Paul Goble reports:
The recent increase in attacks on religious leaders and ordinary citizens in the North Caucasus, the editors of Nezavisimaya Gazeta say, highlights a dangerous new development in that region: the increasing role of radical extremists who do not feel themselves limited by any moral considerations. As a result, the Moscow paper says in an unsigned editorial, the conflict in the North Caucasus bears all the signs of “a civil war” in which everyone is a potential victim, a development, the paper continues, that Moscow in recent months appears to be almost entirely oblivious.
Terrorism in the region, the paper says, has moved into “a religious-political phase” very different from the one it had been in during recent years and equally very different from the one that most people among the Russian powers that be have assumed that it should be discussed and defeated. This change, the editors continue, is reflected in the murder last Sunday of Ismail Bostanov, the deputy head of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Stavropol kray, and in the decision of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov to pull down a mosque bearing the name of one of his earlier opponents Dzhabrail Yamadayev.
Attacks on Muslim leaders are nothing new, the paper points out, “but in recent times such attacks are taking place with stupefying regularity,” the result experts say, of the entrance into the ranks of the militants of “a large group of radically inclined young people who decide on their own [rather than relying on religious authorities] who is right and who is guilty” What that means, the paper continues is that what is now going on in the North Caucasus is “not only a religious conflict between supporters of radical Islam and those who support traditional views on the faith” but also a reflection of the end of any “protected” zones in the “hot republics” of the region.
In short, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says, there are now “no limits” in the North Caucasus regarding who may be attacked and no place where anyone there can feel safe. “If earlier the militants carried out terrorist attacks mostly against the military, militiamen and bureaucrats and attempted to avoid losses about the civilian population, then today, ever more often are collateral victims,” the result of suicide bombers who are not concerned about the number of dead be they soldiers, civilians or Muslim leaders.
This trend, the paper says, bears “obvious signs of a civil war, a war which has passed into a new phase” and which is occurring in Chechnya, “despite all the successes of Kadyrov in restoring the city of Grozny.” In that republic too, “the militants are becoming more active,” and “the civil war is a political stage of the conflict.” What Moscow should do “in order that the North Caucasus will cease to be called a bubbling cauldron remains an open one,” because “at the federal level, there is only one order – immediately liquidate the militants. And that is not happening.” Instead, their number is increasing, and their attacks are becoming more unlimited.
Indeed, the paper notes, there is widespread disagreement among the expert community. Some analysts say that what is taking place is a response to “the excessive application of force by law-enforcement agencies.” Others say that in the North Caucasus, there is “a well-organized terrorist network with which the siloviki are not capable of coping.”
And still a third group, the paper notes, “are talking about a religious war” which has arise as the role of traditional.
Islam has declined and “the influence of radical Islam has grown.” Each of these has something to say, the paper suggests, but even taken together, they do not provide a complete understanding or comprehensive guide to action. But what is most unclear of all, “Nezavisimaya gazeta” concludes is just what the Russian powers that be in Moscow think regarding what is going on. Up to now, the impression has been that in the North Caucasus, they are simply living “in hope that everything [there] will sort itself out on its own” – a hope, the paper implies, that appears increasingly a vain one.