Friday, March 9, 2012

Shamil Basayev

Shamil Salmanovich Basayev (Russian: Шамиль Салманович Басаев; January 14, 1965 – July 10, 2006) was a Chechen militant Islamist and a leader of the Chechen rebel movement.

Starting as a field commander in the Transcaucasus, Basayev led guerrilla campaigns against Russian forces for years, as well as launching mass-hostage takings of civilians, with his goal being the withdrawal of Russian soldiers from Chechnya. Beginning in 2003, Basayev used the nom de guerre and title of Emir Abdallah Shamil Abu-Idris. In 1997–1998 he also served as vice-Prime minister of Chechnya in Maskhadov's government.

Basayev was considered by some to be the undisputed leader of the radical wing of the Chechen insurgency. He was responsible for numerous guerrilla attacks on security forces in and around Chechnya as well as terrorist attacks on civilians, most notoriously the attack on a school in Beslan, located in North Ossetia, which led to the deaths of more than 385 people, most of them children and the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis. ABC News described him as "one of the most-wanted terrorists in the world".

Basayev was killed by an explosion on July 10, 2006. Controversy still surrounds who is responsible for his death, with Russians claiming he was killed in an assassination by the FSB, Chechens claiming he died in an accidental explosion, and other sources claiming a rival insurgent group killed him.

Early Life
Shamil Basayev was born in the village of Dyshne-Vedeno, near Vedeno, in south-eastern Chechnya to Chechen parents from the Benoy teip. According to Gennady Troshev, he has some distant Russian ancestry. He was named after Imam Shamil, the third imam of Dagestan and Chechnya and the last leader of anti-Russian Avar-Chechen forces in the Caucasian War.

His family is said to have had a long history of involvement in Chechen resistance to Russian rule. His grandfather fought for the abortive attempt to create a breakaway North Caucasian Emirate after the Russian Revolution. The Basayevs, along with most of the rest of the Chechen population, had been deported to Kazakhstan during World War II on the orders of the NKVD leader Lavrenti Beria as a means of cutting off support to the 1940-1944 Chechnya insurgency. They were only allowed to return when the deportation order was lifted by Nikita Khrushchev in 1957.

Basayev, an avid football player, graduated from school in Dyshne-Vedeno in 1982, aged 17, and spent the next two years in the Soviet military serving as a firefighter (Chechens were usually kept away from the combat units[citation needed]). For the next four years, he worked at the Aksaiisky state farm in the Volgograd region of southern Russia before moving to Moscow.

He reportedly attempted to enroll in the law school of the Moscow State University but failed, and instead entered the Moscow Engineering Institute of Land Management in 1987. However, he was expelled for poor grades in 1988. He subsequently worked as a computer salesman in Moscow, in partnership with a local Chechen businessman, Supyan Taramov. Ironically, the two men ended up on opposite sides in the Chechen wars, during which Taramov sponsored a pro-Russian Chechen militia (Sobaka magazine's dossier on Basayev reported that Taramov apparently equipped or "outfitted" this group of pro-Russian Chechens; they were also known as "Shamil Hunters"). In later interviews, Taramov would claim he hired Basayev as a favor for a family friend, and that the latter was an ineffectual worker who would spend whole nights playing video games, sleep during the day, and had an obsession with Che Guevara.

Basayev's early militant activities
When some hardline members of Soviet government attempted to stage a coup d'état in August 1991, Basayev allegedly joined supporters of Russian President Boris Yeltsin on the barricades around the Russian White House in central Moscow, armed with hand grenades.

A few months later, in November 1991, the Chechen nationalist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev unilaterally declared independence from the newly-formed Russian Federation. In response, Yeltsin announced a state of emergency and dispatched troops to the border of Chechnya. It was then that Basayev began his long and notorious career as an insurgent — seeking to draw international attention to the crisis. Basayev, Lom-Ali Chachayev, and the group's leader, Said-Ali Satuyev, a former airline pilot suffering from schizophrenia[citation needed], hijacked an Aeroflot Tu-154 plane, en route from Mineralnye Vody in Russia to Ankara on November 9, 1991, and threatened to blow up the aircraft unless the state of emergency was lifted. The hijacking was resolved peacefully in Turkey, with the plane and passengers being allowed to return safely and the hijackers given safe passage back to Chechnya.

Basayev and several hundred other Chechens have been accused of training in Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Rohan Gunaratna, has made allegations that Basayev, along other leading militants such as Ibn Al-Khattab and Walid have all had close relations with Osama bin Laden, and they have, in turn, set up terrorist camps in Chechnya. Rohan has still yet failed to put forward any concrete evidence in support of these claims, and has been in the past questioned over his linking multiple persons to Al-Qaeda without having any real expertise in the topic.

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
According to some sources, Basayev moved to Azerbaijan in 1992, where he aided Azerbaijani forces in their unsuccessful war against Armenian fighters in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. He was said to have led a battalion-strength Chechen contingent. According to Azeri Colonel Azer Rustamov, in 1992, "hundreds of Chechen volunteers rendered us invaluable help in these battles led by Shamil Basayev and Salman Raduyev". Basayev was said to be one of the last fighters to leave Shusha (see Capture of Shusha). Basayev later said during his career, he and his battalion had only lost once, and that defeat came in Karabakh in fighting against the "Dashnak battalion". He later said he pulled his mujahideen out of the conflict when the war seemed to be more for nationalism than for jihad. During the conflict, Basayev was first introduced to the pan-Islamic revolutionary Ibn al-Khattab.

Georgian-Abkhaz conflict
Later in 1992, Basayev traveled to Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, to assist the local separatist movement against the Georgian government's attempts to regain control of the region—a conflict in which, ultimately, a minority of 93,000 Abkhaz were successful in ethnically purging a majority of Georgians (numbering some 250,000) from the region. Basayev became the commander-in-chief of the forces of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus (a volunteer unit of pan-Caucasian nationalists, composed mainly of Chechens and other Muslim people from the Caucuses). Their involvement was crucial in the Abkhazian war and in October 1993 the Georgian government suffered a decisive military defeat, after which most of the ethnic Georgian population of the region was driven out by ethnic cleansing.

It was rumored that the volunteers were trained and supplied by some part of the Russian army's GRU military intelligence service. According to The Independent journalist Patrick Cockburn, "cooperation between Mr Basayev and the Russian army is not so surprising as it sounds. "In 1992–93 he is widely believed to have received assistance from the GRU when he and his brother Shirvani fought in Abkhazia, a breakaway part of Georgia". No specific evidence was given.

The Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported that Basayev was an agent of GRU, and another publication by journalist Boris Kagarlitsky said that "It is maintained, for example that Shamil Basayev and his brother Shirvani are long-standing GRU agents, and that all their activities were agreed, not with the radical Islamists, but with the generals sitting in the military intelligence offices. All the details of the attack by Basayev's detachments were supposedly worked out in the summer of 1999 in a villa in the South of France with the participation of Basayev and the Head of the Presidential administration, Aleksandr Voloshin. Furthermore, it is alleged that the explosive materials used were not supplied from secret bases in Chechnya but from GRU stockpiles near Moscow." The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta stated that the Basayev brothers "both recruited as agents by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU) in 1991-2." The Russian newspaper Versiya published the GRU file on Basayev and his brother, which revealed that "both Chechen terrorists were named as regualr agents of the military intelligence organization."

Russian special forces had joined with the Chechens under Basayev to attack Georgia. A GRU agent, Anton Surikov, had extensive connections with Basayev. Russian military intelligence had ordered Basayev to support the Abkhaz.

Basayev received direct military training from the GRU since the Abkhaz were backed by Russia. Other Chechens also were trained by the GRU in warfare, many of these Chechens who fought for the Russians in Abkhazia against Georgia had fought for Azerbaijan against Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

The Russians allowed Basayev to travel between Russia and Sukhumi to battle the Georgians.

After Abkhazia
Few authoritative accounts of Basayev's life after Abkhazia exist. Some sources claim that after Abkhazia, Basayev moved to Chechnya and became a successful entrepreneur in the Chechen mafia, organizing train-car theft and drug dealing networks. Pro-Chechen[citation needed] sources claim that such allegations about Basayev's criminal activity were disseminated by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) and were untrue. According to Basayev himself, millions of dollars were donated to him by unnamed foreign businessmen from the Chechen diaspora.

In July 2006, Basayev was killed in the village of Ekazhevo, Ingushetia, a republic bordering Chechnya.

According to the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor of Ingushetia, a group of three cars and two KAMAZ trucks (one pulling the other by a rope) gathered at the spot of an unfinished estate on the outskirts of the village in the early morning hours of 10 July. According to a handful of witnesses, men in black uniforms came in and out from the wooded area adjacent to the estate that runs to the border of North Ossetia; the men were carrying boxes, shifting them from one vehicle to another, when a massive explosion resulted.

It is believed that the partially completed estate, which contained empty new buildings, was being used as an insurgent reception and distribution point for large quantities of weapons purchased from abroad. It is also believed that the most “anticipated” part of the incoming shipment was located in the KAMAZ trucks, but because one of them broke down the weaponry had to quickly be transferred into the cars.

Basayev is assumed to have been the main recipient of the arms, and thus in charge of distributing them. With the back tailgate of one of the trucks open, Basayev allegedly asked that a mine be placed on the ground for inspection, at which point it exploded. A South Ossetian forensic specialist who examined Basayev’s remains stated that, “The man…died of mine-blast injuries. The explosive device was quite powerful…and the victim was in close proximity to the epicenter. Most likely, the bomb lay on the ground, and the victim was bending over it.”

According to explosives experts, Basayev was most likely a victim of careless handling of the mine, but it is also not out of the question that the FSB could have been involved - as they would claim in the aftermath of the detonation. This could have happened if the shipment of weapons was seized and the smugglers detained; in forcing the captured smugglers to cooperate, an ordinary-looking anti-personnel mine rigged with an extra-sensitive fuse or radio-controlled detonator could have been inserted amongst the cargo. The device almost certainly would have caused suspicion when discovered in the shipment, which might explain why Basayev stopped to inspect it, at that point triggering the explosion. It was also not ruled out that an unknown FSB operative set off the blast by remote control, but in the event that this was indeed the case, it almost assuredly would not have been a “targeted” killing, as identifying Basayev in the dark – even with the aid of night-vision goggles – would have been exceedingly difficult. Thus, experts have concluded that if it was a remote-controlled blast, it was intended to eliminate the weapons shipment and whoever the recipients were, rather than specifically Basayev.

At the epicenter of the blast was recovered Basayev’s upper-torso, while smaller pieces of his remains were scattered over the distance of a mile. Included among the smaller pieces was Basayev’s prosthetic lower right leg, which would lead FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev to confidently assert that Basayev was dead even before positive idenitification.

Russian officials stated that the explosion was the result of a special targeted killing operation. According to the official version of Basayev's death, the FSB, following him with a drone, spotted his car approach a truck laden with explosives that the FSB had prepared, and by remote control triggered a detonator that the FSB had hidden in the explosives.

Interfax, quoting Ingush Deputy Prime Minister Bashir Aushev, reported that the explosion was a result of a truck bomb detonated next to the convoy by Russian agents. According to Russian Newsweek edition, Basayev's death was a result of an FSB operation, whose primary aim was to prevent a planned terrorist attack in the days before the G8 summit in St Petersburg. The Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said: "He is a notorious terrorist, and we have very clearly and publicly announced what is going to happen to notorious terrorists who commit heinous crimes of the type Mr. Basayev has been involved in."

On December 29, 2006, forensic experts positively identified Basayev's remains. On October 6, 2007, Basayev was promoted to the rank of Generalissimo post mortem by Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov.

Personal life
Basayev had four wives, a Chechen woman who was killed in the 1990s, an Abkhaz woman he met while fighting as a mercenary leader against Georgia and a Cossack he was said to have married on Valentine’s Day, 2005. A fourth secret wife, Elina Ersenoyeva, was apparently forced to marry Basayev, and subsequently hid the identity of her husband from her friends and family. Following revelations about the marriage, Elina was abducted and killed, allegedly by the Kadyrovtsy (pro-Kremlin Chechen forces).

Book of a Mujahideen
Basayev wrote a book after the First Chechen War, Book of a Mujahideen. According to the introduction, in March 2003 Basayev obtained a copy of The Manual of the Warrior of Light by Paulo Coelho. He wanted to draw benefits to the Mujahideen from this book and decided to "rewrite most of it, remove some excesses and strengthen all of it with verses (ayats), hadiths and stories from the lives of the disciples." Some sections are specifically about ambush tactics, etc.

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