Andrew Osborn

 

 

Chief Russia Correspondent

 

Deputy Bureau Chief Russia/CIS

 

Reuters

 

 

Chechen Islamist chief quits for 'more energetic' younger successor

www.telegraph.co.uk, 2nd August 2010 19:00

 

Chechen Islamist chief quits for 'more energetic' younger successor

Doku Umarov (L) and his youger successor Aslambek Vadalov Photo: REUTERS

By Andrew Osborn in Moscow

Russia's most wanted terrorist has announced he is handing the leadership of the Islamist anti-Kremlin insurgency in the south of the country to a younger "more energetic" commander.

The change in leadership raised fears of a fresh terror campaign in the region.

Doku Umarov, the self-proclaimed mastermind of this spring's Moscow metro suicide bombings, which killed 40 people, said he was standing down for health reasons in a grainy video posted on an Islamist web site.The heavily bearded Chechen said the holy war he was waging against Russia should be led "by younger and more energetic commanders", before naming a fellow fighter, Aslambek Vadalov, as his replacement. Little is known about the man who will succeed Umarov as the self-proclaimed "Emir of the Caucasus Emirate", a title that confers with it leadership of a group of disparate Islamist radicals operating along Russia's southern flank.

Analysts were divided on what Umarov's resignation might mean.

Sergei Arutyunov, a Chechnya expert at Russia's Academy of Sciences, said he thought it would change nothing. "He had practically no influence," he said.

But others were less sanguine.

"A change of leadership always brings with it a change in tactics and strategy," said Alexander Torshin, a prominent Russian senator. He forecast the new terrorist leader would need to establish himself with a high-profile act of violence. "As a result it would be wise to expect 'spectacular terror acts," said Torshin. "If he does not announce his arrival, nobody (among the other terrorists across the region) will deal with him."

Umarov, 46, said he would remain part of the Islamist terror movement.

His resignation was unexpected. Both the Kremlin and the United States regard him as a dangerous international terrorist and Russian Special Forces have long been hunting him in the mountains of southern Russia.

Last autumn, there were reports that Russia's FSB security service had succeeded in adding fatal poison to his food but it was later reported that he had survived the assassination attempt, albeit with serious side effects.