Formed in 2002 under the name Dzhennet ("Paradise"), Dagestani Shari'ah Jamaat is a terrorist group active in the Dagestan region of Russia, northeast of Chechnya. The group's objectives are similar to those of most groups in the region, which include the expulsion of Russian influence from the region, the destruction of all "opponents of Sharia" including moderate Muslims, and the creation of an independent Dagestan under Islamic law. Dagestani Shari'ah Jamaat mainly targets political leaders and Russian security forces.
The Caucasus region has been plagued with a rising number of insurgent groups, largely due to having poorer economic conditions than other regions in Russia as well as high concentrations of minority ethnic and religious groups such as Muslims, Dagestanis, Ossetians, and Chechens. Russian officials fear that disparate groups may join together to form a united front with more substantial capabilities. Evidence of this concern lies in the fact that Dagestani Shari'ah Jamaat has strong connections with Riyad us-Saliheyn, the group led by late Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev.
Initially, Dzhennet's membership consisted of leader and founder Rasul Makasharipov and a handful of local militants that had combat experience in Chechnya. In June 2003, due to a concerted effort to recruit from local mosques and a timely merger with an unknown group, Makasharipov's group grew substantially larger, eventually organizing into local brigades theoretically under his command. After a series of high-profile attacks in 2005, the group changed its name to its current form.
In addition to committing terrorist attacks, Dagestani Shari'ah Jamaat is active on the propaganda front, often claiming attacks on behalf of other extremist groups, publicizing atrocities committed by Russian special forces in Chechnya, and publicly criticizing Russian policies and commenting on political events, the most recent being the execution of Russian diplomats in Iraq and the Israel-Lebanon War of 2006.
In June 2005, Makasharipov killed himself after his safehouse was surrounded by Russian security forces. It is thought that he was succeeded by Shamil Yusuf Kulinsky. The group made major headlines in August 2006 when it claimed responsibility for killing Bitar Bitarov, the Head Prosecutor of Buinaksk, Dagestan and Adilgerei Magomedtagirov, the Dagestani Interior Minister, in a pair of car bombs. Ironically, after Makasharipov's death in 2005, Minister Magomedtagirov had declared that "the entire group [Dagestani Shari'ah Jamaat]...is over and done with".
Despite renewed Russian efforts to combat the insurgency, Islamic extremism continues to be a problem in the Caucasus region. Dagestani Shari'ah Jamaat, as one of the more potent groups in the region, figures to remain a major security threat until more of an effort is made to address the social and economic issues at the root of the Dagestani terrorism problem.
U.S. Government Designations
Learn more about these U.S. Department of State classifications: