In May 2016, Al-Hayat Media Center of the Islamic State released a new issue of Russian magazine “Istok”, which contains an article about so-called Russian secret service spy, Elvira R. Karaeva. Despite the silence of government officials, who refrain from commenting on this situation, it is highly unlikely that Elvira used to be a spy.
However, given the fact that she previously cooperated with federal investigators (at least, in one criminal case), some ISIS fighters from Kabardino-Balkaria could recognize Elvira and accuse her of spying. As a result, the Islamic State commanders decided to execute her, making an example for other members.
She was born in 1988 in a small town called Cherkessk, in the Kabardino-Cherkess republic (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, April 24, 2013). In the North Caucasus, being a militant’s wife, Elvira was involved in the illegal activities of local extremist organizations, long before her trip to Islamic State held-territories. By 2012, she had a criminal record as a member of a local extremist organization (Gazeta Yuga, March 15, 2012). Elvira was noticed again by the Russian security agency in March 2012 during a counterterrorist operation in Kabardino-Balkaria. The authorities received information about a suspicious group of people residing in a private house in a small village called Mir, in the Chegem district (Gazeta Yuga, March 15, 2012). Following the report, police officers began to check the documents of all residents of this village. This group’s house was not surrounded and residents of nearby houses were not evacuated. The authorities underestimated the situation: militants had machine guns and opened fire on police (Gazeta Yuga, March 15, 2012). The operation resulted in the deaths of the militants. According to the information center of the National Antiterrorism Committee (NAC), five militants including one woman, were killed by Russian special forces (TASS, March 12, 2012). Trying to escape with two children, Elvira was captured by police officers not far from the place of the incident (Gazeta Yuga, March 15, 2012). Obviously, active cooperation during the investigation helped her to avoid severe punishment. However, since 2013, she was on a federal terrorist watchlist (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, April 24, 2013).
Later, her name appeared again in police reports. In 2014, the FSB indicted Elvira Karaeva and 3 other women (S. Halikova (Dagestan), P. Atemaskina (Sakhalin), and E. Arshahova (Tatarstan)) for terrorist financing and sending money to ISIS (Svoboda, April 4, 2016). They worked under the supervision of militant’s widow, Daria Izankova (Murmansk), who moved to Syria with a new husband in December 2013 (Kommersant, November 6, 2015). The women were arrested in December 2014 and later, were transferred to a Moscow detention facility for trial (Kommersant, November 6, 2015). At that time, Elvira lived in Makhachkala, Dagestan and worked together with P. Atemaskina and E. Arshahova in a local market selling children’s clothes. However, there is no official information about the arrest or interrogation of Elvira Karaeva whatsoever. As the Russian News Portal, “Meduza”, underlined there was an absence of any information about a development in this criminal investigation against this woman (Meduza, December 29, 2015).
As many other people at-risk, the authorities monitored Elvira. Apparently, this monitoring was not good enough because after the arrest of Saida Halikova in December 2014, Elvira undertook a trip to Syria. So by the moment when investigators figured out about her involvement in terrorist financing (approximately between December 2014 – May 2015), Kareva was out of their reach.
According to the “Istok” article, Elvira was directly involved in the murder of a field commander, Emir of Ichkeria, B. Gochiaev, several militants and a female, who was trained to be a suicide bomber, on December 7, 2011 in Kabardino-Balkaria. However, these people were killed by the explosion of their own bomb, which accidentally detonated. At that moment, the militants were in a car and tried to escape from the police. Also, she allegedly helped to kill a leader of a local gang, Saad or Artur Amriev (born in 1988), who was shot by police officers in the Sunjensky region of Ingushetia on November 19, 2011 (Komsomolskaya Pravda, November 11, 2011).
To summarize, Elvira Karaeva hardly can be called a Russian spy. She cooperated with police investigators and disclosed some important information in order to avoid imprisonment as almost every suspect does. Her entire life was connected to various extremist groups and criminal gangs in the North Caucasus. Trying to escape arrest for terrorist financing, this woman fled to Syria, maybe alone or with a new husband and her child. ISIS’s accusations are most likely baseless. However, she was brutally interrogated and later, executed by Islamic State militants. The story presented in the last issue “Istok” magazine was made up by the Islamic State in order to intimidate enemies and provide an example for its members.