Vague reports in the western media about Islamic militants leaving Chechnya to fight against U.S. troops and their allies in Iraq–supposedly under the command of the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi–continue to receive scornful comment from well informed experts. Historian Brian Williams of the University of Massachusetts told Chechnya Weekly that, while Arab adventurers have indeed taken part in the fighting in Chechnya, no substantive evidence has been found linking Zarqawi to their recruitment.
“As to him shipping Afghans to Chechnya,” Williams said, “there never were any Afghans (presumably illiterate Pashtun tribesmen who would stand out in the hills of Chechnya!) leaving their front against the Northern Alliance to fight in the distant micro-republic of Chechnya.” Williams ridiculed the New York Post’s estimate of 2,000 fighters to be imported from Chechnya to Iraq. He pointed out that the total number of full-time Chechen separatist guerrillas within Chechnya is less than 2,000, and that the number of Arabs fighting there is far smaller.