NEWSWATCH: “Repressing Islam in Russia. Salafis mustered. A crackdown drives Dagestan’s Muslims towards Islamic State.”
Since last autumn, the authorities in Dagestan have ramped up pressure against Salafis. They have reason to worry: as Moscow launched air strikes in support of Syria’s government, the Islamic State (IS) declared a holy war on Russia, took credit for downing a Russian passenger jet over Egypt and released a video threatening “a sea of blood” in Russia itself. Officially, some 900 Dagestanis have left for Syria. Independent experts say the true figure may be as high as 4,000. Even the conservative estimate means that relative to its population, Dagestan has supplied nearly eight times more jihadists than Belgium, the leading source of European foreign fighters. Most fighters who stayed in Dagestan have switched their allegiance from the Caucasus Emirate, a regional insurgent group linked with al-Qaeda, to IS, which last year claimed the Russian North Caucasus as one of its provinces.