|Doku Umarov made his announcement on YouTube.|
MOSCOW — The leader of Islamists waging an insurgency in Chechnya and neighboring Russian provinces says in a video posted on YouTube that he is resigning after years of attacks, including a Moscow subway bombing that killed 40 people.
A man recognizable as Doku Umarov says in the grainy footage posted late Sunday that he is handing over command of the group of fighters known as the Caucasus Emirate, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in the region. Analysts say the group maintains links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist groups.
The video was posted by a user whose account identifies him or her as a 28-year-old Georgian. The user also posted several video addresses by regional field commanders. No other information about the video was available.
The bearded 46-year-old appeared frail in the video showing him and two other fighters sitting in a wooded area.
“Today I am leaving my post, but it does not mean that I am leaving jihad,’’ he said. “As an old veteran, I will be doing my best to help with words and deeds.’’
The Kremlin-backed government of Chechnya has said that Umarov was seriously wounded in June 2009 and nearly died in July after a federal intelligence agent poisoned his food.
President Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya said yesterday that Umarov had stepped down because of deteriorating health but that security forces were still hunting him. Rights advocates have accused Kadyrov of extrajudicial killings, torture, and other abuses in Chechnya.
Czarist Russia conquered the mountainous and multiethnic Northern Caucasus region by the late 19th century. After the Soviet collapse, the region was beset by violence stoked by poverty, corruption, Islamist extremism, and feuding gangs.
Umarov joined Chechnya’s separatists in 1992 as dozens of jihadists from Arab countries and other parts of the Muslim world flooded into the region of some 7 million people. Chechen militants fought two wars against Russian forces, and many trained in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Umarov led several hundred insurgents and masterminded several terrorist attacks and raids outside Chechnya. He declared himself the emir, or military leader, of the Caucasus Emirate in 2006, but Moscow and the Kremlin-backed Chechen authorities had gained control over most of the province.