led by Chechen warlord, Shamil Basayev, and Arab jihadist, Ibn al-Khattab, in support of a Dagestani separatist movement, combined with a series of apartment bombings in Russia, gave Moscow sufficient reasoning for re-invading Chechnya, thus triggering the Second Chechen War, a conflict fought with significant jihadist overtones.
Having learned harsh lessons from the first war, the Russian military, rather than getting entangled in messy urban engagements such as that seen in Grozny in 1994–95, relied heavily on aerial bombardment and artillery such as ballistic missiles and fuel air explosives, typically surrounding and then destroying any towns or villages that put up resistance before sending in ground forces for mop-up operations. The second Battle of Grozny in 1999–2000 saw the bulk of Chechen resistance smashed, particularly after a column of some 2,000 fighters attempted to break out of the besieged city in February 2000 and instead walked directly into a minefield that Russian forces had prepared for an ambush. What remained of the decimated rebel units then withdrew into the inaccessible Vedeno and Argun gorges in the southern mountains of the republic in order to wage a guerrilla campaign.
The republic remained a major center of violence for many years. According to Russian figures, between April 2009 (when the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya was officially ended) and April 2010, 97 servicemen were killed in Chechnya; at the same time, government forces killed 189 persons claimed to be militants or their collaborators. Reported casualties declined, with 26 security forces and 24 suspected militants being killed in 2014.
Dagestan is the most religious, populous and complex of all the north Caucasian republics. It is double the size of Chechnya and consists of several dozen ethnic groups, most with their own language. The conflict in Dagestan, however, is not between ethnic groups but between Sufism, a syncretic form of Islam which includes local customs and recognises the state, and Salafism, a more traditional form which rejects secular rule and insists that the Salafist interpretation of Islam should govern all spheres of life.
Dagestan has the highest levels of violence and extremism in the North Caucasus republics. The Russian Interior Ministry stated that of the 399 terrorist crimes committed in the North Caucasus in 2013, 242 were in Dagestan.
By 2017, all subversive and terrorist groups operating in Dagestan were eliminated.
Along with Dagestan, Ingushetia bore the brunt of the violence in the North Caucasus in the Insurgencies early years. The Islamist insurgency in the republic sprang from the wars in neighbouring Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s. In June 2004, Ingush and Chechen fighters launched a large-scale attack on Ingushetia's biggest town, Nazran, killing scores of civilians, policemen and soldiers.
As elsewhere in the North Caucasus, the brutality of state security forces has been a major factor, driving young men to join the Islamists. Under the presidency of the former KGB officer, Murat Zyazikov, teams of masked operatives kidnapped, tortured and killed suspected rebels and members of their families. Zyazikov's successor, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, appointed in 2008, had success in dampening the violence, although he was seriously injured in a suicide bombing by the militants during his first year in office. Human rights violations by Russian commandos decreased, but remained widespread.
The capture of Ali Taziev in June 2010, an ethnic Ingush and one of the top leaders of the Caucasus Emirate, dealt a blow to the jihadists in Ingushetia, with the number of attacks falling substantially over the next 5 years. In mid-2015, Ingushetia's president, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, stated that the insurgency in the Republic had been 'defeated'.
The insurgency in Kabardino-Balkaria began in the early 2000s and was led by the Yarmuk Jamaat, a militant Islamist jamaat which flourished as a result of persecution of pious Muslims by police and security forces.
In October 2005, several score of the militants launched a raid on the capital of the republic, Nalchik, which left 142 people dead. The guerrillas have also carried out numerous assassinations of government officials and law enforcement officers.
The republic saw a flare-up of violence in late 2010 and early 2011, in the wake of the death of Anzor Astemirov, a senior figure in the Caucasus Emirate and the head of its United Vilayat of Kabarda, Balkaria and Karachay. The new leaders of Kabardino-Balkaria's guerrilla movement, Asker Dzhappuyev and Ratmir Shameyev, preferred a more aggressive approach and the militants murdered several civilians in the republic, including Russian tourists. In response, a vigilante group called the Black Hawks threatened the relatives of some of the Islamists. Dzhappuyev and Shameyev were killed in a special operation by security forces in April 2011.
Casualties fell in the following years. There was a total of 49 people (militants, security forces and civilians) reported killed in the republic over the whole of 2014.
On 9 September 2010, a car-bomb attack occurred at a crowded marketplace in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, killing 19 adults and children, and injuring over 190. President Medvedev responded, that "we will certainly do everything to catch these monsters, who have committed a terrorist attack against ordinary people. What's more, a barbarous terrorist attack. We will do everything, so that they are found and punished in accordance with the law of our country, or in the case of resistance or other cases, so that they are eliminated."
Vilayat Galgaycho reportedly took responsibility, stating that the attack was aimed against "Ossetian infidels" on "occupied Ingush lands".
Note: The casualty totals are compiled by the news site Caucasian Knot, which does not vouch for the data's 100-percent accuracy.
Baghdadi, the "Emir of the Faithful," has "accepted your bayat and has appointed the noble sheikh Abu Muhammad al Qadarī as Wali [or governor] over [the Caucasus]," Adnani says.
Russian troops in Chechnya have faced a low level insurgency for years ... They still face a low-level insurgency in the mainly Muslim region in Russia's volatile North Caucasus area.
Russia's North Caucasus insurgency has gone relatively quiet, but reduced casualty numbers belie a still-worrying situation where long-standing grievances remain.
A renewed crackdown on any suspected militant activity in the run-up to the Sochi winter Olympics in 2014 and the departure of many militants to fight in Syria led to a weakening of the North Caucasus insurgency.
The 2009 Nazran bombing occurred on 17 August 2009, when a suicide car bomber attacked police headquarters in Nazran, the largest city of the Republic of Ingushetia. At least 25 people were killed and 164 injured. It was the most serious terrorist attack in Ingushetia in recent years.2009 Nevsky Express bombing
The 2009 Nevsky Express bombing occurred on 27 November 2009 when a bomb exploded under a high speed train travelling between the Russian cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg causing derailment near the town of Bologoye, Tver Oblast (approximately 200 miles or 320 kilometres from Moscow), on the Moscow–Saint Petersburg Railway. The derailment occurred at 21:34 local time (18:34 UTC). Russian officials had stated that 39 people were killed and 95 injured but later retracted that estimate. 27 deaths had been reported by 2 December. A second bomb exploded at the scene of the investigation the following day, injuring one. It was reported to have been triggered by a remote mobile phone.The first respondents were residents of Lykoshino, a nearby village. A field hospital was set up to treat the wounded and at least 50 were hospitalised in Saint Petersburg. It is believed that, at the time of the derailment, the Nevsky Express was carrying 661 passengers in 13 carriages, of which the last four were thought to have been affected by the incident. Although initial reports blamed an electrical fault for the derailment, investigation showed that the derailment may have been caused by an act of terrorism; a crater was found in the ground near the crash site.The government confirmed that the accident was caused by terrorists, making this attack Russia's deadliest outside the North Caucasus region since the 2004 Russian aircraft bombings.2010 Chechen Parliament attack
The 2010 Chechen Parliament attack took place on the morning of 19 October 2010, when three Chechen militants attacked the parliament complex in Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic, a federal subject of Russia. At least six people were killed, including two police officers, one parliament employee and all three suicide commandos.2010 Kizlyar suicide bombings
The 2010 Kizlyar bombings were double suicide attacks that occurred on March 31, 2010 in Kizlyar, in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Dagestan. 12 people were killed and another 18 injured.2010 Moscow Metro bombings
The 2010 Moscow Metro bombings were suicide bombings carried out by two women during the morning rush hour of March 29, 2010, at two stations of the Moscow Metro (Lubyanka and Park Kultury), with roughly 40 minutes interval between. At least 40 people were killed, and over 100 injured.
Russian officials called the incident "the deadliest and most sophisticated terrorist attack in the Russian capital in six years", a reference to the Avtozavodskaya and Rizhskaya bombings in 2004. At the time of the attacks, an estimated 500,000 people were commuting through Moscow's metro system.Initial investigation indicated that the bombings were perpetrated by the militant Islamist Caucasus Emirate group. On March 31, Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for ordering the attacks in a video released on the internet. He also stated that such attacks in Russia would continue unless Russia grants independence to Muslim states in the North Caucasus region. The man who brought the suicide bombers to Moscow was arrested in July 2010. The Anti-Terror Committee of Russia confirmed in August 2010 that Magomedali Vagabov, along with four other militants, was killed in an operation in Dagestan. He is believed to be a militant behind the bombings, a close associate of Doku Umarov and the husband of Mariam Sharipova, one of the two suicide bombers.2010 Stavropol bomb blast
On 26 May 2010, at least seven people were killed in a bomb blast in Stavropol, Russia. At least 40 people were injured, one from Moscow, while another is an outsider, and another from Azerbaijan or Turkey. The blast occurred before a concert.Stavropol had not experienced such an attack in recent years before the incident; similar incidents had become more associated with Chechnya and Dagestan. Russia said the attack was a "terrorist act".Eight people were killed in the event, a higher number than was originally reported.2010 Tsentoroy attack
The 2010 Tsentoroy Attack was an insurgent operation carried out on the morning of 29 August 2010 by Chechen rebels in Tsentoroy (also known as Khosi-Yurt), Chechnya, the home village and stronghold of pro-Moscow Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. The assault - which represented the largest and most audacious attack launched in the republic for over a year - is considered to have "shattered" the image of Kadyrov's unshakeable rule in Chechnya, as it was the first time in six years that his seemingly impregnable village had come under attack.2010 Vladikavkaz bombing
The 2010 Vladikavkaz bombing took place at the Central market in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia–Alania, Russia on 9 September 2010 when a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives killing at least 17 and injuring more than 160.2012 Makhachkala attack
The 2012 Makhachkala attack occurred on 3 May 2012 after two suicide bombers detonated explosive-filled cars near a traffic police checkpoint in Makhachkala, a city in the republic of Dagestan, Russia, killing as many as 40 people. More than 130 others were injured in the blasts, at least 67 of them seriously. Government sources speculated that the bombers may have been transporting TNT to a downtown location in anticipation of the annual May Day parade on May 9.Authorities at the time put the death toll at 13, but in December 2016, the Federal Security Service put the casualty figures at 40 dead and more than 100 injured. The statement was issued in connection with the death of Rustam Asildarov, who was allegedly involved in the Makhachkala attack. Russian media also mentioned the new death toll but provided no explanation for the change, though news reports at the time of the attack said many of those injured were in serious condition.2012 Nozhay-Yurtovsky District clashes
The 2012 Nozhay-Yurtovsky District clashes involving Russian Interior Ministry special forces supported by heavy weapons and military aircraft and Islamist militants occurred between February 13 and 17, 2012, reportedly leaving at least 24 people dead on both sides. The Nozhay-Yurtovsky District is a part of the Russian republic of Chechnya bordering Dagestan. According to the Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, mountains were being cleared of rebels because of a planned construction of a tourist complex in the area.2014 Grozny bombing
The 2014 Grozny bombing was a terrorist attack in the city of Grozny, Chechen Republic, Russia. On October 5, 2014 a 19-year-old man named Opti Mudarov went to the town hall where an event was taking place to mark Grozny City Day celebrations coinciding with the birthday of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Police officers noticed him acting strangely and stopped him. The officers began to search him and the bomb which Mudarov had been carrying exploded. Five officers, along with the suicide bomber, were killed, while 12 others were wounded.2014 Grozny clashes
On 4 December 2014, a group of armed militants of the jihadist organization Caucasus Emirate attacked a traffic police checkpoint outside the city of Grozny, Chechnya, Russia. The militants then entered the city and occupied the "Press House" building in the city center and a nearby school.
According to the BBC, the Islamists had claimed to have launched a suicide attack in response to purported attacks by security forces on Muslim women.Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya
The Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya (Arabic: المجاهدين العرب في الشيشان, Al-Mujahidin Al-'Arab fi Al-Shishan; Russian: Арабские моджахеды в Чечне, Arabskiye Muzhakhady v Chechnye) was an international unit of the Islamist Mujahideen that fought in Chechnya and other parts of the North Caucasus.
It was created by Fathi al-Jordani in 1995 during the First Chechen War, where it fought against the Russian Federation in favor of Chechnya's independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. During the Second Chechen War it played an important part in further fighting.December 2013 Volgograd bombings
In December 2013, two separate suicide bombings a day apart targeted mass transportation in the city of Volgograd, in the Volgograd Oblast of Southern Russia, killing 34 people overall, including both perpetrators. The attacks followed a bus bombing carried out in the same city two months earlier.Kizlyar church shooting
On February 18, 2018, a 22-year-old man local to the Russia’s southern province of Dagestan carrying a knife and a double-barreled shotgun opened fire on a crowd at an Orthodox church in Kizlyar, killing five women and injuring several other people, including two police and two critically hurt. He was shot and killed by police on duty nearby.
The attack occurred as churchgoers celebrated the Sunday of Forgiveness, the last day of Cheesefare week, a Christian holiday marking the last day before Lent according to the eastern Orthodox calendar.The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) named the man Khalil al-Dagestani, one of its soldiers. Police named him Khalil Khalilov. Pro-ISIL social media later shared a video of a masked man with a shotgun and knife, said to be the killer, pledging his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.October 2013 Volgograd bus bombing
The October 2013 Volgograd bus bombing was a suicide bombing which occurred on 21 October 2013 on a bus in the city of Volgograd, in the Volgograd Oblast of Southern Russia. The attack was perpetrated by a female suicide bomber named Naida Sirazhudinovna Asiyalova (Russian: Наида Сиражудиновна Асиялова), who detonated an explosive belt containing 500–600 grams of TNT inside a bus carrying approximately 50 people—predominantly students. The suicide bombing killed seven civilians and injured at least 36 others.Tarkhan Gaziyev
Tarkhan Ismailovich Gaziyev (Russian: Тарха́н Исмаи́лович Гази́ев), also known as Emir Tarkhan, is a Chechen militant commander who has fought in the Insurgency in the North Caucasus. The United States Department of State added Gaziyev to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists on 29 September 2015.Vilayat Galgaycho
Vilayat Galgaycho (Province of Ingushetia, Russian: Вилайят Галгайче) was an Islamist militant organization connected to numerous attacks against the local and federal security forces in the Russian regions of Ingushetia and Chechnya in the North Caucasus. Since 2007 it has been a part of the Caucasus Emirate and takes part in the Insurgency in the North Caucasus. The group is thought to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people, mostly policemen, military personnel and officials.War in Ingushetia
The War in Ingushetia (Russian: Война в Ингушетии) began in 2007 as an escalation of an insurgency in Ingushetia connected to the separatist conflict in Chechnya. The conflict has been described as a civil war by local human rights activists and opposition politicians; others have referred to it as an uprising. By mid-2009 Ingushetia had surpassed Chechnya as the most violent of the North Caucasus republics. However, by 2015 the insurgency in the Republic had greatly weakened, and the casualty toll declined substantially in the intervening years.
|First Chechen War|
|Second Chechen War|
|Wars in culture|
(after Yugoslav Wars)
Portals: Terrorism · War