A key event in early March, was the death of one of the chief ideologues of the armed resistance in the North Caucasus, Said Buryatsky (Aleksandr Tikhomirov) (www.1tv.ru, March 5). He was killed in the village of Ekazhevo in Ingushetia’s Nazran district during a major Russian joint siloviki operation that involved units of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the interior ministry (MVD) and defense ministry, targeting militants discovered in the home of the Kartoyev family.
The operation itself, which lasted two days, spoke volumes about the significance of the situation. Usually, such government endeavors lasting days are a sign that top leaders of the militant underground are among those targeted, which explains their fierce resistance. The militants involved in the resistance have no chance of being given a fair and democratic trial. In accordance with the traditions of Russian jurisprudence, the captured militant is blamed for all possible actions undertaken against the authorities in recent years. The authorities have their own reasons for doing this, since it allows the police to write off multiple attacks and shootings that remain unsolved. Therefore, it is not surprising that the besieged militant is taken into FSB custody alive. The militant has no choice, and he chooses death.
Multiple MVD, FSB, and defense ministry units were involved in the Ekazhevo village operation. Over the course of the two-day operation, four Kartoyev brothers were killed: Tukhan, Nazir, Akhmed and Magomed. Several more brothers –Tarkhana, Tatarkhana and Beslan– were detained. Additionally, two other village residents were killed, presumably the Dobryev’s. According to eyewitnesses, all three houses of the Kartoyev brothers were destroyed. Two residents of the village were detained –Yakub Aushev and his son. Eyewitnesses report that gunfire was returned only from the Dobryev house, where a firefight broke out between the occupants and members of the security services (www.ingushetia.org, March 3).
Said Buryatsky attracted attention by virtue of his proselytizing activities within the armed resistance. A native of distant Buryatia, born to a Buryat father and a Russian mother, he became neither a Buddhist (Buryats are Buddhists) nor a Christian (like his mother). Buryatsky during adulthood chose Islam as his personal religion and very rapidly (thanks to his YouTube lectures) became popular among the youth throughout Russia. His studies abroad (in Egypt and Kuwait) were not lengthy, thus it is unclear whether or not he received a diploma from al-Azkhara, one of the most important universities of the Islamic world. Well in advance of his decision to join the ranks of the militants, he actively supported the underlying thesis of the militants –a defensive jihad against the unbelievers who occupied territory. Therefore, in accordance with all Islamic laws, not only did he support the militancy, he also criticized those who, in his opinion, intentionally avoided fighting.
Buryatsky arrived in the Caucasus sometime at the end of 2007 or the beginning of 2008, where he provided major ideological support for the Caucasus Emirate, the representatives of which noticeably felt a shortage of such preachers. He often sharply criticized Sufi Muslims, critics of the Emirate, and spoke out against the commanders who disagreed with Doku Umarov’s views (for instance, Emir Arbi Yevmurzayev, better known as Sheikh Mansur, who died on February 23, 2010). His joining the ranks of the militants marked the beginning of a new period in the North Caucasus resistance movement. It resulted in the movement’s internationalization, attracting young recruits from among those living thousands of miles away from the region and demonstrated that the views and ideas of the movement were finding support among Russian youth. It may have played a role in the creation of a multitude of underground militant movement support clubs across the Russian Federation.
Said Buryatsky truly became a hero for many youths when he made a video of a suicide attack on a regional interior ministry (ROVD) building in the city of Nazran. This was received as inspirational, as many at first thought that it was Said Buryatsky himself who sat behind the wheel of the vehicle laden with TNT (http://guraba.net/rus/content/view/630/37/). In reality, he apparently planned the operation and filmed it nearby, which allowed the Russian security services to blame him for the blast. Buryatsky did not even bother to explain himself for having fooled his comrades with this video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4wFomfe68Q). But, the incident did not result in him losing any respect from his internet followers.
His death, the details of which have already become public, will likely become a powerful ideological tool in the hands of the armed resistance (www.hunafa.com, August 27, 2009). As it turns out, even in the last minutes of his life, he was preaching to his comrades, telling them to remain calm and to believe that a better world awaited them than the one they were leaving behind (www.kavkazcenter.com, March 6). Meanwhile, the authorities were happy to blame Buryatsky for all the major militant actions in Russia, including the attack on Nevsky Express train in November 2009 (Interfax, March 6).
Details released on the special operation in which Said Buryatsky was killed also contained several interesting revelations. For example, it transpired that among the casualties and those detained were employees of the Ingush police force and the treasury department. These were not youths, as Russian propaganda always tries to suggest. These were people well aware of the choices they made. They were people with ideological convictions, not involved simply by chance. The fact that some of those arrested were from the ranks of the police is a testament to the movement’s growing influence in society, which is permeating governmental structures. In Ingushetia, it was already widely believed that some ministers of the Ingush government were allegedly paid off (and are continuing to be paid off) by the militants. If there is even a shadow of truth in this claim, then it may well be the case that these payments constitute intentional aid, which would indicate a strong and varied support of the armed resistance in the North Caucasus overall.
The death of Said Buryatsky, despite the gravity of the loss, will not become the defining factor in the militants’ future tactics. Any loss among the militants is taken painlessly by the movement as a whole and will not likely affect the overall activities of the militant underground. Moreover, the conditions that foster local support for the resistance will continue. Despite his death, the popularity of Buryatsky and his preaching on You Tube will likely continue and inspire a new generation of militants in Russia and elsewhere.