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For Kadyrov, the war against Islamic State is crucial.
Fighting the self-proclaimed Caliphate provides the Chechen leader with another opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Last year, Kadyrov dispatched thousands of Chechens to fight in Ukraine. In a similar fashion Kadyrov has said he is ready to deploy Chechen battalions subordinate to him to win a swift and decisive victory over Islamic militants in the Middle East. Meeting members of the Chechen Terek rapid response battalion, Kadyrov boasted that they could “quickly tear apart” Islamic State.
IS has proclaimed that it is ready to stage an uprising in Chechenya and “liberate” it from Russia –– and therefore from Kadyrov. The movement has offered 5 million dollars for Kadyrov’s head. The combined “value” of his twelve closest associates is 25 million dollars.
No one can say how many Chechens sympathize with Islamic State and how many have gone to the Middle East to fight –– and how many have returned. Estimates have ranged as high as 7,000.
In 2014, Kadyrov said that “terrorists cannot be cured, they can only be destroyed,” but lately his approach looks to be more pragmatic.
Talking about IS recruits, Kadyrov has used his favorite term of abuse, calling them “shaitans” or devils. If devils have taken over a person or a place, they need to be exorcised, and Kadyrov also seems to be favoring state-sponsored exorcism.
Kadyrov and his state-sponsored clerics are meeting with the relatives of individuals who are reported to be interested in moving to the Middle East, individuals who are recruiting young Chechens, and individuals who have tried and failed to join the Islamic State, all in the name of prevention as a type of cure.
Kadyrov increasingly refers to IS sympathizers as “lost souls” and calls upon them to repent. His oft-repeated argument is that the IS fights against Muslims and is actually bankrolled by Western special services.
Kadyrov is evidently backtracking from his previous assertion that “terrorists cannot be cured”, and is trying to rehabilitate former Islamic State fighters and lure some of them to work with him.
This modus operandi is reminiscent of the way Vladimir Putin once operated with regard to Chechnya itself, through his policy of “Chechenization”