Doku Umarov, the Chechen Islamic warlord who threatened to attack the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi to punish the Russian hosts, is dead, the insurgent website Kavkaz Center announced Tuesday.
The notice gave no details about the circumstances of Umarov’s death. The announcement of what was termed his “martyrdom” said only that he had sacrificed 20 years of his life in the holy war for an independent Islamic state in Russia’s roiling southern region.
“Never think of those who have been killed for the cause of God as dead,” the Kavkaz Center report said, quoting the Koran.
Umarov, known among Islamic warriors in the Caucasus as Doku Abu Usman, had warned in July as Russia was scrambling to complete facilities for the Sochi Olympics that his fighters would target the international gathering to punish Russia for staging “satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors.”
The Games in February proceeded without major security incidents and concluded with a last-minute surge of victories by Russian athletes that put the host nation on the top of the medals chart.
One of Russia’s most-wanted militants, Umarov claimed to have ordered terrorist attacks on Russian targets in the past, including suicide bombings of the Moscow Metro in March 2010 that killed 40 people and an assault on Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport 10 months later in which three dozen people were killed. He also claimed responsibility for his fighters in the November 2009 blast that killed 26 people aboard a Moscow to St. Petersburg train.
The announcement of the Command of the Caucasus Emirate said Umarov had returned to his Chechen homeland in 1994, when Russian troops besieged the tiny Caucasus region to put down an insurgency by Islamic rebels.
Umarov, 49, proclaimed the Caucasus Emirate in 2007, but it remains unrecognized outside of the restive region, and Russia has maintained a tight military cordon in the area for the last 20 years.
Russian security officials had reported in January that they had information that Umarov had died, but Tuesday’s announcement was the first by the insurgents to report his death.