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Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
Blogger and Putin critic Imran Aliev succombs to French hotel stay
[NYP] An outspoken blogger who routinely attacked Russia and Chechnya has been found dead in a French hotel with his throat slit and 100 stab wounds ‐ and police suspect a "political motivation," according to reports.

Chechen blogger Imran Aliev,
...also spelt Imran Aliyev, though neither appears in the Rantburg archives....
44, was found late last month in a hotel bloodbath in Lille that reflected "extreme savagery," sources told Agence France-Presse. His throat had also been slit, Business Insider said.

Aliev had political refugee status and was living in Belgium under police protection "because of threats out of Russia and Chechnya over his opposition blogging," a senior French police official told the outlet.
What precisely did he oppose? Was he a bearded liberal fighting for liberty and democracy, or a bearded keyboard jihadi furious that Messers Putin and Kadyrov stood in the way of a beloved Caucasian caliphate? It is curious that I can thus far find no mention of the dead gentleman’s politics.
Using the online handle "Mansur Stariy,"
...also not in Rantburg’s archives...
he became known mostly for his strident diatribes critiquing Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin, the report says.

"We had him under police protection for a reason," a Belgian law enforcement official told Business Insider, saying there had been "specific and credible threats on his life from certain political sectors in Chechnya and Russia."

Related article from Breitbart, which suggests the situation is more complicated than originally suggested.

Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
Chechen leader Kadyrov vows to repatriate all ISIS children
[Rudaw] Chechnya will repatriate all children taken to live under the Islamic State
...formerly ISIS or ISIL, depending on your preference. Before that al-Qaeda in Iraq, as shaped by Abu Musab Zarqawi. They're very devout, committing every atrocity they can find in the Koran and inventing a few more. They fling Allah around with every other sentence, but to hear the pols talk they're not really Moslems....
group (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, the controversial Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has confirmed. He did not however mention the fate of Chechen women who joined the group.

"We’ll solve this problem. We work every day and every hour. We won’t stop until we repatriate all those children," Kadyrov told Rudaw in the Chechen capital Grozny.

Chechnya is a federal subject of Russia. Around 400 Chechen women and girls are believed to have joined ISIS, many of them dying in fighting and in coalition Arclight airstrikes.

Many of those who survived are now in prisons in Iraq and Syria.

"Some of the girls who are now in a Baghdad prison were previously incarcerated by the Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashd al-Shaabi)," Malika, whose daughter joined the group, told Rudaw in Grozny.

The Committee of Russian Mothers, an informal network of women searching for their daughters, estimates up to 600 women and 1,200 children from Russia joined ISIS.

To date, just 60 have returned ‐ most of them children.

Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
27 Russian children repatriated from Iraq
[Rudaw] Twenty-seven Russian children from Iraq are returning to Moscow on Sunday. Their mothers are in jail in Iraq, serving time for membership in ISIS.

"Tonight a plane of the Emergency Situations Ministry will land at the Ramenskoye airport bringing back 27 children aged between four and 13," said a spokesperson for the office of Russia’s children’s rights commissioner Anna Kuznetsova, Russia’s TASS news reported.

The children will be given health checks and then handed over to relatives and guardians.

Nearly 40 Russian children are expected to be repatriated from Iraq in February.

Kuznetsova’s office has documented 699 minor Russians whose parents took them to combat zones in the Middle East.

On December 30, some 30 children of Russians who had joined ISIS were brought back to Russia.
An Nahar adds:
The fathers of the children were killed during three years of fighting between the jihadists and Iraqi troops, the official said.

The Kremlin announced in early January that 115 Russian children aged below ten -- along with eight aged between 11 and 17 -- were still in Iraq.

Iraqi law allows detainees to be held with their offspring until the age of three, but older children have to live with relatives.

In November, Kheda Saratova -- an adviser to Chechnya's authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov -- estimated "around 2,000" widows and children of Russian IS fighters were still in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Around one hundred women and kiddies -- mostly from Caucasus republics -- have returned to Russia so far.

Nearly 4,500 Russian citizens had gone abroad to fight "on the side of terrorists", Russia's FSB domestic intelligence agency said last year.

More than 300 people, including around 100 foreign women, have been sentenced to death in Iraq for belonging to the Islamic State
...formerly ISIS or ISIL, depending on your preference. Before that al-Qaeda in Iraq, as shaped by Abu Musab Zarqawi. They're very devout, committing every atrocity they can find in the Koran and inventing a few more. They fling Allah around with every other sentence, but to hear the pols talk they're not really Moslems....
, while others have been sentenced to life in prison.

Most of those convicted are Turks or originate from former republics of the Soviet Union.
Al Jazeera was in the arrival lounge:
The children landed at Ramenskoye airport, near Moscow, on Sunday.

Anna Kuznetsova, Russia's envoy for the rights of children, confirmed the comments, according to the TASS state news agency.

She said the 27 children were aged from four to 13 and were from 10 different regions in Russia.

Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
2 killed, 40 detained in new gay purge in Chechnya
[APNEWS] The Russian republic of Chechnya has launched a new crackdown on gays in which at least two people have died and about 40 people have been detained, LGBT activists in Russia charged Monday.

The new allegations come after reports in 2017 of more than 100 gay men tossed in the calaboose
Into the paddy wagon wit' yez!
and subjected to torture, and some of them killed, in the predominantly Moslem region in southern Russia.

The News Agency that Dare Not be Named and other media outlets have interviewed some of the victims, who spoke about torture at the hands of Chechen law enforcement officers. Chechen authorities have denied those accusations, and federal authorities conducted a probe into the earlier reports but said they found nothing to support the charges.

Alvi Karimov, a front man for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, told the Interfax news agency on Monday that the latest reports are "complete lies and don’t have an ounce of truth in them." Karimov insisted that no one has been detained in Chechnya on suspicion of being gay.

Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
30 children of Russian IS fighters return home from Iraq
[IsraelTimes] Diplomatic sources says kids, whose mothers are enjugged
Into the paddy wagon wit' yez!
over membership in terror group and fathers are presumed dead, have left Baghdad

Thirty Russian children, whose mothers are in Iraqi prison for belonging to the Islamic State
...formerly ISIS or ISIL, depending on your preference. Before that al-Qaeda in Iraq, as shaped by Abu Musab Zarqawi. They're very devout, committing every atrocity they can find in the Koran and inventing a few more. They fling Allah around with every other sentence, but to hear the pols talk they're not really Moslems....
group, left Baghdad on Sunday to return home, a Russian diplomatic source said.

The fathers of the children, young boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 10, are believed to have been killed in combat, during Iraq’s three-year war against the jihadists, the source said.

Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov said earlier this week that he expected the children to arrive in Moscow on Sunday.

He said 24 of them were from Dagestan
...a formerly inoffensive Caucasus republic currently bedevilled by low-level Islamic insurgency, occasional outbreaks of separatism, ethnic tensions and terrorism, primarily due to its proximity to Chechnya. There are several dozen ethnic groups, most of which speak either Caucasian, Turkic, or Iranian languages. Largest among these ethnic groups are the Avar, Dargin, Kumyk, Lezgin, and Laks. While Russers form less than five percent of the population, Russian remains the primary official language and the lingua franca...
, and another three were from Chechnya.

Several thousand Russians traveled to join the jihadists in their once sprawling "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq, according to estimates from the Russian security services. Some took their families with them.

Since last year, around 100 women and kiddies ‐ mostly from Russia’s Moslem-majority Caucasus ‐ have returned under a program championed by Kadyrov.

But in mid-November, Chechen activist Kheda Saratova accused Russia’s FSB security service of blocking attempts to bring back the remaining widows and children of Russian IS fighters.

"According to our organization, there are over 2,000 of them left in Syria and Iraq," Saratova, who is on Kadyrov’s human rights
When they're defined by the state or an NGO they don't mean much...
council, said at the time.

...back at the Council of Boskone, Helmuth ordered the entire 614th quadrant searched. The Green Lensman must be found!...
on Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi held talks in Baghdad with Anna Kuznetsova, the Russian president’s envoy for the rights of children. During the meeting, Abdel Mahdi said a "distinction should be made between humanitarian issues and terrorist crimes," according to a statement from his office.

"These children are also victims," he added.

More than 300 people, including around 100 foreigners, have been sentenced to death and many others to life imprisonment in Iraq for joining IS, the Sunni myrmidon group which at its peak controlled nearly a third of the country.
Deutsche Welle adds:
Kadyrov added that the effort to retrieve Russian citizens would not be stopped "as long as there is one more child and one more woman in Iraq and Syria."

With "IS" virtually purged from most of its former strongholds, many foreign-born forces of Evil are dead or imprisoned in Iraq and Syria. Governments have been hesitant to repatriate their family members for fear of importing terrorism.

On Friday, Kadyrov announced that the first group of Russian children would arrive to Moscow on Sunday evening. The former guerilla leader said the move was a result of a "titan effort" ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin
...President-for-Life of Russia. He gets along well with other presidents for life. He is credited with bringing political stability and re-establishing something like the rule of law, which occasionally results in somebody dropping dead from poisoning by polonium or other interesting substance. Under Putin, a new group of business magnates controlling significant swathes of Russia's economy has emerged, all of whom have close personal ties to him. The old bunch, without close personal ties to Putin, are in jail or in exile or dead from poisoning by polonium or other interesting substances...
. Russian authorities have worked on resolving the issue for a whole year, he added.

The Chechen president also said that details had been kept quiet because "every word or unguarded step could harm the effort."

On Sunday, the children boarded a special plane deployed by the Kremlin's emergency ministry. They were accompanied by a team of Russian doctors, psychologists, and rescue workers. Russia's children rights' representative Anna Kuznetsova was also on board.

Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
‘IS militants’ launch attacks in Chechnya; five killed
[DAWN] Armed assailants injured several coppers in attacks in three locations in the Russian republic of Chechnya on Monday, as the bully boy Islamic State
...formerly ISIS or ISIL, depending on your preference. Before that al-Qaeda in Iraq, as shaped by Abu Musab Zarqawi. They're very devout, committing every atrocity they can find in the Koran and inventing a few more. They fling Allah around with every other sentence, but to hear the pols talk they're not really Moslems....
group grabbed credit.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had launched probes into three separate attacks against police, including a failed suicide kaboom.

In the first attack on Monday morning, two men entered the district police department in the town of Shali and maimed a pair of coppers with knives, Sherlocks said in a statement.

The two assailants were rubbed out, Chechnya’s interior ministry said.

In the village of Mesker-Yurt north of Shali, a man with a backpack attempted a suicide kaboom near a police post but "coppers and civilians were not harmed by the blast", the Investigative Committee said.

The third incident occurred on the outskirts of the Chechen capital Grozny, where a man attempted to run over a traffic policeman in his car and subsequently hit two more officers as he was chased.

"The criminals were neutralised," the Investigative Committee said.

IS grabbed credit for the attacks, the SITE monitoring group reported, citing the jihadists’ main propaganda agency Amaq.

"Fighters from the Islamic State attacked Chechen coppers and elements in Grozny and Shali in Mesker-Yurt," Amaq said, according to SITE.

Chechnya’s strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who was visiting Soddy Arabia
...a kingdom taking up the bulk of the Arabian peninsula. Its primary economic activity involves exporting oil and soaking Islamic rubes on the annual hajj pilgrimage. The country supports a large number of princes in whatcha might call princely splendor. When the oil runs out the rest of the world is going to kick sand in the Soddy national face...
on Monday, said Death Eater propaganda that "confuses the young men" was to blame for the assaults.

He said the attacks were staged on Monday to "darken" the festivities ahead of Tuesday, when Moslems begin to celebrate the Eidul Azha holiday.


Chechen police kill four teenage attackers
[BBC] Police have shot dead four teenagers who launched three attacks in and around the Chechen capital Grozny, say officials in the Russian republic.

A fifth teenager detonated a bomb he was carrying in a rucksack, but survived. He had approached a police post in Mesker-Yurt, east of Grozny.

No policemen died. In the past decade Chechnya has seen much jihadist unrest.

The Islamic State group says its militants carried out the attacks. The claim has not been verified.

The Chechen Information Minister, Dzhambulat Umarov, said the youngest attacker was 11 and the oldest 17.

Two were armed with knives and attacked a police station in Shali, 25km (15 miles) southeast of Grozny, Chechen police said. Both were shot dead and two policemen were hurt in that attack.

On the outskirts of Grozny a car rammed a traffic police checkpoint and a car chase ensued. Police shot the two occupants dead during that chase. No civilians were hurt in any of the attacks.

In a post on Telegram the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, condemned the teenagers who, he alleged, had tried to disrupt Muslim Chechens' celebrations of Eid al-Adha, which begins on Tuesday.

Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
Photo of Putin and Saudis


Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
Islamic Extremists Attack Russian Orthodox Church In Chechneya And Pay With Their Lives
More details about the attack reported yesterday.
[Daily Caller] Police in Chechnya killed four Islamic militants Saturday when the group raided a Russian Orthodox church with guns, axes and Molotov cocktails.

Shots rang out during Saturday’s service and cries of "Allahu Akbar" could be heard as congregants scrambled to close and bolt the doors, Father Sergiy, the priest at Archangel Michael Church in Chechnya’s capital of Grozny, said, according to The Associated Press. The terrorists killed one congregant outside the church building, wounded another inside the church as they attempted to gain entry, and killed two officers when police arrived on the scene, according to The New York Times. Policemen gunned down all four attackers.

Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechneya’s leader, said the gunmen initially took hostages. He issued a statement condemning their attack and threatening anyone daring to carry out similar acts.

"I once again very seriously declare that you can try to commit any actions aimed at undermining the security of the residents of Grozny and other settlements," Kaydrov said, according to NYT. "But anyone who makes the first step along this path will be immediately destroyed."

Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
7 die in attack on Church in Grozny
GROZNY, May 19. /TASS/. The situation in the Chechen capital Grozny remains relatively calm after a deadly attack on the city’s only Orthodox church on Saturday, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov wrote in his Telegram channel.

"Once again, I state that the overall situation in Grozny was not affected. The situation in the city is peaceful, all offices, organizations, shops are open, public transport operates according to schedule, all streets are open for traffic," he wrote.

On Saturday afternoon, a group of four people attempted to break into the Archangel Michael’s Church in Grozny, located on a busy street in the heart of the Chechen capital. It is a popular tourist site surrounded by shopping malls and cafes. A service was under way in the church at the moment of the assault.

The attackers, who carried smoothbore guns, knives, axes and plastic bottles with inflammable liquid on them, were unable to get inside the building. However, as a result of the attack, two police officers and one civilian were killed, two more officers were wounded. Four attackers were killed.

"A police officer, who was on duty in the church, was the first to be killed. However, as a result of his courageous actions, [law-enforcers] were immediately alerted about the attack," Kadyrov said. "A rapid response group arrived to the scene almost instantly and killed those bandits. There were four of them."

The Russian president’s envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, Oleg Belaventsev, said the situation in Grozny is under control.

"The situation in Grozny is under control of the Chechen and federal authorities," he said. "We will continue our fight against terrorism at home and far away.".
Iran PressTV adds:
Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, who reportedly lead the operation, said all four of the gunnies were "eliminated".

It is thought they entered the church searching for hostages.Russia's Investigative Committee will examine the incident.

The pro Russian news website, Russkaya Vesna said that ISIS was behind the attack:
The terrorist group IGIL * claimed responsibility for the attack on militants on the church in Grozny, reports Reuters referring to the statement of the group.

On the eve of the four militants penetrated the church of the Archangel Michael in the center of Grozny to capture parishioners. Victims of the attack were two policemen guarding the church, and one parishioner . Two more law enforcers were injured.

The bandits were eliminated during the special operation. Their identities are fixed. As the head of the republic Ramzan Kadyrov said, two of the attackers lived in the village of Geldagan near Grozny, the ringleader of the group was "a native of one of the neighboring regions." According to him, "there is operational information that the militants received the order from one of the Western countries."

Earlier, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill noted the heroism of the policemen who took part in the liquidation of terrorists, expressed condolences to the relatives of the victims and the victims, and also urged all Orthodox residents of the republic to preserve peace and tranquility.

According to the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, the "cynical foray" of the militants was aimed at shaking "a valuable interreligious peace and harmony in the region, sow enmity and fear among its inhabitants."

Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
Co-owner of Russia's Summa group (Russian billionaire) arrested.

Click on the title link for lots of tweets with article links to major news networks like FT
[Reuters] Russian authorities on Saturday arrested billionaire Ziyavudin Magomedov on charges of embezzling more than $35 million, in one of the highest-profile prosecutions of a Russian tycoon in years.

Discussion in the tweets about how this might be related to the above arrest:
The byzantine fight for Dagestan’s strategic Makhachkala port

[GRI] Ramazan Abdulatipov seems ready to close a sale of Dagestan’s state-owned port of Makhachkala to an Iranian-led group. The sale exposes the difficult balancing act elites are playing in the region.
Everybody’s fighting over a spoonful

The port of Makhachkala, the capital of the North Caucasian Republic of Dagestan, is home to Russia’s only ice-free Caspian port. As of 2014, the physical turnover of the port’s transshipments of oil and gas products, bulk cargos, car ferry service, and small grain shipments was optimistically expected to more than double to 15 million tons a year in a few years. This was welcome news to oligarchs interested in the region’s trade flows. Makhachkala’s facilities, Russia’s last state-owned commercial port, have been an ongoing prize for privatization as Makhachkala is Russia’s closest port to Iran and the two countries are set to deepen trade ties. As is normally the case in Russia, privatization is a smokescreen for personal and state-driven motives.

Dagestan is one of the poorest regions in Russia, struggling with endemic corruption, an Islamist insurgency, a large and untaxed shadow economy, and a long legacy of state-mandated economic underdevelopment. The region possesses considerable oil and gas reserves but is stuck paying Gazprom for natural gas from elsewhere, racking up non-payment fines for which Gazprom had the former CEO of local gas firm Dagestanregiongaz Magomedgusen Nasrutdinov imprisoned, and suspended further investment in gas infrastructure in the North Caucasus republics.

Lacking access to oil and gas rents, small-scale initiatives to increase trade contacts with Azerbaijan and Iran have been key to Dagestani leaders’ hunt for trade and growth. The current rush of infrastructure investment into Trans-Eurasian trade routes has opened up a new challenge for the Kremlin as it has long relied on economic isolation to keep Dagestani elites dependent on rents and budgets distributed from Moscow.

Dagestan’s location is vital to the growth of the North-South Transport Corridor between Russia and India as well as Russia’s ability to extract, export, or else transship Caspian oil supplies. Iran is front and center in this unfolding shift as it attempts to seize a greater share of Caspian trade and prevent Azerbaijan from dominating East-West transit of goods through the Caucasus and on towards Europe.

Abdulatipov’s appointment was linked to Dagestani oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, a Dagestani representative on Russia’s Federation Council and billionaire who sought ownership of Makhachkala’s airport and seaport from Abdulatipov’s predecessor. Kerimov, who successfully acquired the airport, has courted Chechnya’s strongman Ramzan Kadyrov as an ally. Kadyrov is seeking means of playing a role in Russia’s Caspian trade to further Chechnya’s contacts, exposure, and linkages with international actors in an ongoing attempt to improve his power base in order to gain more leverage with Putin and the elites in Moscow.

Most recently, he agreed to send battalions of elite Chechen troops loyal to him to Syria in his campaign to model Chechnya as a state within a state exempt from Russia’s governing structures.

Opposing Kerimov and Kadyrov within Dagestan is Ziyavudin Magomedov, the main owner of the investment firm Summa Group. Magomedov has sought buy-ins into logistical infrastructure across Russia and is most famous in the west for his vocal support of Elon Musk’s Hyperloop project. Much of last year’s drama revolved around who sat as the port’s CEO. A Kerimov-friendly appointee was replaced at the behest of Magomedov by his protégé Andrei Gormakh. In a rather pathetic slight, Kerimov denied Gormakh’s plane the right to land in Makhachkala in early June as several hundred armed seaport workers and supporters of both men faced off.

Despite the threat of violence and high tensions, Abdulatipov seems to have thread the needle, as reports surfaced at the end of December that Iran had beaten out interests from China, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, as well as rival oligarchs for potential majority control of the port.

Financial Times’ take on it.

Caucasus/Russia/Central Asia
An Uncertain Year Ahead for the North Caucasus
[TheJamestownFoundation] Conflict in the North Caucasus has slowed significantly since 2014, and violence there has made few headlines, despite occasional significant events. Nevertheless, insurgent attacks and counterterrorist operations have continued, including in some areas that have been peaceful for years.

Total casualties resulting from violent conflict in 2017 were radically different from republic to republic in the North Caucasus. The number of deaths resulting from armed conflict fell by 73 percent in Dagestan (Caucasian Knot, January 15), with a similar decrease in the number of conflict incidents. Kabardino-Balkaria saw a massive reduction: 93 percent fewer victims of armed conflict in 2017 than in 2016, with only a single dead militant and no security personnel among the casualties (Caucasian Knot, January 14). Ingushetia, meanwhile, saw an increase of 26 percent in casualties from violence in 2017, with 10 violent incidents recorded that year compared to five in 2016 (Caucasian Knot, January 16). A major increase in violence was recorded in Chechnya, which saw an increase of 74 percent over the previous year (Caucasian Knot, January 15).

The major increase in casualties in Chechnya suggests there is potential for greater violence in Ramzan Kadyrov’s republic this year. Examining the course of events over the last five months provides some clarity on what to expect from the region.
Hit the title link for details and opinions.

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