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Russian rebel unfazed by bin Laden death: website

Russia’s most wanted Islamist rebel leader, Doku Umarov, said Tuesday that the death of Osama Bin Laden would not greatly set back the Islamist cause, in a rare interview given from hiding.

“As for whether Osama bin Laden’s death will affect the world, in my opinion even the kafirs (unbelievers) do not believe their life has got easier,” Kavkaz Centre website, which often publishes rebel statements, cited Umarov as saying.

The interview, published early Tuesday, does not give Umarov’s location and is accompanied by a file photograph of the beared leader wearing a baseball cap and a camouflage shirt.

“All the signs show that the world is in such a position that the death of the leaders of the Jihad cannot stop the process of the revival of Islam,” said Umarov, Russia’s most wanted man, who was targeted in an air raid in March.

He also denied that recent deaths of rebels in attacks by Russian forces this year had led to a halt in rebel activity, saying the campaign continued countrywide, but that the deaths had forced a change of tactics.

“There can be a calm in Nalchik (in the Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkariya) and a major sabotage blow in the (Far Eastern city of) Vladivostok,” he said.

“We see the whole of the Caucasus Emirate and Russia as a single theatre of military operations.”

Umarov heads a shadowy organisation called the Caucasus Emirate which aims to enforce Islamic law across the region.

It has claimed responsibility for attacks including the Moscow metro suicide bombings that killed 40 people in March last year.

Russia in March said it had hit Umarov’s bases in air strikes in the Ingushetia region of the North Caucasus and was carrying out DNA tests to check whether Umarov had been killed, but that no one officially recognised the body.

Umarov said he broadly supported the recent uprisings in Arab countries because they swept Western-backed “puppets” from power.

“Everyone can see how America and other Western countries are giving up their allies, puppets who served them faithfully so many years,” he said, calling for armed struggles to bring in Sharia law.