Umarov Denies Retiring

Umarov040810.jpgIt seems that Doku Umarov has changed his mind about retiring. According to media reports earlier this week, the Chechen rebel leader announced in a recent video that he was stepping down from his command position. He now says in a new video that the previous message was fabricated. Reuters reports:

Umarov was shown speaking in a video on the unofficial Islamist website, which had reported on Sunday that he was stepping down for health reasons and would hand over leadership of the insurgency to Aslambek Vadalov.

“In connection with the situation shaping up in the Caucasus, I consider it impossible to step down as Emir of the Caucasus,” said the bearded Islamist leader, dressed in a black skullcap, camouflage and a bullet-proof vest.

“Inshallah (God willing), this statement cancels out my previous statement,” Umarov said as he pressed his palm on the barrel of a Kalashnikov rifle. He said he is healthy.

RFE/RL speculates on some of the reasons behind his change of heart:

There are at least two possible explanations for Umarov’s inconsistency. First, he may indeed have been forced to step down by a group of younger field commanders.

Some Russian commentators have suggested that the younger generation of commanders either rejected Umarov’s readiness to target the civilian population, or alternatively did not consider him an effective military leader. In the video footage made public on August 1, Umarov explained his decision to step down in terms of the need to hand over responsibility to a younger and more energetic fighter…

…Second, Umarov may have been speaking the truth when he said the situation in the North Caucasus had changed so drastically since his original decision to step down that he no longer considers that course of action appropriate. It is not known for certain when the video clip in which Umarov announced his resignation was filmed; but the clip posted on July 24 in which Umarov designated Vadalov as his deputy (and thus as his successor in the event of his death), was filmed in June after the capture by the FSB of Ingush commander Magas on June 9.