North Caucasus jihadists’ money traces back to Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden

April 19, 2013

The seed money of major North Caucasus or Chechen terrorist groups such as the Caucasus Emirate, the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB), the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR) and the Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs (RSRSBCM) can all be traced back to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Although we don’t yet know to which groups the two Russian-born brothers of Chechen descent who were identified as suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings may belong, it’s important to take a look back at the origins of the money behind the North Caucasus jihadist network overall.

Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade

The Council on Foreign Relations says that, “According to the U.S. State Department, the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade is the primary channel for Islamic funding of the Chechen guerillas, in part through links to al-Qaeda-related financiers on the Arabian Peninsula.”

The Middle East Forum has more on IIPB:

In October 1999, emissaries of [IIPB founder Shamil Basayev] and [mujahideen leader] Ibn al-Khattab traveled to Kandahar where bin Laden agreed to provide fighters, equipment, and money to conduct terrorism and aid the fight against Russia. Later that year, bin Laden reportedly sent substantial sums of money to Basayev, Ibn al-Khattab, and Chechen commander Arbi Barayev to train gunmen, recruit mercenaries, and buy ammunition.

The United Nations says that, “With Al‑Qaida’s financial support, Al-Khattab also mobilized fighters from Ingushetia, Ossetia, Georgia and Azerbaijan to fight in Chechnya and Dagestan.”

History Commons offers further details similarities between Ibn Khattab and Osama Bin Laden, and the U.S. and U.K.-based imams who have funded Chechen rebels:

They share fundraising and recruiting networks. For example, a Florida cell of radical Sunnis that is monitored by the FBI starting in 1993 is involved with both organizations (see (October 1993-November 2001). Radical London imam Abu Qatada raises money for jihad in Chechnya (see 1995-February 2001 and February 2001) and is a key figure in al-Qaeda-related terrorism who is in communication with al-Qaeda logistics manager Abu Zubaida. [BBC, 3/23/2004; Nasiri, 2006, pp. 273] The Finsbury Park mosque of fellow London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri is used as a conduit for funds for both jihad in Chechnya and bin Laden’s Darunta camp in Afghanistan (see March 1999 and March 2000-February 2001)…

Khattab repaid Bin Laden in kind:  “In October 2001, Khattab sent additional fighters to Afghanistan and promised to pay the volunteers’ families a substantial monthly stipend or a large lump-sum payment in the event of their death.”

Special Purpose Islamic Regiment

In a 2003 study, the CDI found that, “Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network provided much ideological and financial support to the SPIR after the mid-1990’s. The group has been known to engage in kidnapping, extortion, and contract killings as well to generate money.”

Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs

RSRSBCM, like the other North Caucasus terrorist groups, is financially connected to Al Qaeda, as documented in a UN sanctions summary:

In October 1999, emissaries of [RSRSBCM leader Shamil Basayev] and Al-Khattab, who was a leader of IIB, traveled to Usama bin Laden’s home base in the Afghan province of Kandahar, where Bin Laden agreed to provide substantial military assistance and financial aid, including by making arrangements to send to Chechnya several hundred fighters to fight against Russian troops and perpetrate acts of terrorism. Later that year, Bin Laden sent substantial amounts of money to Basayev, Barayev and Al-Khattab, which were to be used exclusively for training gunmen, recruiting mercenaries and buying ammunition.

The RSRSBCM, IIB and SPIR were jointly responsible for the hostage-taking crisis at a Moscow theater in 2002.

Caucasus Emirate

The Caucasus Emirate is a confederation of different Chechen terrorist groups.  The International Institute for Strategic Studies notes that in the 1990s, “Al-Qaeda also established a presence in the North Caucasus, where it organised training camps and provided weapons, financing and other logistical support to Chechen rebels.”  Previous Money Jihad coverage of the use of zakat to fund jihad in the North Caucuses can be found here and here.

Last year, Caucasus Emirate began demanding “tribute for jihad” by imposing taxes on wealthy residents and businessmen in Dagestan, similar to the forced zakat of the Taliban, taxes levied by Al Shabaab in Somalia, and the revolutionary taxation of Basque separatists and the PKK.


The wealthy Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, men like bin Laden and Khattab, fanned out in the 1980s and 1990s to wage jihad along the fringes of the Islamic world—places like Afghanistan, Bosnia, and the North Caucasus.  They took their own money and the sadaqa donations of rich fellow Arabs to finance their cause.  The disease could not be quarantined, and the infection spreads to this day.

Most recently, Chechen jihadists have made the news for joining forces with Syrian rebels, and declaring upon arrival that “Jihad needs very many things. Firstly it needs money.”


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