MOSCOW, January 17 (RIA Novosti) – The head of the republic of Chechnya claimed Thursday to have new evidence that the country’s most notorious Islamist militant is dead, just as Russia braces to host the Winter Olympics amid heightened security in the nearby resort of Sochi.
It is not the first time Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has proclaimed the death of Doku Umarov, who is classified as a terrorist by both Russia and the United States.
“According to our information, Umarov is dead and we are looking for his body,” Kadyrov said late Thursday, according to a report on Russia’s NTV television channel.
It is unclear from Kadyrov's statements in what circumstances Umarov is purported to have died.
Writing later on social media site Instagram, Kadyrov said that intercepts of a recent conversation between senior North Caucasus militants included a discussion of Umarov’s death and disagreements over his replacement.
Russia has been plagued by security concerns in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, with a double suicide bombing in the southern Russian city of Volgograd last month highlighting the risks.
Sochi is several hundred kilometers from the North Caucasus, which has been wracked by an Islamist-inspired insurgency for more than a decade.
In an address to his followers in July 2013, Umarov called for the Olympics to be attacked.
The majority of the high-profile militant leaders in the volatile North Caucasus have been killed in recent years, but Umarov has consistently resurfaced after erroneous reports of his demise.
Sources within the security services said Thursday that there was no confirmation that Umarov was dead, according to Russian media reports.
Umarov has claimed responsibility for a number of Russia’s worst terrorist attacks in recent years, including the 2011 bombing of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport and 2010 attacks on the capital’s metro system.