Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 8

The FSB claimed on February 21 that Abu Zeit, a Kuwaiti al-Qaeda emissary, was killed in joint Interior Ministry-FSB operation in a private house in a village in Ingushetia on February 16, Interfax reported. “The operation first resulted in the death of two of his accomplices,” FSB spokesman Sergei Ignatchenko said. “Abu Zeit hid in a special bunker built under the house. When the entrance was discovered, he blew himself up.” An FSB source told RIA Novosti that Abu Zeit was the leader of the “Ingush Jamaat” and was also known as “Little Omar” and “Abu Omar of Kuwait.” According to the source, Abu Zeit had been trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, was later appointed al-Qaeda’s envoy to Ingushetia and was in charge of distributing cash funds provided by al-Qaeda to radical Islamists in the North Caucasus. The FSB claims that Abu Zeit reported directly to Abu Hafs, the purported coordinator of all terrorist activities on Russian territory. Investigators believe Abu Zeit was involved in the rebel attack on Ingushetia last June and in the hostage-taking at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, in September 2004.

However, Kommersant on February 22 questioned some of the FSB’s claims about Abu Zeit. The newspaper noted that the Russian authorities do not have Abu Zeit’s fingerprints on file and that he had no relatives in Russia from whom DNA samples could be taken. Still, it reported that investigators in Ingushetia are convinced the man killed was indeed Abu Zeit, but believe the FSB exaggerated his importance. “Abu Zeit’s elimination is indeed a big success,” an Ingushetian criminal investigation officer told the newspaper. “But I would not say that the financial roots of terrorism and so forth have been undermined by his killing. Abu Zeit in actual fact organized nothing and did not distribute any financial flows. He was a qualified explosives instructor, nothing more. He spent his entire life traveling round trouble spots, assembling his bombs there, and instructing the locals on how to use them. But he always worked not for an ideal but for money, which he was paid by local resistance leaders. In this case by Shamil Basaev. I am sure that this Arab did not often take part in the fighting, sitting it out in bunkers like the one in which he was killed. Look at his white, flabby body – people in that kind of shape do not run around the mountains.”