Chechen rebel field commander Shamil Basaev has responded to U.S. President George W. Bush’s call last week that the Chechen rebels break their alleged ties with Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network (see the Monitor, August 27). In an interview with the Qatar-based Kavkaz.org website, Basaev declared: “We have no links with bin Laden.” He stressed, however, that the rebels have a “friendship and cooperation treaty” with Afghanistan’s Taliban and attacked Bush and the United States, saying that the U.S. president “once again showed us the real nature of so-called ‘democracy’ and those Western values that are displayed to the world as the height of contemporary civilization’s achievements.” Basaev accused Bush of changing the earlier U.S. position vis-a-vis Chechnya in exchange for President Vladimir Putin’s “dubious support” for the U.S.-led antiterrorism campaign. Basaev reaffirmed his support for “the people and leadership of Afghanistan” and called on Muslims throughout the world “to give aid to the Afghan people,” who, he said, were the victims of “unjust aggression” and in danger of “destruction.” “Afghanistan is the only country in the world which is sincerely striving to live by Sharia [Islamic law],” Basaev added. Basaev said the United States had groundlessly blamed Muslims for the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and in doing so risked being attacked not by nineteen suicide bombers, but by “hundreds and thousands of mujahideen, who will give their lives without doubt or wavering in order to protect the religion of Allah from humiliation” (Kavkaz.org, October 8).
Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov’s reaction to the U.S. strikes against Afghanistan has been somewhat more cautious. Maskhadov’s representative, Mayrbek Vachgaev, said that Chechen forces would not aid the Taliban in their conflict with the United States. “We don’t have a surplus of people who we could today send to Afghanistan to help whomever,” Vachgaev told an interviewer. He also claimed that Chechen rebel leaders suspected of contacts with bin Laden “are either no longer among the living or were long ago removed from active participation in the social-political life of the [Chechen] republic” (Radio Ekho Moskvy, October 8). The pro-Maskhadov Chechenpress news agency, however, has been critical of the strikes on Afghanistan. In an item today devoted to protest demonstrations against those strikes, the news agency said that many demonstrators “fairly ask on what basis the independent Afghan government is being bombed if its guilt in carrying out the terrorist attacks against America has not been proven at all,” the news agency wrote (Chechenpress, October 9).
RUMSFELD VISIT OPENS WAY FOR AMERICAN PRESENCE IN UZBEKISTAN.