The wife of one of Islamic State’s contingent of Dagestani preachers has been named on 1 December on a list of a group of women and children who are being returned to Russia from Iraq. One child is being returned along with the woman.
The woman, also from Dagestan, was the wife of Edik Arsanukaev (alias Abdulla Abu Mukhammad), who joined Islamic State’s Russian-speaking contingent before 2015 (I have a photo of him from April 2015 with members of the then-Al Aqsa Katiba including Musa Abu Yusuf Shishani, another preacher). Arsanukaev was reported dead in early January 2017 after blowing himself up in a suicide attack in Mosul. As with the deaths of the other Dagestani preachers (collectively known as the Medina students), there was no official announcement by Islamic State’s Furat Media of Arsanukaev’s death.
Arsanukaev was an ethnic Kumyk from the Dagestani village of Aksai, and had been deputy imam at the Vostochnaya Mosque in Khasavyurt. He ha studied in Egypt (as had a number of other preachers who later joined Islamic State’s Russian-speaking contingent, including Abdulla Moldavanin, whose death was reported recently) He was first added to Russia’s terrorist and extremist wanted list in August 2015. He was also added to the Interpol website. His wife was only added to the list in October, which suggests that the authorities in Dagestan became aware she was in custody in Iraq and that she would be returned home. Her addition to the list indicates that a criminal case has been opened against her and that she would therefore automatically be prosecuted upon arrival in Russia. It is noteworthy that a number of other Dagestani women who were returned to Russia from Iraq on 14 November were also added to the list at the same time as their return.
In IS-controlled territory, Arsanukaev continued to share his sermons via the internet, a fact that led the Russian security services to consider him a threat. In January 2016, adviser to Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee Andrei Przhezdomsky, said that Arsanukaev had “opened a media studio in Syria and was preaching in Russian and Kumyk, sharing these [sermons] on YouTube.”
Prior to his death, Arsanukaev released a Russian-language nasheed, “He is Allah,” and a final audio address to his followers, which has been shared widely on social media. In it, the Dagestani provided important details about his role in IS and explained why he had decided to commit an act of “martyrdom.” He said that he could not take part in battles because of a medical condition and therefore decided to carry out a suicide operation. He then called on his followers to “kill infidels wherever we see them.”