Back in the early 1990s, Chechnya and neighboring Dagestan became a stronghold in the Caucasus region for the radical stream of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism. Mosques and madrasas were opened; training camps for young combatants were established to prepare them for the “jihad against the infidels.” Until this day, the teachings of Said Buryatsky, a charismatic, Wahhabist radical, are among the most downloaded files in Chechnya.
This radical Islamist movement was founded in the Arabian Peninsula and adopted by tribes that founded a kingdom in the 18th century that later became Saudi Arabia. This puritan, aggressive movement is considered by orthodox Muslims as heretic. Many approached it with suspicion and rejected it, but the situation changed once the “black gold” began to flow from Saudi Arabia’s soil. Thus the Wahhabists gained their much-wanted recognition, and began to send money to religious institutions around the world, including in Chechnya and Dagestan.
In addition to the money that began to emanate from Saudi Arabia in the late 1980s, “preachers” began to travel the world as well. Scholars, religious figures, and jihadist combatants trained in battles against the Soviets began to spread. One of them was Ibn al-Khattab, the well-known military commander of Saudi-Jordanian descent, who was killed by Russian forces in March 2002.
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