Rebel leader vows year of 'blood and tears' in Russia
Russia's leading Islamist rebel has vowed to make 2011 "a year of blood and tears" in a chilling video message released two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 36 people at a Moscow airport.
In the video released late Friday, Doku Umarov, the leader of a deadly insurgency against Russian control of the North Caucasus region, said rebel attacks in the country's heartland are meant as a wake-up call for ordinary Russians, who should urge their leaders to withdraw from the region.
The video marked Umarov's first known public statement since the late January attack -- Moscow's second suicide bombing with heavy casualties in less than a year.
Though he did not claim responsibility for the Domodedovo attack outright, Umarov made reference to a "special operation" and suicide bombings.
"God willing we will make this year a year of blood and tears for you," the fatigues-clad Umarov said in the address posted on the Kavkaz Centre website, a known rebel mouthpiece.
He said attacks were a response to "lawlessness" unleashed on the region by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and "his pack of dogs."
Rights activists have long criticised tactics in raids against militants in the North Caucasus -- known by the authorities as special operations -- for being overly brutal and targeting civilians as well as suspects.
"You better come to your senses and think," Umarov said, urging Russians to pressure their leaders into letting the region go. He said the attacks would stop after Russia withdrew from the region.
The Kremlin has repeatedly said that letting the Caucasus go and negotiating with "terrorists" was not an option.
The website said it received the video address by email and it was not clear whether it was recorded before or after the airport attack.
In the video, Umarov is flanked by two camouflage-clad men who are shown against a black flag emblazoned with white Arabic script.
Umarov said he made the address on the eve of a special operation whose purpose he did not identify. To his left stood a young man tasked with carrying out that operation and identified as Seifullah.
Another, older man identified as the head of the suicide bombing "brigade," was shown on the rebel chief's right-hand side.
Security officials have said that the Domodedovo airport bombing attack was carried out by a 20-year-old native of one of the North Caucasus republics, who was high on drugs.
Speaking in the video, the young man said his "brothers" would take up his place when he is gone.
Umarov is the self-proclaimed leader of the so-called "Caucasus Emirate", which has sought to unite various groups in Russia's Caucasus and establish Islamic rule.
Attacks on officials and police are a daily occurrence in the North Caucasus and after a lull of several years, suicide attacks returned to Moscow last March when two female suicide bombers from the region killed 40 and wounded dozens on the underground during morning rush hour.
After the March attacks Umarov said they were revenge for the deaths of innocent civilians in a Russian special operation. In a similar video at the time, Umarov said the bombings would go on as long as the "crimes committed by the gangs under Putin continued."
The Kremlin fought two wars against separatist rebels in Chechnya in the 1990s but the insurgency has now become more Islamist in tone and has spread to neighbouring regions such as Ingushetia and Dagestan.
© 2011 AFP