Less hope for peace in Dagestan after the murder of a moderate religious leader.
Sufi Sheikh Said Afandi assassinated:
After the suicide attack on Sufi Sheikh Said Afandi, which took place in the village of Tschirkei on Tuesday, hope for an end to the bloodshed in Dagestan fades. The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) fears that a pacification of the radical Islamic groups will now hardly be possible. "We must assume that the radical underground movement of Dagestan – which is influenced by the Salafists – has now changed its strategy and will also try to attack religious groups, not only members of the security forces or the government," said the STP's expert on questions regarding the CIS, Sarah Reinke, in Berlin on Wednesday. "The moderate Sufi reject armed confrontations and are mainly responsible for attempts towards a dialogue between the different Muslim faiths. The only hope left is that all the moderate groups might try to work togehter to find a long-term political solution for Dagestan, despite the massive violence."
On August 28, Said Afandi was killed by a female suicide bomber in his home in Tschirkei. Seven more people died by the force of the explosion.
Said Afandi's activities were very influential on the religious climate in Dagestan. The Sheikh was a highly respected spiritual leader for the Muslims of northern Caucasus. Despite his non-political orientation as a Sufi, his authority stretched far beyond religious issues – and his work was of great importance for the spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of Dagestan (DUMD). Many Dagestani leaders regard themselves as his disciples. As a preacher, he had many supporters who identified with a more traditional moderate Sufi Islam. It is hard to estimate the exact number of his students in the northern Caucasus region, in Russia and abroad – but there are most probably tens of thousands. His house was open for all people of faith – a fact that the assassin could benefit from. According to estimates, tens of thousands of people came to attend his funeral, which took place on Tuesday night.
The assassination that took place on Tuesday was not the first attempt to kill the Sheikh. In 2008, security forces had already prevented an attack. More and more often, well-known religious leaders in Dagestan become assassinated. In 2011, Said Afandi's successor and the dean of the Islamic University were shot. In the last few months, there was a wave of attacks on imams and on a Shiite mosque.