One more rebel leader down: Seyfullah’s death further weakens Umarov

One of Chechen ’emir’ Doku Umarov’s closest allies has been the movement’s qadi (supreme judge) and ’emir of Dagestan’ Seifullah of Gubden (Magomed Vagabov) – not to be confused with the Kabardino-Balkarian Emir Seifullah (Anzor Astemirov), who was killed in March. In the current leadership crisis, Seifullah strongly backed Umarov. However, according to both the Russians and the rebel mouthpiece website Kavkazcenter, Seifullah was killed by government forces on 20 August. No need to mourn for the mastermind of the March Moscow metro bombings, but Umarov may well have particular cause to regret his departure. Seifullah was a very useful ally and supporter: he was from the younger generation of field commanders who generally gravitate towards Umarov’s rival, Vadalov; he had a track record of murderous results that the notably-unsuccessful Umarov needs; he has both spiritual/judicial as well as military authority; and he could deliver a degree of support in Dagestan, bolstering the claims of the ’emirate’ to be a pan-Islamic North Caucasus entity. For Umarov, engaged in a political struggle to wrest momentum from his younger rival (and hoping to do so in part through engineering some terrorist ‘spectacular’, precisely Seifullah’s forte), this is the worst news – at the worst possible time.

Incidentally, there is a good profile of the latest fallen Seifullah by Mairbek Vatchagaev on the Jamestown Foundation website, here.

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