ISIS Tells Muslims to Kidnap and Murder Christians in Russian-Occupied Areas

The Islamic State has urged its followers to kidnap and murder Christians in “Russian-occupied Muslim areas,” according to a letter published by an intelligence group that monitors the terrorist organization’s online communications.

Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan are all Muslim-majority republics in Russia. ISIS says Russian rule there is an occupation.

The letter, titled “Strike Their Necks and Strike Each One of Their Sons,” claims that Russia has intentionally occupied Muslim-majority areas in the Caucasus and Central Asia to convert Muslims to Christianity or forcibly displace them. SITE Intelligence Group published the document Thursday. 

Five women were killed when a man fired at a church in Dagestan on Monday. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack, although the group often claims responsibility for terror attacks even when there is no evidence.

In its letter released Thursday, ISIS cited the church attack in Dagestan as an example of what its followers should do. The killer, who the ISIS letter describes as an “extraordinary mujtahid,” used a hunting rifle to kill people attending the Russian pre-Lent festival Maslenitsa. The man reportedly donned a beard and yelled, “Allahu akbar.”

“Allah permitting, this will be the spark for more bloody attacks that will destroy a larger number of the Christian combatants in all the Russian-occupied Muslim areas,” the letter reads. “Many of them will be killed as a punishment for their disbelief in Allah the Great, and it will plant fear and horror inside the hearts of hundreds of thousands of their brothers and make them flee with fear.”

The letter also calls for Muslims to kidnap and kill Christians living in Russia, and to use extortion.

“Let every Muslim know that the blood of those combatant Christians and their money is permissible and that taking any of them as hostages for ransom or to swap with a Muslim prisoner is also permissible. So let the good deed be for everybody,” the letter reads.

Russia rules a handful of Muslim-majority republics in addition to Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. The former Soviet Union, governed from Moscow, also included areas that today are independent Muslim-majority countries, such as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, among others. This history is mentioned in the ISIS letter as an example of Russia's “crusade” against Muslims. 

Russia is currently fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose troops have fought against the Islamic State. Human rights groups have accused Russia of killing thousands of civilians in Syria with airstrikes. The letter from ISIS did not mention Russia’s activities in Syria.