Alexander Cherkasov, who has closely followed the North Caucasus for 15 years for rights group Memorial, said whereas in the past rebels wanted freedom from Russia, a struggle that dates back over 200 years, now they are influenced by jihadism, a global fight against alleged enemies of Islam.
“Part of it is homegrown. Corruption leads many to seek out what they call true Islam, but political Islam, by way of foreign financing and insurgents, is certainly playing a role,” he told Reuters.
In early February, Russia said its forces had killed the al Qaeda operative and Egyptian militant Makhmoud Mokhammed Shaaban in Dagestan, who the FSB security service said had masterminded several bombings.
A myriad of web sites that have come to characterize the insurgency show videos of “martyrs,” something unheard of in the region five years ago. They feature mostly local men, framed by Caucasus flags, chanting in Arabic ahead of suicide missions.
That’s right: political Islam is certainly playing a role.