Caucasus Emirate leader Aliaskhab Kebekov, aka Ali Abu Muhammad al-Dagestani, has been reported killed with four other Caucasus Emirate terrorists during a Russian special forces operation in Dagestan Monday, April 20th.
Kebekov was known to have ties with Al-Qaeda, pledging allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri and condemning Caucasus Emirate (IK) militants who left the organization to join Islamic State. He was also key in organizing the funding of Caucasus Emirate via extortion of the local population, and organized the Volgograd bombings of 2013.
The operation was launched in the suburb of Gerei-Avlak near the city of Buinaksk early Sunday morning, where there was a standoff between Russian special forces and several IK terrorists at a house. The IK fighters were with two women and a child, prompting negotiations. Once the release of the child had been negotiated, the IK terrorists opened fire on the government forces and there were reports of an explosion within the house. Russian special forces then stormed the house, neutralizing five terrorists, including Kebekov and allegedly two other terrorist leaders. Vilayat Dagestan’s website claimed that Shamil Bulakhani, the emir of Dagestan’s Ontsokol district was killed as well.
Kebekov’s death is a severe blow for IK and Al-Qaeda’s operations in the Caucasus. As reported on earlier on the Free Fire blog, Caucasus Emirate is in the midst of a major dispute over whether to support Al-Qaeda or Islamic State. Kebekov, who took command of Caucasus Emirate to replace slain leader Doku Umarov in 2014, was one of the few leaders remaining who retained support for Al-Qaeda. With Kebekov gone, there appear to be relatively few leaders left in Caucasus Emirate that Al-Qaeda can trust. According to Bill Roggio and Thomas Jocelyn of the Long War Journal, IK top Dagestani shariah official Muhammad Abu Usman, who previously denounced defectors to Islamic State, is the most likely candidate for Kebekov’s successor.