Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, wanted by Russia over a string of deadly attacks in recent years, has been killed, a pro-insurgency website reported on Tuesday.
"The leadership of the Caucasus Emirate officially announces the martyrdom of Emir Dokku Abu Usman," the Kavkaz Centre website said, using Umarov’s Arabic nom de guerre.
It gave no details and there was no confirmation from the Russian authorities, who are usually keen to publicise any killing of top Caucasus militants.
If confirmed, however, the death would be a breakthrough for President Vladimir Putin in his attempts to end the violent Chechen struggle against Russian rule.
Umarov’s forces have claimed responsibility for several deadly bombings and his death has been reported several times by the Kremlin-backed leader of the Chechnya region, but never before by the militant’s own sympathisers.
A bearded man, identified as Ali Abu Mukhammad, said in a video posted simultaneously that he had been asked to take Umarov’s place.
“I am declaring that I am taking on this responsibility,” he said. He was 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.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is backed by Moscow, wrote on his Instagram microblog, “The terrorist mouthpiece reports that Doku Umarov is dead!
“Umarov was killed in a security operation, which I wrote about earlier ... Now it is confirmed by the rats themselves.”
Umarov, a former Chechen rebel who embraced the jihadist goal of establishing a Muslim caliphate, united local militant groups in the Chechnya, Dagestan and other North Caucasus provinces under his command in 2007.
His Caucasus Emirate group said it was behind suicide bombings that killed 37 people at a Moscow airport in 2011 and 40 on the Moscow subway in 2010.
The group is also thought to have masterminded three bombings over three months that killed 41 in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, in the lead-up to Russia hosting the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea city of Sochi.
Umarov, who styled himself as the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, had urged his fighters in a video posted online last July to use “maximum force” to prevent Putin from staging the Olympics.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-03-18