Chechen separatist warlord Shamil Basaev, already known to be a terrorist, may or may not be training women suicide bombers to attack Russians–but at the very least he wants the world to think that he is. In late December Basaev claimed responsibility for the two most sensational terrorist attacks that month on Russian soil: The December 5 bombing of a commuter train in southern Russia and the December 9 explosion outside a hotel near Moscow’s Red Square. In a statement distributed via the militant separatist website Kavkaz-center, Basaev said that both attacks had been carried out by suicide bombers under the direction of his “Riyadus-Salikhin Islamic Brigade of Shakhids [martyrs].” (Last February the U.S. State Department added to its formal list of international terrorist entities a group which it called the “Riyadus-Salikhin Battalion;” “Riyadus-Salikhin” is Arabic for “Fields of the Righteous.”)
Judging by his statement, Basaev believes that these operations should not be considered acts of terrorism because they are directed against cities from which military or secret-police atrocities against Chechens are directed. (The fact that the operations have killed civilians who happened to live in those cities, but who had no connections with Russia’s military or other security agencies, apparently does not concern him.) He said that both of the “successful” December bombings were “planned military operations in response to Russian aggression, carried out by fighters of our brigade; they were not timed to coincide with any holidays or other dates.” (The phrase “other dates” would seem to refer to Russia’s December 7 parliamentary elections.)
Basaev added that the target of the Moscow attack was the federal Duma, which is just across the street from the hotel. But he said that his “shakhids have the right to make decisions independently if complications should arise as they are carrying out their assigned missions. Possibly something prevented her from walking the last fifty meters to her goal.”
The two December bombings killed fifty-two people and injured more than 200 others.