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    A Post-Mortem Sketch of Khasanbi Fakov – Leader of the United Insurgency Movement of Kabardino-Balkaria

    Publication: Militant Leadership Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 8
    August 21, 2013 02:44 PM Age: 3 yrs
    Category: Militant Leadership Monitor, North Caucasus


    The leader of the united insurgency movement of Kabardino-Balkaria (KBR) and Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Khasanbi Fakov was killed on August 7 in the city of Nalchik. Fakov, age 34, was on the federal search list in Russia and was suspected of staging numerous attacks on law enforcement agents. Road police reportedly killed the insurgent leader around midnight in a car carrying Fakov and three other persons in Nalchik, the capital of the republic of KBR. When the suspected rebels started shooting, the police opened fire and killed all four (, August 7). The Kabardino-Balkarian insurgency’s website confirmed the death of Khasanbi Fakov (a.k.a. Amir Abu Khasan), his wife, Irina Ortanova and two other militants, Anzor Shaov and Khasan Kushkhov. The website asserted that the rebels were “ambushed.” [1]

    Prior to becoming the leader of the jamaat (assembly) of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Khasanbi Fakov, better known through his nom de guerre, Abu Khasan, led the insurgent group in the Chegem district of Kabardino-Balkaria. Fakov originally came from the district of Baksan in Kabardino-Balkaria, which has been one of the most deadly places in the republic for the past several years. According to the newspaper Kommersant, Abu Khasan was appointed to be the head of the jamaat of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia in the beginning of 2013, when the leadership of the jamaat was decimated by the security services. His Muslim wife, 24-year-old Irina Ortanova, had been married to a police officer intern and resident of the town of Chegem, Vitaly Ortanov. Ortanov came under suspicion for being close to the insurgents and was killed in a special operation by the Russian security services in November 2011. Irina Ortanova subsequently became a Muslim wife to the head of the republican insurgency, Abu Khasan. 

    One of the suspected insurgents killed in the incident on August 7, Anzor Shaov, reportedly worked as a court bailiff in Kabardino-Balkaria (Kommersant, August 8). Multiple cases of insurgents originating from the police and other government agencies show that the Kabardino-Balkarian insurgency is well-positioned in the wider society and despite significant losses among its leaders in recent years it remains a considerable force in Russia’s North Caucasus republic. Between January and March of this year, 20 people were killed in Kabardino-Balkaria, including 18 suspected rebels and 2 servicemen. Thus, the republic shares second place along with Chechnya as one of the deadliest republics in the North Caucasus (, May 29).

    Abu Khasan’s leadership has corresponded with an upsurge in violence in Kabardino-Balkaria. The Russian security services have neutralized him but their success may be short lived, as the next leader of the insurgents in the republic may be even more violent. Thus, the initial success in the killing of the leader of Kabardino-Balkarian insurgents, Anzor Astemirov in March 2010 eventually led to a massive explosion of violence in the republic in 2010 and 2011. Astemirov had apparently tried to avoid violence in Kabardino-Balkaria to shield the republic from being scavenged by the Russian security services. However, his successors were much more willing to flex the rebels’ muscles, attacking government offices and even large vulnerable infrastructure targets, such as the Baksan hydroelectric plant.  In October 2010 rebels launched a brazen attack on this facility, creating significant concern. Since then attacks in KBR have gravitated toward attacks on local police officials and police stations. 

    It must be said that the physical and temporal proximity of the Olympics in Sochi also create additional incentives for the Kabardino-Balkarian jamaat to intensify their strikes. Indeed, increased media attention that the region will receive in the next several months presents the leaders of the rebels with the unique opportunity to remind the Russian government about their existence and steadfast influence. On the government’s side, the “Sochi Olympics’ effect” leads to harsher tactics of the security forces in the republic. That is probably why Kabardino-Balkaria has repeatedly shown higher ratios of killed suspected rebels to killed government servicemen. The militants in the republic are not more hapless, than the militants in other republics of the North Caucasus, but the security services in Kabardino-Balkaria apparently are allowed to execute captured militants more liberally, than in other parts of the North Caucasus. 

    The situation in previously quiet Kabardino-Balkaria exploded in October 2005, when militants staged a massive raid on the republican capital, the city of Nalchik. Muslim Ataev (a.k.a. Amir Seifullah) was the founder of the militant jamaat Yarmuk in the republic. Anzor Astemirov succeeded Ataev as the leader of the jamaat, also assuming his nom de guerre, Amir Seifullah after Ataev was killed in 2005. Mussa Mukozhev was also known to play prominent role in Kabardino-Balkarian insurgency. Astemirov was reportedly one of the authors proclaiming the creation of the Caucasus Emirate back in 2007 (, November 21, 2012). In March 2010, Astemirov was killed by the police and succeeded by Asker Jappuev (a.k.a. Amir Abdullah). Under Jappuev, the Kabardino-Balkarian jamaat ramped up its attacks and the republic quickly turned into one of the insurgency’s hotspots in the North Caucasus. In the spring 2011, the Russian security services managed to wipe out nearly the entire leadership of the jamaat, including Jappuev who were spotted in the town of Progress in the mostly Russian populated Stavropol region (, April 29, 2011). In September 2011, Alim Zankishiev (a.k.a. Amir Ubaidallah) became the new head of the militants. Zankishiev was killed by the Russian security services in March 2012 (, March 27, 2012). Zankishiev was later succeeded by Timur Tatchaev (Amir Khamza). Tatchaev was killed in June 2012. Ruslan Baryrbekov (also Amir Khamza) succeeded Tatchaev and was killed in September 2012 when Fakov reportedly became amir.

    Valery Dzutsev is a doctoral student in political science at Arizona State University. Mr. Dzutsev is a native of North Ossetia. He is a regular contributor to Eurasia Daily Monitor.

    1. See the insurgency’s website: