Chechen terror leader 'steps down'
The Chechen terror chief who claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Russia and is suspected of ties with al-Qaida has purportedly announced he is stepping down in a video posted on YouTube.
Washington labeled Doku Umarov a terrorist after he claimed responsibility for the March suicide bombings on Moscow's subway that killed 40 people, and a November 2009 train attack that claimed 26 lives.
Bearded and clad in a khaki uniform, the 46-year old Umarov said in grainy footage posted on YouTube on Sunday night that he is ceding leadership to a deputy, Aslambek Vadalov.
"Our brother Aslambek is younger, he has more energy, there will be other results," Umarov said in the video. Umarov said he resigned due to tiredness, but pledged to continue to help his fellow Islamists "with words and deeds."
The authenticity of the video could not be verified, and a website sympathetic to the rebels of the southern Russian province was not working on Monday.
Vadalov is a seasoned warlord in his late 30s who fought against Russian forces in both separatist wars in Chechnya, according to Russian media reports.
In 2006, Umarov declared himself the emir, or military leader, of the Caucasus Emirate - the separatists' top post in Russia's predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region. The rebels seek an independent Islamist state and are believed to receive financial support from al-Qaeda.
Umarov joined Chechnya's separatists in 1992, before the region's two bloody wars with Russian forces. In between those conflicts, from 1997 to 1999, he held several posts in Chechnya's separatist government before falling out with other leaders.
When federal forces stormed back into Chechnya in 1999, Umarov led several hundred insurgents and masterminded several terrorist attacks and raids outside Chechnya.
By 2006, Moscow had brutally won the province back, the rebel resistance was forced into the hiding and a new era of sporadic attacks on federal forces began.