Military Wiki
Dokka Umarov
File:Doku Umarov2.jpg
Dokka Umarov during a session of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria commanders in 2003
1st self-proclaimed Emir of the Caucasus Emirate

In office
31 October 2007 – present
Preceded by Position created
5th President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

In office
17 June 2006 – 31 October 2007
Preceded by Abdul Halim Sadulayev
Succeeded by Position abolished
(Prime Minister in Exile: Akhmed Zakayev)
Personal details
Born Dokka Khamatovich Umarov
Докка Хаматович Умаров

13 April 1964(1964-04-13) (age 58)
Kharsenoi, Chechen-Ingush ASSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Chechen
Children 6
Religion Islam
Website Kavkaz Center
Military service
Battles/wars First Chechen War
Second Chechen War
North Caucasus Insurgency

Doku (Dokka) Khamatovich Umarov (Chechen language: Ӏумар КӀант Доккa; Russian: Доку Хаматович Умаров; also called by the Arabized name of "Dokka Abu Usman"[1]) (born 13 April 1964) is a Chechen Islamist militant in Russia.[2][3] Umarov claimed responsibility for several attacks on Russian civilians, earning himself a media nickname of "Russia's Bin Laden".[4][5][6][7][8] On 3 February 2012, Umarov ordered his subordinates, in a video posted online, to halt attacks on the civilian population of Russia, while leaving military and security personnel as legitimate targets.[9]

Between 2006 and 2007, Umarov was the underground President of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI). He subsequently became the self-proclaimed Emir of the Russian North Caucasus, declaring it an Islamic state of the Caucasus Emirate. He is currently wanted by Russia for the crimes of kidnapping, murder and treason.[10] He is one of the major rebel leaders in Russia and has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks, including the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings and the 2011 Domodedovo International Airport bombing. The attacks killed 40 and 36 civilians respectively, and injured hundreds.[11]

On 1 August 2010, Umarov resigned his position and appointed Aslambek Vadalov as the new Emir of the Caucasus Emirate. However, on 4 August, he issued a statement "annulling" the previous declaration and stating he would remain in his position.[12] In July 2011, a rebel Sharia court ruled in favour of Umarov over the rift, following which the other rebels re-swore allegiance to him. On 10 March 2011, the United Nations Security Council Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee added Umarov to the list of individuals allegedly associated with al-Qaeda.[13]


Early life

Umarov was born to Khamad Umarov of the Malkoy teip (the same clan as the warlord Arbi Barayev and the Chechen ex-foreign minister Ilyas Akhmadov)[14] in April 1964 in the small village of Kharsenoi (Kharsenoy) in Shatoysky District region in southern Chechnya. He graduated from the construction faculty of the Oil Institute in the Chechen capital Grozny with a higher education degree as a construction engineer.[15]


Dokka Umarov is married, with six children, the youngest of whom was born in 2006.[15] Two of Umarov's brothers, Isa and Musa, have been killed in combat.[16] Since 2003, several of Umarov's relatives (as well as many relatives of the other Chechen separatist leaders),[17] including all of his immediate family, have been kidnapped by "unidentified armed men" (presumably government agents); some of them were promptly released but the others have disappeared and may be dead.[18] Shortly after the Beslan hostage-taking raid in 2004, during which Umarov's close relatives were held for several days at Khankala military base near Grozny,[14] Prosecutor General of Russia Vladimir Ustinov suggested the practice of taking rebel leaders' relatives hostage. In 2005, the Russian leading human rights group Memorial blamed pro-Moscow Chechen forces ("Kadyrovtsy") for a policy of abductions of the rebels' relatives.[19][20] On 5 May 2005, a group of masked attackers kidnapped Umarov's wife, his one-year-old son, and his 74-year-old father Khamad (Hamad).[14] According to the rebel sources, Umarov's family was abducted by the employees of the Oil Regiment (Neftepolk, headed by Adam Delimkhanov) and held in a Kadyrov's personal prison in the village of Tsentoroi.[18] A few months before that, on 24 February, Umarov's brother Ruslan had too been kidnapped by armed men and then allegedly tortured by the FSB at Khankala base.[21][22] Umarov's wife and son were later freed, but his elderly father and the younger brother both "disappeared"; in April 2007, Umarov declared his father was murdered in captivity.[18][23] In August 2005, Umarov's sister Natalia (Natasha) Khumaidova was abducted in the Chechen town of Urus-Martan;[20][24] she was released days later, after local residents protesting for her return rallied and blocked a federal highway.[14] In 2003–2004, his cousin Zaurbek Umarov and nephew Roman Atayev were also reportedly detained in Chechnya and in Ingushetia, and then "disappeared".[21][25]

First Chechen War and interwar period

Although Umarov was either in Moscow or the Tyumen Oblast[14] when the first Russian-Chechen war began in December 1994, he returned to Chechnya to fulfill what he said was his patriotic duty to fight. Umarov initially served under the command of Ruslan Gelayev. But in 1996, due to disagreements with Gelayev, he left the unit and joined the command of Akhmed Zakayev, who had also left Gelayev's ranks to lead the special forces unit Borz ("Wolf"). In the course of the war, in which his unit was expanded from a battalion to regiment, Umarov was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and won two of Ichkeria's highest awards for valor and bravery: Hero of the Nation (Kyoman Turpal) and Honour of the Nation (Kioman Syi).[15][26]

Following the Khasav-Yurt Accord that ended the first Chechen war in 1996 and the presidential election of Aslan Maskhadov in January 1997, Umarov was named by Maskhadov to head the Chechen Security Council. In that position, he intervened in July 1998 to quash an armed clash between moderates and Islamic radicals in the city of Gudermes.[26] However, he was forced to resign when the Council was disbanded because of persistent rumors of his participation in hostage-taking "business".[14] In 1999, he was accused of an involvement in the kidnapping of General Gennady Shpigun, Russia's official envoy to Chechnya.

Second Chechen War

Umarov began the current Chechen war in September 1999 as a field commander, again working closely with Ruslan Gelayev during the siege for Grozny.[27] In early 2000, Umarov sustained a serious wound to his face as he was leaving the surrounded Grozny and was hospitalized in a neutral country alongside Zakayev.[14][26] According to the Georgian Intelligence Service, Umarov then led a force of 130–150 fighters in Georgia's remote Pankisi Gorge before his return to Chechnya in the summer of 2002. Back in Chechnya, Umarov became the replacement of Isa Munayev on the post of the commander of Southwestern Front, the military region southwest of Grozny that bordered on Georgia and the Russian republic of Ingushetia;[28] he was seen as having been an ally of Vedeno-based Shamil Basayev.[28][29] In 2003, Gelayev led his men in the heavy fighting around the town of Shatoy and according to the Russian sources ordered the bombing of the Ingushetia FSB headquarters in the Ingush capital Magas and the attack on electrical infrastructure facilities in the city of Kislovodsk in Stavropol Krai.[27][30] After death of Gelayev in February 2004, many of his remaining men joined Umarov's command. The next summer, together with Basayev, Umarov was one of the leaders of a large-scale raid into neighbouring Ingushetia that killed scores of local and federal security forces and officials.[27][31] Through 2005, there were numerous incorrect reports of Umarov's death or grave injury. In January, he was reported having been killed in a gun battle with the Russian special forces near the Georgian border. In March, he was reported as having been seriously wounded by a Spetznaz assassination team. In September, the MVD announced it had found "Umarov's grave" and the following month in October he was once again falsely reported dead in the rebel raid on Nalchik, the capital city of Kabardino-Balkaria.[27] In April 2005, Russian special forces destroyed a small guerrilla unit during a battle in a residential area of Grozny after receiving intelligence that Umarov was with them, yet he was not found among the dead.[27] In May 2005, Umarov was reportedly seriously hurt when he stepped on an anti-personnel mine. He was said to have lost a leg in the blast, but turned out to be only lightly injured and participated in an attack on the village of Roshni-Chu three months later.[14] In May 2006, Chechen police discovered his headquarters bunker in the center of the village of Assinovskaya on the border with Ingushetia, but Umarov managed to escape in time.[32] By this time he had already become a vice-president of the separatist government.

Chechen presidency

As vice-president, Umarov was automatically elevated to the position as supreme leader of the ChRI following the death of President of Ichkeria Sheikh Abdul-Halim Sadulayev on June 17, 2006.[33] Having become president, Umarov also held such posts as the head of the State Defense Council; Amir (commander) of the Madzhlis Shura of the Caucasus; Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria; and finally, Amir of the Mujahideen of the Caucasus. In his first published comments since assuming the role of president, Umarov vowed to expand the conflict to "many regions of Russia", praised his predecessor Sadulayev, indicated that a special unit was being formed to fight Chechnya's "most odious traitors" (a remark believed to refer to the present federal Chechen administration) and stressed that the Chechen rebels would attack only military and police targets within Russia, including in the newly declared Urals and Volga Region Fronts.[34][35] On June 27, 2006, Umarov appointed the maverick Chechen commander Shamil Basayev to the position of vice-president of the separatist government, simultaneously releasing him from his position as first deputy prime minister;[26] Ichkeria's foreign minister, Usman Firzauli, said that the appointment was meant to force Russia into political negotiations, for if they killed Umarov, then the radical Basayev would have become the official leader of the Chechen separatist movement.[36] However, Basayev was killed soon afterward, in July 2006; on March 19, 2007, Kavkaz Center website reported that Umarov has appointed Supyan Abdullayev as the new vice-president of the ChRI.[37] In October 2007, Umarov made another controversial move when he posthumously restored the disgraced notorious field commander Arbi Barayev to the rank of brigadier general, which had been stripped of him by Maskhadov in 1998.

On August 18, 2006, Umarov was falsely announced to have surrendered at the Gudermes residence of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Russian-backed leader of Chechnya, under a Russian amnesty provision enacted after Basayev's death; however, Russian authorities later reversed it to a claim of surrender of Umarov's "younger brother and former head of body guards" (Umarov maintains he has no younger brother and the later reports identified the allegedly surrendered person as his older brother Akhmad instead; for their part, the Chechen separatists said that the older Umarov disappeared two years before and claimed that the presentation of the Chechen leader's brother was "a PR stunt").[38] Umarov himself has previously called the amnesty as "a hopeless attempt by the Kremlin regime to shroud the real situation in lies."[39] On November 23, 2006, large numbers of Defense Ministry and FSB troops, without the participation of Chechen police,[40] supported by helicopters and artillery barrages,[41] were reported to have surrounded Umarov and his forces in a forest near the village of Yandi-Katar in the Achkhoy-Martanovsky District, on the internal border between Ingushetia and Chechnya. According to Kommersant sources, Umarov got wounded in the operation but managed to escape the pursuit. He then spent the winter months travelling across the mountains to the nearby republic of Kabardino-Balkaria to meet with local jamaats fighting Russian authorities in the region and consolidate the Caucasian Front, the pan-Caucasian Islamic militant network set up by Sadulayev.[42] In April 2007, a group of fighters that might have been personally led by Umarov shot down a desant helicopter with the Spetsnaz GRU troops near Shatoy, killing at least 18 Russian soldiers.[43]

Leadership of the Caucasus Emirate

On October 7, 2007,[44] Umarov had proclaimed Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate, aimed at uniting Northern Caucasus into a single Islamic state) and at once declared himself its Emir, thereby converting the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria into a vilayat (province) of the new emirate. The move to establish the Emirate was quickly condemned by Akhmed Zakayev, by then until recently Umarov's own minister of foreign affairs. Zakayev, living in exile in London, called upon all separatist fighters and politicians to pledge allegiance directly to the Chechen parliament in an attempt to isolate his former subordinate from power.[45] Zakayev expressed regret that Umarov had caved in to pressure from "provocateurs" and committed a "crime" that undermines the legitimacy of the ChRI. In a one-day period two former senior field commanders, Isa Munayev and Sultan Arsayev, issued statements publicly siding with Zakayev and distancing themselves from Umarov.[46] However, all of the prominent active field commanders in Chechnya, with the sole exception of Amir Mansur (Arbi Evmirzayev, the leader of the Islamic Jamaat of Chechnya who was killed in 2010; also some small-time commanders such as Amir Khamza and Amir Surkho of Islamic Brigade of Chechnya and Staraya Sunzha Sabotage Group), had sided with Dokka Umarov on the decision.[47]

Prominent Radio Liberty journalist Andrei Babitsky reported in November 2007 that Umarov had again travelled to the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria to rest and recuperate for the winter months. Babitsky said that Umarov was in a poor state of health after taking a shrapnel wound to his lower jaw (it is possible Umarov received the wound in 2006 when he broke out of a Russian encirclement on the Chechen/Ingush border[14]) and after his leg was injured in a mine explosion. Pro-Moscow Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov offered him medical care if Umarov were to "beg for forgiveness".[48] In March 2008, Chechnya's chief prosecutor, Valery Kuznetsov, launched a criminal case against Umarov for "inciting inter-ethnic hatred and calling for the overthrow of the Russian government on the Internet" (the penalty for this being just a fine of up to 500,000 rubles and a ban on holding management positions); according to Kommersant, Umarov was earlier on Russia's wanted list, but all the previous and much more serious charges against him got suspended in 2005 (the paper also noted that Zakayev-led ChRI government in exile is investigating Umarov for "attempting to liquidate the independent Chechen state" by declaring the creation of a Caucasus Emirate).[49][50] On May 9, 2009, Ramzan Kadyrov announced that Umarov has been reportedly severely wounded once again and four of his bodyguards have been killed in an operation commanded by Kadyrov's cousin and deputy Adam Delimkhanov (early rumors even claimed that Umarov had even been killed and in June the Russian authorities forensically examined the four burned corpses to see whether they included that of Umarov).[51][52] All this was denied by the rebel sources;[53] in next month Umarov himself phoned the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to say he is alive;[54] and in an interview conducted in July 2009 with Prague Watchdog Umarov maintained that the last time he was wounded was in 1995 during the First Chechen War.[55] On January 19, 2010, Kadyrov announced that he had launched another Delimkhanov-led special operation in Chechnya’s mountains to find and eliminate Umarov.[56] Several more operations to search for Umarov on both sides of the Chechen-Ingush border were conducted by the Russian federal forces and Chechen police since then, without a success.

On 1 August 2010, Kavkaz Center proclaimed that Umarov had officially announced his resignation for health reasons and appointed Aslambek Vadalov as his successor. He appointed Vadalov saying "that jihad should be led by younger and more energetic commanders." Although he added that he would "continue to wage jihad and will do his utmost to help the new leadership. [Stepping down] does not mean that I give up jihad. I will do whatever I can by word and deed."[57][58] On 4 August, he contradicted the claim issued by him on video saying "Due to the situation in the Caucasus I consider that it is impossible for me to quit my duties. The previous declaration is annulled. It is a falsification. I declare that my health is good to serve Allah. And I will serve the word of Allah and work to kill the enemies of Allah in all the time that he gives me to live on this earth." He called the initial video a "fabrication," but did not say why there was a conflict.[59][60] Later in 2010, Vadalov and the Arab mujahid Muhannad attempted to overthrow Umarov as the leader of the Caucasus Emirate. The "supreme judge" of the group, Sayfullah and Emir Adam, the "governor of Ingushetia province", continued to support Umarov. Umarov blamed al-Emirat for the split in the group. In April 2011, Muhannad was killed by Russian forces, paving the way for re-unification. In July 2011, the insurgents' supreme Islamic court ruled in favour of recognizing Umarov as the leader of the Caucasus Emirate.[61][62] Umarov also re-organized the group. Amir Khamzat, the commander of the Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyr Brigade or the organisation's suicide battalion who was named the commander of the western sector. Hussein Gakayev was named to lead the eastern sector. Vadalov and Tarkhan Gaziyev consequently followed suit and re-affirmed their allegiance to Umarov.[61][63] Umarov then warned Russia that it would be the target of a new strengthened insurgency as he promised a year of "blood and tears"[64] as a result of the new unity.[65]

In 2013, Umarov called for a resumption of attacks against Russia. In October, a shahidka attacked a bus in Volgograd.[66]

Religious beliefs and world view

"Barely religious until late in life",[67] Umarov used to be known as practitioner of the region's "traditional Islam" (i.e. Sufism), as opposed to Salafism of the "Wahhabis".[68][69][70] In 2006, responding to Russian claims that he was an Islamic extremist, he described himself as a "traditionalist" and said: "Before the start of the first war in 1994, when the occupation began and I understood that war was inevitable, I came here as a patriot. I'm not even sure I knew how to pray properly then. It's ridiculous to say I'm a Wahhabist or a radical Muslim."[16] Umarov denied that the Chechen separatism is linked to al-Qaeda or any other international jihadist groups, saying that the rebels' priority is liberty and independence from Russia and peace for the Caucasus.[26] Prior to his 2007 declaration of the Caucasus Emirate, Umarov was commonly viewed as a staunch Chechen nationalist and had been expected by many observers to rather curb the pan-Islamist tendencies in the Chechen separatist movement.[16]

In the same 2007 statement in which Umarov proclaimed his Emirate, he expressed solidarity with "brothers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Palestine" and described "everyone who attacked Muslims" as common enemies of Muslims worldwide[71] (his deputy Anzor Astemirov soon retracted this statement, although saying they still held Israel to be an enemy). In the video in which Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for the Domodedovo International Airport bombing, Umarov he criticized the United States and Russia for being hyprocrites, in that if they actually followed their own principles, they would have to surrender world power to China, due to the senior status of Chinese culture.[72][73] In March 2013, Umarov urged Chechens from Western countries to not get involved in the Syrian conflict and instead to fight in the North Caucasus.[74] Four months later, he reversed his position and called for Chechens to join the "jihad" in Syria, so they could later use their experiences in a fight against Russia.[75]

Involvement in attacks against civilians

Although Umarov announced an end to violence against civilians in 2006, in 2009 he has stated that he does not believe there are any civilians in Russia, but also that civilian casualties would be limited as much as possible.[55] Umarov has personally taken responsibility for attacks in which dozens of civilians have been killed,[11][76] and has been implicated in others. He is currently federally wanted by Russia for alleged crimes including acts of terrorism. During the 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis Umarov had been incorrectly identified by Russian security forces and some hostages as an on-site leader of the hostage takers,[28] a claim which was later officially refuted; Umarov himself condemned the act and distanced himself from terrorism.[68] On several occasions, Umarov firmly denied any involvement in indiscriminate attacks against civilians and questioned its legitimacy and value. In a June 2005 interview with Andrei Babitsky, he criticized Basayev for ordering the Beslan raid,[68] saying that most of the Chechen resistance does not consider the Beslan hostage taking was a legitimate response to Russian actions in Chechnya ("if we resort to such methods, I do not think any of us will be able to retain his human face").[77] Umarov's controversial appointment of Basayev to the post of prime minister in 2006 was precedeed by a public statement rejecting attacks against civilians as a tactic.[78] In another statement in 2004 Umarov wrote: "Our targets are the Russian occupation forces, their military bases, command headquarters and also their local collaborationists who pursue and kill peaceful Muslims. Civil objects and innocent civilians are not our targets."[27] However, in early 2009 he has been by his own admission personally involved in the re-activation of notorious Riyadus-Salikhin suicide formation, first set-up and led by Basayev between 1999 and 2004; in the next months a string of suicide attacks killed dozens of people (mostly police officers) and critically injured the Ingush president Yunus-bek Yevkurov, raising fears of a new campaign of attacks directed against Russian civilians.[79] In a July 2009 interview with Prague Watchdog, when asked if people should expect a repetition of events like the Moscow hostage crisis, Umarov responded: "If that is the will of Allah. Shamil [Basayev] did not have the opportunities I have right now. […] As far as possible we will try to avoid civilian targets, but for me there are no civilians in Russia. Why? Because a genocide of our people is being carried out with their tacit consent."[55] In December 2009, the Caucasus Emirate (via Kavkaz Center) took responsibility for the derailment of Nevsky Express, an "act of sabotage" which claimed the lives of 27 people (including two civilian government officials and also many other travellers), reportedly conducted on the orders of Umarov.[76][80] The Caucaus Emirate was officially labeled by Russia as a terrorist organization in January 2010.[81] The same month, in a statement about the upcoming "military actions", Umarov said the re-created Riyad-us-Saliheen Brigade of Martyrs will now operate in the Russian cities outside the Caucasus and "the war will come to their homes", possibly indicating the new wave of bombings such as those conducted by the group in Moscow and elsewhere in 2002–2004 under Basayev's orders.[11][82] On 31 March 2010, Umarov claimed responsibility for personally ordering the Moscow Metro bombings which took the lives of 40 civilians and injured over 60.[83] He also warned that more attacks were to come on Russian soil because of perceived repressions of Chechnya by Prime Minister Putin.[11][84] On February 7, 2011 Umarov claimed responsibility in a video posted online for ordering a suicide bombing at Domodedovo International Airport, Russia's busiest airport. The bombing killed 36 people, and was described by Umarov as a "special operation" targeting the Russian society and Putin personally.[85][86]

On 3 February 2012, Umarov made an about-face again, and, in a video posted online, ordered his subordinates to halt attacks on the civilian population of Russia, while leaving military and security personnel as legitimate targets. Umarov gave this order in response to nationwide protests against the Russian government.[87] In June 2013, however, Umarov, accompanied by his deputy Aslan Byutukayev, called for his followers in and outside the Caucasus (in particular in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan) to use "maximum force" to ensure the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics do not take place, claiming that Russia's "barbaric actions" in the region had forced him to retaliate. Umarov said: "Today we must show those who live in the Kremlin […] that our kindness is not weakness. They plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims buried on our land by the Black Sea. We as mujahideen are required not to allow that, using any methods that Allah allows us." Russian state mass media, usually quick to denounce Umarov, did not report his threat, but Russia's anti-terrorist committee said it was taking measures to "protect Russian citizens" and was "paying special attention to questions of preparation for hold major sporting events of a global scale" while the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee announced that security would be a top priority.[88][89][90]

Legal status

Doku Umarov is the most wanted man in Russia. Since 10 March 2011, Umarov has also been put on the United Nations Security Council's Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee list of individuals allegedly associated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.[13] Since May 2011, the United States government is offering $5 million for information leading to his capture.[91]


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External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Declaration of Emirate
Emir of the Caucasus Emirate
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Sheikh Abdul Halim
President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Succeeded by
Position Abolished
(Prime Minister in Exile: Akhmed Zakayev)

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