ROAR: Militants in North Caucasus lose another “ideologue”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
Militants have confirmed the identity of Said Buryatsky, a gang leader killed during a special operation in the Russian Republic of Ingushetia on March 2.

Buryatsky, who trained suicide bombers, is believed to be responsible for 15 terrorist acts committed against the state authorities, local government and civilians.

Russia’s Federal Security Service said that Buryatsky and five other militants killed during the operation are guilty of the derailment of the luxury high-speed Nevsky Express train traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg in November 2009.

Militants confirmed the killing of Buryatsky on March 8 on a website, the media say. “There have already been reports of his death in the past,” Gazeta daily said. This was the case on August 17, 2009 after an explosion near a police station in Nazran, Ingushetia, which killed 24 people.

Buryatsky was then thought to be the architect of the crime, but he later appeared in a video posted on Internet, threatening new attacks, the paper said.

The militant’s real Russian name is Aleksandr Tikhomirov. His father is ethnic Buryat, and mother is ethnic Russian. He was born in the Republic of Buryatia, which explains his nickname. The main faith in the Republic is Buddhism, but Tikhomirov is said to have converted to Islam at the age of 15. After studying abroad he returned to Russia to preach Islam.

Buryatsky often used the Internet for his sermons, and his statements led to the initiation of a criminal case against him in late July 2009 for propaganda of radical Islam. He was also accused of participating in illegal armed groups.

Buryatsky’s name “has been mentioned in connection with a number of big terrorist acts in Russia, including the attempt on Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov in June 2009,” Gazeta said.

A suicide bomber smashed a bomb-laden car into Yevkurov's armored Mercedes, killing the driver and a bodyguard in the blast. Yevkurov and his brother were wounded, but after treatment in Moscow, the president returned to his job in late August 2009.

Investigators believe Buryatsky turned to jihad in 2008, when he returned to Russia after studying in Egypt and Qatar and joined the head of militants, Doku Umarov, Kommersant said. Sources in the special services say that Buryatsky himself “personally trained about 30 suicide bombers, and at least nine of them have committed terrorist acts, blowing themselves up,” the paper said.

“Previously, law enforcement agencies have been very cautious when talking about the elimination of said Buryatsky… because Tikhomirov was known as a skilled master of hoax,” the paper added. But this time militants have confirmed the reports, it added. One of their sites posted Buryatsky’s “earlier letters” where he had said about his participation in the attempt against the Ingush president, the daily said.

The media also highlight the possible link of Buryatsky and his followers to the derailment of the Nevsky Express train in November 2009. Special services have found proof that the group to which Buryatsky belonged is “directly linked to the derailment of Nevsky Express,” Gazeta daily said. Experts were speaking about the Caucasus connection just after the terrorist act, it added.

“Later, international Islamic organization Imarat (Emirate) Caucasus took responsibility [for the crime],” the daily noted. The Supreme Court on February 2010 added Emirate Caucasus to the list of terrorist organizations. “Buryatsky swore allegiance to Doku Umarov, who heads ‘the emirate,’” the paper stressed.

The group to which Buryatsky belonged might be responsible for the first terrorist act against the Nevsky Express, which took place in summer 2007, Moskovsky Komsomolets daily said. Regardless, Russian law enforcement agencies consider “one of the most serious terrorist acts of recent times” – the derailment of Nevsky Express in 2009 – “to be solved,” the paper added.

Commenting on the killing of the terrorist ideologue, analysts stress that the fight against radicals in the North Caucasus should be more resolute. Militants are striking at law enforcement agencies, officials and moderate imams, Ruslan Silantyev of the Moscow State Linguistic University wrote in Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily.

Chechen militants that have been forced out of Chechnya “have consolidated in neighboring regions and have gathered strength for attacks even on the Chechen territory,” the analyst said.

In this connection it would be wise to study “the experience of Muslim countries that clearly understand the danger of Islamist underground and do everything to hamper their activities,” Silantyev opined.

“The elimination of militants and their leaders does not solve all the problems of terrorism,” believes Pavel Salin of the Center for Political Conjuncture. “It only makes it possible to decrease them for some time, and then new leaders emerge among militants, more cruel and bloody ones.”

“The causes and roots of terrorism lie in the socio-economic situation in the Caucasus,” Salin told Actualcomment.ru website. “In Caucasian societies, which are increasingly degrading and turning into feudal and clan structures, in fact there is no system of vertical mobility. If you are not a relative of any high-ranking official or you do not have money to buy a position [in power structures], you are doomed to a miserable, humiliating existence all your life.”

The Ingush president agrees that another terrorist ideologue may replace Buryatsky. Yunus-Bek Yevkurov met with relative of those who gave shelter to Buryatsky and his group and said he is ready personally to help those who want to return to peaceful life.

“There is no task to kill all the criminals,” Yevkurov said. “There is the task to distract as many people as possible from the bandit path. Where I am not able to persuade [people], a state machine will work, which will not allow a bandit nest to exist here.”

In January, President Dmitry Medvedev stressed that law enforcement agencies must maintain “a tough line against militant and criminal groups in the North Caucasus,” adding that the criminalsshould be physically destroyed.”

At the same time, the president stressed that fighting extremists should be accompanied by improving the socio-economic situation in the region.

Sergey Borisov, RT