Analysis: Rebel called for ‘any methods’ to stop Olympics

Doku Umaro, a Chechen with links to al-Qaeda, wants an emirate in North Caucasus

The twin suicide bombings in Volgograd have underscored the terror threat Russia faces as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics in less than six weeks.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks that have plunged the industrial city on the river Volga into mourning.

But even without a known culprit, the violence has heightened concern that Islamist militants operating out of Russia’s restive North Caucasus might yet sabotage the winter games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Among these is Doku Umarov, a Chechen Islamist leader and self-styled “Emir of the Caucasus”, who has urged his followers to stop the games going ahead.


“They plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many Muslims buried on our land by the Black Sea,” Umarov said in a video statement released in July. “As mujahideen we are required not to allow that using any methods Allah allows us.”

Such threats cannot be taken lightly. Umarov, who claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a Moscow airport in 2011 and an attack on the city metro in 2010, is recognised as a terrorist by the US and the United Nations and is understood to have links with al-Qaeda. His broader goal is to establish an Islamic emirate encompassing the North Caucasus and surrounding areas – including the Volgograd region – that will be governed by Sharia.

Russia has been struggling to control the predominantly Muslim republics of the North Caucasus since the Soviet Union's demise in 1991. What began as a battle with separatist rebels in Chechnya, where Russian forces fought two wars between 1994 and
2002, has morphed into a broader conflict with Islamist fundamentalists dedicated
to global jihad. For many, Islam has helped fill the vacuum left by the collapse
of communist ideology.

Radicalising youth
In an effort to quell the insurgency, law enforcers have used repressive tactics that, some say, have only worsened the problems, sowing hatred of the authorities and radicalising youth.

For the most part, the violence has been contained in the region, with attacks on major Russian cities relatively rare. Many observers believe the terrorism map is set to change in the run up to the Winter Olympics.

Sochi and Moscow are probably the highest on the terrorists' hit list, said Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. "Disrupting the games and wreaking havoc in the capital would greatly undermine Russia's prestige, precisely what the terrorists want."

Formerly known as Stalingrad, Volgograd has been known as a “city of heroes” since a decisive battle in the second World War. Terrorists singled it out “precisely because of its status in people’s minds”, said Mr Trenin. “Their aim was to hurt Russia’s pride, as well as its people.”