During the late 1990s, after Chechnya's first war against Russia, Movladi Udugov's status as war hero enabled him to take the post of the breakaway Republic's Security Minister. Between 2006 and 2007, following the death of his predecessor Sheikh Abdul Halim, Umarov became the underground President of Ichkeria of the unrecognized government of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, the post that Umarov eventually abolished himself when he renounced and abandoned Chechen nationalism in favour of regional pan-Islamism and jihadist ideology. The political mantle of Chechen nationalist separatism was formally taken over by the self-exiled Akhmed Zakayev, Umarov's former wartime comrade and friend turned political rival. Having quit the position of Chechen separatist leader, Umarov subsequently became the self-proclaimed Emir of the entire North Caucasus region of Russia, declaring it a putative Islamic state of the Caucasus Emirate. In 2010, Umarov abortively resigned from the position and appointed Aslambek Vadalov as the new Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, but soon afterwards issued a statement annulling the previous declaration and stating he would remain in his position and rebel Sharia court ruled in favour of Umarov over the rift, following which most other Russian rebel leaders re-swore allegiance to him.
For years, Umarov had been the top terrorist leader in Russia. He had taken responsibility for several attacks on civilian targets since 2009, including the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings and the 2011 Domodedovo International Airport bombing. In 2012, Umarov ordered his followers to halt attacks on the civilian population of Russia, while leaving military and security personnel as legitimate targets. In July 2013, however, he announced the end of this moratorium and calling on Islamic insurgents in the Caucasus and beyond to forcibly prevent the holding of the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Umarov was internationally wanted by the government of Russia and United States. In 2011, the United Nations Security Council's Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee added Umarov to the list of individuals allegedly associated with al-Qaeda and Taliban.
On 18 March 2014, Umarov's death was reported by the Caucasus Emirate-associated Islamist website Kavkaz Center, which offered no details but did say his death was confirmed by the Command of the Caucasus Emirate. He was announced to be replaced by the Caucasus Emirate's senior Sharia judge Ali Abu Mukhammad, who then officially confirmed the death of Umarov in a video posted on YouTube. Previously, Umarov had been reported killed or captured by Russian forces on numerous occasions, but all these reports later turned out to be incorrect. According to a report posted on Kavkaz Center, Umarov was poisoned on 6 August 2013 and died at dawn on 7 September 2013. On 25 September 2017, Russian media reported that the body of Umarov had possibly been found in a remote mountainous area in Ingushetia.
Doku Umarov was born in April 1964 in the small village of Kharsenoi (Kharsenoy) in the southern Shatoysky District region of the Chechen–Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, into what he described as an intelligentsia family belonging the Malkoy teip (the same clan as the warlord Arbi Barayev and Chechnya's former foreign minister Ilyas Akhmadov). According to some sources, Umarov might have been convicted during his teenage years between 1980 and 1982 for either hooliganism, negligent homicide, or manslaughter. Umarov studied at the Oil Institute in Grozny, graduating with a degree in construction engineering. He later left the republic for the other parts of the Soviet Union and was reportedly working in the construction in Moscow when the First Chechen War began in December 1994. There were also reports that he was engaged in "semi-criminal activities" in Tyumen Oblast.
Dokka Umarov was married, and believed to have six children, the youngest of whom was born in 2006. Two of Umarov's brothers, Isa and Musa, have been killed in combat. Since 2003, several of Umarov's relatives, including all of his immediate family, have been kidnapped by "unidentified armed men"; some were promptly released, but the others have disappeared and may be dead.