Russia’s Islamist Rebel Leader Orders Halt to Attacks

Posted February 3rd, 2012 at 12:50 pm (UTC-5)
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The leader of Russia's Islamist rebels has ordered a halt to attacks on civilians, saying mass opposition protests show the public is no longer supporting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

In a video posted on a rebel-affiliated website Friday, Doku Umarov said he is urging all groups that are carrying out special operations in Russia to stop attacks that could hurt the “peaceful population.”

But Umarov said his militants should continue attacking security and government targets.

The video shows Umarov dressed in fatigues and flanked by two comrades in a snow-covered forest.

Umarov made his remarks a day before a mass opposition rally is to take place in Moscow against Mr. Putin's rule. About 50,000 people are expected to attend.

The rally will follow mass protests in December against parliamentary polls that the opposition claimed were rigged.

Mr. Putin is standing for a third term in Russia's March 4 presidential election. If re-elected, the 59-year-old leader could serve two more six-year terms and remain in power until 2024.

Umarov's Caucasus Emirate group has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly attacks in Russia in recent years, including an airport bombing last year and suicide blasts in the Moscow subway system in 2010.

The group has been seeking to impose an Islamist state throughout Russia's mainly Muslim Northern Caucasus region and has been waging a deadly insurgency against Russia's security forces.