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Religious Extremism Finds Fertile Ground

Published: October 18, 2005 (Issue # 1114)


MOSCOW — The indiscriminate suppression of “unofficial” Islamic organizations in Kabardino-Balkaria combined with poverty and historical grievances have created fertile ground for a virulent strain of religious extremism, as manifested by Thursday’s violent raids.

The coordinated attacks in the republic’s capital, Nalchik, ended a relative lull throughout the North Caucasus region since last year’s horrendous hostage-taking drama in Beslan and demonstrated a lasting commitment to trying to destabilize the region in the hope of wresting swathes of it from Moscow’s control.

“Unfortunately, this seems to be a continuation of the tactic of staging attacks to destabilize an increasingly number of areas in the North Caucasus,” said Alexei Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

In the past year, networks of insurgents and terrorists have staged almost daily, smaller-scale attacks on police and other officials in Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya and other ethnic republics of the North Caucasus.

Several hours after the launch of the daring multipronged assault on key government facilities in Nalchik, the web site of these networks posted a statement claiming they had been led by the Kabardino-Balkaria-based group Yarmuk.

Yarmuk comprises the Kabardino-Balkaria part of the North Caucasus network of Islamic militants who are often, but not always correctly, referred to in Russia

as “Wahhabis.” Yarmuk, which has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks on police in the republic since 2004, coordinates it actions with Shamil Basayev, the most notorious terrorist of the North Caucasus.

Thursday’s claim of responsibility was confirmed by Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov, who accused Anzor Astemirov, a Yarmuk leader, of having organized the Nalchik attacks.

Much of the responsibility for the rise of Yarmuk must be borne by the longtime leader of Kabardino-Balkaria, Valery Kokov, who tolerated no political or religious dissent in the mostly Muslim republic. Using a tactic employed by other strongmen running North Caucasus republics, he labeled all alternatives to the local branch of the Spiritual Board of the Muslims of Russia as Wahhabis and harassed them.

Kokov resigned in September and was replaced by Arsen Kanokov, a pro-Kremlin State Duma deputy and businessman.

The 15 years of Kokov’s strong-handed rule radicalized “unofficial” Muslim organizations to such a degree that some of their members have gone underground and taken up arms to fight the local regime in alliance with the insurgent and terrorist networks operating across the North Caucasus, experts on the region said.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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