The state news agency Itar-Tass, citing military sources in Dushanbe, reported today that twenty-six Chechen fighters were among a group of foreign pro-Taliban fighters captured by the forces of Afghanistan’s anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in the village of Khadzhagar, located in the northern Afghan province of Takhar. According to the report, these fighters are the remains of the so-called “international brigade” formed this past summer by Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) chief Juma Namangani (NTV.ru, November 16). Namangani is reportedly a top member of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network. Earlier this month, Maskhadov’s special representative Mairbek Vachagaev categorically denied allegations Russian authorities made that any Chechen fighters had connections with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, saying that the Chechen rebels would “in no way tolerate the presence in its ranks of representatives of terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida” (see the Monitor, November 9). Western news reports have claimed that Chechens are among thousands of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters holed up in the northern Afghan town of Kunduz awaiting an impending siege by the Northern Alliance.
Meanwhile, the Council of Muftis of Russia (SMR) has called on U.S. President George W. Bush to halt the military operation in Afghanistan during the month of Ramadan, which lasts from November 15 to December 15. In a statement released yesterday (November 15), the council warned that if he did not the populations of Muslim countries would “take the events in Afghanistan as an anti-Islamic campaign.” The SMR, which has condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, again condemned international terrorism as contradicting Islam, but said that the victims of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan have been people “not truly guilty of the terrorist acts in New York–the civilian population of Afghan villages and cities, who are guiltless [but] dying as a result of bloody bombardment and rocket strikes by air forces of the United States and its allies.” The SMR called on Russia’s political leaders to back this appeal (NTV.ru, November 16; see also the Monitor, October 12, 16).
NATO ALLIES JOIN AMERICA IN FOXHOLE.