Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Basayev - IV

From, a long article which suggests that the focus of the investigation into the recent terrorist actions in Russia may be shifting away from Basayev. My quick translation:

Karachai Trace in Moscow Terrorist Acts

New information has appeared in the investigation into the bombings of the two aircraft and the one outside the “Rizhskaya” metro. A highly placed official has produced a version which states that these acts of sabotage were organized by members of the Karachai jamaat – a group calling itself “Muslim Association No. 3”. According to the investigation, the group is led by Achemez Gochiyayev – a terrorist who is directly connected with the Moscow apartment bombings of 1999. Thus, suspicion is being moved from Chechen terrorist No. 1 Shamil Basayev to bombers from Karachai. What lies behind this?

Moscow’s deputy public prosecutor Vladimir Yudin, appearing on television on 26 September 2004, declared that the terrorist Roza Nagayeva, who blew herself up outside the Rizhskaya metro station on 31 August 2004, had an accomplice – a resident of Karachai-Cherkesia named Nikolai Kitkeyev. According to the information presented by Yudin, Kitkeyev has two previous convictions: since 2001 he has been under investigation by the MVD of the Republic of Karachai-Cherkesia and Stavropol Region for his part in illegal armed formations, an attempt on the life of a militiaman, and possession of firearms.

The identity of the deceased Kitkeyev was discovered during the investigation. The body of one of the men who died outside the metro station, Nikolai Samygin, was not claimed by anyone. Having checked Samygin’s identity, the investigators established that Samygin and Kiteyev were the same person.

In the opinion of the investigators, Kitkeyev’s fate was to some extent accidental. He was a controller, whose function was to see that the terrorist act was carried out. But he became one of the victims of Nagayeva’s bomb.

The most interesting thing about this information is another factor: according to Yudin, Kitkeyev is a native of Karachai. And SMI reports have already given a version implicating Kitkeyev with the Karachai jamaat, the terrorist group calling itself “Muslim Association No. 3”. The head of the Association is Achemez Gochiyayev, According to the investigators, it is Gochiyayev who is behind a whole series of terrorist actions, including the apartment bombings on Kashirskoye Shosse and Ulitsa Guryanova in September 1999, the Moscow metro bombing of 6 February 2004, the bombing of two aircraft in August 2004, the bombings at the Kashirskoye Shosse bus stop and the terrorist act outside the “Rizhskaya” metro station.

The Karachai jamaat, which according to experts mainly specializes in sabotage and bombing, owes its origins the Wahhabite underground in Karachai-Cherkesia. The founder and leader of the jamaat is considered to be Ramazan Borlakov, the subject of a federal investigation. According to intelligence information, he is still in Chechnya. As the imam of one of the local mosques, in the mid-1990s Borlakov visited a number of Arab countries, where he found sponsors for the opening of a madras in the village of Uchkeken.

The teachers in this educational establishment were Arabs who preached to the local Muslim youth, instructing them in the correct interpretation of Islam, and also in correct observation of prayer and ritual. Parallel with the interpretation of Islam, Borlakov preached that Muslims in Russia were being oppressed, that it was necessary to live by Sharia law, not worldly law, that the Muslim spiritual authorities in Russia were a rotten and corrupt structure. Gradually this theoretical teaching began to move towards practical instruction.

With Borlakov’s help, new mosques began to be built in Karachai-Cherkesia, and Wahhabite ideology began to spread through the agency of the imams. The local youth, which had undergone ideological training, was sent for further training as fighters to training camps near Urus-Martan and Serzhen-Yurt. In the view of the FSB, it was from these fighters that the so-called ‘Karachai Battalion” was formed, which in August-September 1999 took part in military actions in the Tsumadin, Botlikh and Novolak regions of Dagestan, together with Basayev’s fighters. Moreover, Borlakov is considered to be Achemez Gochiyavev’s teacher and mentor.

Gochiyayev was first mentioned in the course of the investigation of the explosions in Moscow in 1999. According to information in the hands of the special services, in early 1999 the Jordanian Khattab allocated 2 million dollars to the Karachai jamaat, for the execution of terrorist acts in Russia. At the same time the Karachai jamaat saw the “lighting-up” of Gochiyayev’s associates Adam Dekkushev and Yusuf Krymshamkhalov. In Chechnya, a few months after the financial injection from Khattab, Dekkushev and Kryshamkhalov acquired several tons of explosive, packed in sugar sacks. Gochiyayev and his assistant Denis Saytakov took 6 tons of this explosive to Moscow. As a result of the two Moscow terrorist acts, 218 people were killed.

Dekkushev and Krymshamkhalov were not found at once. The first to be investigated were Muratbi Bayramukov, Aslan and Murat Bastanov, Muratbi Tuganbayev and Taykan Franzusov – this was in July 2001. The investigation was unable to prove their complicity in the apartment bombings. Charges were filed under other articles: participation in illegal armed formations, planning of terrorist acts, manufacture of explosives and carrying of firearms. They were all given lengthy prison sentences.

In Georgia in July 2002, in the village of Daba-Ureki, Adam Dekkushev was arrested by the local special services. Later he was transferred to the Russian law-enforcement agencies. In Georgia in December 2002 , in the Lagodekh region, Yusuf Krymshamkhalov was arrested. He was also transferred to Russia. .All the episodes of the terrorist activity of these two men have been proven. In January 2004 Adam Dekkushev amd Yusuf Krymshamkhalov were sentenced by Moscow City Court (Mosgorsud) to life imprisonment. As of this time, Achemez Gochiyayev has still not been caught and according to some sources is said to be hiding in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge region.

It should be noted, however, that Gochiyayev categorically denies his participation in the terrorist acts. In 2003 the Russian SMI pulished a letter from him (written in the spring of 2002), in which he asserts that he had nothing to do with the Moscow blasts, and that everything that had happened was a provocation of the FSB. The value of this statement is doubtful, especially since according to the most recent reports of the law enforcement agencies, Gochiyayev was indirectly involved in the seizure of the hostages at Beslan. The Russian special services say that the leaders and coordinators of the Beslan terrorist act were located outside the Russian Federation, and that one of them could very well be Gochiyayev.

The Origins of the Karachai Trace

What lies behind the Karachai version of the investigation? As usual, there are more questions than answers. Strictly speaking, investigative measures are conducted by the executive-investigative group of the public prosecutor’s office of the city of Moscow. Routine executive measures are conducted by officials of the FSB. It is for this reason, according to the SMI reports, that the FSB officials are not happy with the fact that the information about the Karachai trace came from the public prosecutor’s mouth – by openly endorsing the Karachai version, the public prosecutor’s office frightened off the clients of the terrorist act and confused the FSB’s executive plans in this regard.

If this is so, it means that the investigation of the series of terrorist acts in Moscow is suffering from lack of co-ordination. While the FSB is striving to keep the Karachai trace version a secret, a prominent figure in the public prosecutor’s hierarchy is trumpeting this version to the whole of Russia. Why did Yudin need to do this? To demonstrate that he was in the know, and reassure public opinion with information that the investigation was proceeding at full tilt and had already achieved definite results? To draw the attention of Russians to a new problem – that the “blame” for spreading terrorism lay not with Chechnya, but also with Karachai-Cherkesia?

In addition, the official authorities have until now confidently named Shamil Basayev as the organizer of the recent terrorist acts. The representative of the executive staff in control of the counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus, Ilya Shabalkin, stated after the terrorist acts that the joint participation of Maskhadov and Basayev in the preparation of the explosions, the destruction of the aircraft and the attack on Beslan as a foregone conclusion simply because it was to both their advantage to carry out terrorist acts in Russia. Now it turns out that the authorities have a new version.

Why Karachayans, in particular? In whose interest is it to trumpet the Karachai version in the case of the recent terrorist acts? Until now, as a region, Karachai-Cherkesia has been perceived by the public consciousness as relatively stable compared to Chechnya. It turns out that events there are developing according to the well-known saying about still waters.

Yes, Basayev took responsibility for the terrorist acts. Nothing unusual there, really – Basayev, who long ago turned into a bogeyman, is ready to ascribe to himself practically every new terrorist act in Russia. In the last analysis, notoriety in the terrorist business can bring palpable dividends. But whether Basayev is really connected to the explosions at the metro station and in the air above Tula and Rostov, can only be ascertained if the leader of the fighters himself is seized, together with his archive. Meanwhile, Basayev has been sought since the days of the First Chechen War, and can still not be caught, even though Chechnya is literally stuffed with units and sub-units of the special forces.

Is Basayev connected to the Karachayans? To a certain extent, yes. Even before the Moscow explosions his name was sometimes mentioned together with that of Achemez Gochiyayev, and the two elite terrorists probably entered into communication with each other at some point or other. But it is impossible to prove or disprove a connection between the two fighters – the information that Basayev is Gochiyayev’s co-ordinator is now and then heard from the mouths of officials, but there is so far to confirmation of this. While reports from the other side of the case are riddled with contradictions.

In general, the involvement of Karachayans in various terrorist acts has manifested itself several times. In addition to the Moscow bombings of 1999, information in the hands of the special services shows that the Karachai Wahhabite communes were connected to the bombings in Karachai-Cherkesia itself in March 2001 and on the railway in the Kaminvod region in December 2003. But the roots of this bombing activity are in the Wahhabite underground that was created on the republic’s territory in the 1990s.

In 2001 the Procurator General of the Russian Federation Vladimir Ustinov, said in Cherkessk that his department had information about people who were making practical preparations for a revolt in Karachai-Cherkesia and Kabardino-Balkaria. At that time, the authorities in both republics both refuted this information. None the less, after a series of arrests, in Pyatigorsk in 2002 a trial took place ay which arrested conspirators were given varying terms of imprisonment.

It is worth noting that in Nalchik and Cherkessk officials continue to deny the presence of a Wahhabite underground in the republics. Meanwhile, according to the local inhabitants, the Wahhabites feel they have nothing to fear in Karachai-Cherkesia, while in Moscow no one even wants to give this any attention.
Now, with the emergence of the Karachai trace in a series of large-scale terrorist acts, there arises a conclusion that is not very pleasant for the authorities: it turns out that there is, working in Russia, a powerful underground organization the aim of which is to split the country, with terrorism as its principal method. It turns out that Chechen terrorists receive their support not from “Al Qaeda” or the world international of radical Islamists, but from a ramified underground network within Russia. And during recent last years this network has not been destroyed or weakened, and consequently the problem of terrorism has not only not been resolved, but has actually increased. If this is true, then it is not Chechnya and Ingushetia taken separately that must be considered the hotspot in the North Caucasus, but the entire region as a whole, and then it is appropriate to ask the authorities a question: how could such a thing have happened?

There is an old saying: “Victory has many fathers, but defeat is always an orphan.” For as long as victory over terrorism and victory over the fighters in Chechnya remain a distant prospect, the special services cannot expect to avoid numerous failures and blunders. It is possible that Yudin’s intervention was dictated by an urge to remove responsibility from himself by switching the attention of public opinion to something new. It cannot be excluded that the public prosecutor’s office really does have serious “gains” to make from Karachayan terrorists, and that the fact that it was the public prosecutor’s office, and not the FSB, that revealed the Karachai trace, is capable of lifting its “rating” with Russia’s law enforcement agencies. In that case the responsibility for the non-averted terrorist acts can be shifted on to colleagues and competitors, with the inference that Karachayans being involved in terrorist acts is the result of poor work by the FSB in the republic, as the law enforcement agencies were not able to expose the underground terrorist network in time.

And, lastly, there is one more curious detail – according to information received by the “Kommersant” newspaper, the suicide bomber who carried out the terrorist act in the Moscow metro in February 2004 was a male Karachayan named Izhayev. However, so far the terrorist’s name has never once been mentioned once anywhere, and neither has the nationality of the terrorist. In addition, the officially trumpeted version said that the explosive device was detonated by a woman. Neither the FSB nor the public prosecutor’s office have made any statements about the disclosure of the terrorist act at “Avtozavodskaya”. So where did the suicide bomber’s name come from, and how is known that he was a Karachayan?

So far there are no answers to these questions. But, to sum up the above, it is possible to make a couple of suppositions. One: the authorities were playing some new game in which a special place had been allotted to Karachai-Cherkesia. Here an impression is created that the republic, together with Chechnya, has been “ear-marked” as being responsible for terrorism. And two: so far the investigation has been unable to establish reliably what lies behind the terrorist acts, and the Karachai trace is one of the variants that are being thrown into the press for study by public opinion.

Sergei Karamayev

No comments: