There’s a reason Russian President Vladimir Putin recently called U.S. President Obama. It wasn’t to talk about Ukraine, the weather or the International Space Station. It was to discuss and coordinate a response to the growing threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to Russia’s soft underbelly in the Caucasus.
The Russian news agency, TASS, reported Tuesday of the decision to basically suspend civil liberties in Kabardino-Balkaria, a portion of the North Caucasus, to deal with an immediate threat. “A decision was taken to conduct a counter-terrorism operation and to impose the legal regime of an anti-terrorist operation as of 03:00 Moscow Time in the part of the city of Nalchik,” said a source in Kabardino-Balkaria’s operational headquarters.
The operation apparently involves control over the lines of communication, including phone, radio and internet, and the “resettlement of some parts of the population,” in addition to other authoritative measures.
Last week, jihadist elements in the Caucasus pledged their allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State. “Obeying the order of Allah… we are declaring our allegiance to Caliph Ibrahim ben Awwad ben Ibrahim al Badri al-Qoureishi al Husseini for obedience and subordination,” said a recording released by Russian Islamists in the area. “We testify that all mujahedeen of the Caucasus … are united in this decision and there are no disagreements among us on this issue.”
ISIS returned the favor the next day with a recording of its own, “We congratulate the soldiers of Islamic State in the Caucasus … we congratulate them for making allegiance to the caliph. He accepts your allegiance and names Sheikh Abu Mohammad al-Qadari as [governor] of the Caucasus.”