Two videos have been posted to YouTube confirming the loyalty of the former leaders of the Chechen and Ingushetian sectors of the Caucasus Emirate (IK) to the Islamic State (IS).
In the first video – 1 minute 47 seconds long and dated 1 Shaban 1436 (19 May 2015) – Aslan Byutukayev (Khamzat), the former emir of the IK’s Nokhchiycho Wilayah (Chechen Province), reaffirmed his pledge of bayat to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Byutukayev’s statement consisted primarily of formulaic statements about shared goals and obeying al-Baghdadi as long as he adheres to the Koran and the Sunnah, and offered nothing by way of insight into future goals and strategy. Its greatest significance is in dispelling any lingering doubts anyone might have entertained about the authenticity of Byutukayev’s previous pledge, a June audio address that dealt the IK a critical blow (see my previous post, The Future of the North Caucasus Insurgency).
The second video – 54 seconds long and dated 27 Rajab (16 May) – featured Beslan Makhauri (Mukhammad), Abdul-Rakhim, and an unidentified third man. Makhauri previously led the Sunzhenskiy Sector in the IK’s G1alg1acyhe Wilayah (Ingushetian Province),* while Abdul-Rakhim led the Malgobekskiy Sector. In the video, Makhauri pledges allegiance on behalf of all of Ingushetia’s rebels to al-Baghdadi. Content-wise, the video was even less insightful that Byutukayev’s. However, it is of greater significance for confirming Makhauri’s position: Makhauri issued a statement clarifying his position in February that was published by a pro-IS website, sent “warm greetings” to IS, but otherwise brought no clarity at all. He was presumed to have pledged allegiance to Baghdadi by virtue of appearing alongside Byutukayev in a video that was released at the same time as the latter’s audio address, but this new address makes his position clear.
Whether Byutukayev or Makhauri will retain the same ranks in the newly-formed Islamic State affiliate Caucasus Wilayah remains, as before, unclear, although this is of little surprise given that the videos predate the Wilayah’s creation.
* The last confirmed IK Ingushetian emir was Artur Gatagazhev, who was killed in May 2014. It is likely that Makhauri succeeded him in the role.