– Death of Rebel Field Commander Confirmed
The separatist Kavkaz-Center website on March 23 confirmed that the commander of the rebel’s northeastern front, Takhir Bataev, aka Amir Takhir, was killed in a battle with “armed infidels and hypocrites” in Gudermes on March 21. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported on March 25 that a Russian serviceman was killed and three were injured by a roadside bomb. According to Interfax, the bombing incident took place outside the village of Gekhi-Chu in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district.
– Rogozhkin Says Chechnya Situation Has Become More Difficult
The commander-in-chief of Russia’s Interior Ministry forces, General Nikolai Rogozhkin, said on March 27 that between 70 to 90 armed groups are currently operating in Chechnya, Interfax reported. “Unfortunately, our forces are not engaged in search operations, as this is forbidden by law, but according to various estimates, 70 to 90 armed groups are operating in Chechnya and the total number of militants is 500-800 men,” he told a news conference at the Interior Forces Training Center during events marking the anniversary of the forces’ establishment. Rogozhkin said that the situation in Chechnya has become even more difficult recently, but that it is “still under the control of Interior Ministry forces, which interact closely with the republic’s Interior Ministry.” He added: “The Chechen Republic’s Interior Ministry has actively joined in the maintenance of public order on the republic’s territory. This has enabled us to optimize the troop command system, reorganize our forces’ order of battle and pull out excess troops totaling 6,000 men.”
Ex-Rebel Official Denied Asylum in Germany
Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has denied former Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) Deputy Prime Minister Apti Bisultanov refugee status, saying that he is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Kommersant reported on March 27. However, according to the newspaper, the German authorities will not hand Bisultanov over to Russia because they believe he would receive inhumane treatment, including torture. Bisultanov, who was appointed ChRI deputy prime minister for social affairs by Aslan Maskhadov in 1999, has lived in Germany since 2002. The Russian authorities have repeatedly requested his extradition.
– Kadyrov Goes on Pilgrimage, Discusses Role of Islam
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov left for Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia on March 27 to perform the lesser Hajj in advance of his official inauguration as Chechen president, which is scheduled for April 5. According to ITAR-Tass, Kadyrov was accompanied by Chechen Mufti Sultan Mirzaev, Finance Minister Eli Isaev and Deputy Prime Minister Ziyad Sabsabi. “The trip to Saudi Arabia is an important event in my life. As a true Muslim and committed believer that assimilated to the faith in Allah since childhood, I considered it necessary to visit Muslim shrines ahead of taking office,” the news agency quoted Kadyrov as saying. He said he intended to “say prayers for the sake of the prosperity of the Chechen Republic and the whole of Russia. It is my duty. I intend to ask Allah to send us peace and well-being.” In an interview with the Russian government newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta published on March 27, Kadyrov said it was time to “more thoroughly study the culture of Islam and more fundamentally prepare cadres for enlightened religious goals.” He added: “The main task today in the anti-terrorist campaign must be to oppose separatism and clerical extremism. The fact is that today, Wahhabism exists not only because of the social tension in the regions, but also because it is a powerful ideology. Precisely for that reason it is necessary, with the help of Islamic religious figures, to prepare a program for de-ideologizing Wahhabism.”