Chechens Detained in Alleged Moscow Terror Plot

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 20

Moscow’s Lefortovo District Court on May 10 sanctioned the arrest several days earlier of two Chechens, Umar Batukaev and Ruslan Musaev, in connection with an alleged plot to carry out a terrorist attack during the May holidays using explosives that were discovered in a car in the Russian capital on May 8. The Moscow Times on May 11 quoted court officials as saying that Batukaev is a student at the Moscow Academy of Economics and Law while Musaev has a university degree and a 4-year-old child. The English-language newspaper quoted Lev Ponomarev, head of the For Human Right movement, as saying that relatives of Batukaev said they could barely recognize him during the May 10 court session and that he appeared to have been beaten and drugged.

According to the Moscow Times, the Federal Security Service (FSB) said in a May 10 statement that the bomb discovered in the car contained seven kilograms of plastic explosives as well as ball bearings, which are often used to maximize casualties, and was to be detonated during the recent May Day or Victory Day celebrations. Kommersant reported on May 10 that the FSB uncovered the plot after a member of the underground Dagestani Islamist group, the Sharia Jamaat, cut a deal with the agency and gave it the addresses of other members of the group. This led the authorities to alleged Sharia Jamaat member Lors Khamiev, a Chechen who had previously been arrested in connection with a 2002 bomb attack on a McDonald’s restaurant in southwest Moscow but was subsequently released and never charged. Kommersant reported that dozens of Chechens who live near Profsoyuznaya Ulitsa in Moscow, including an investigator from the Chechen Interior Ministry, were arrested on May 9. As the Moscow Times reported, the FSB statement did not specify how many suspects were arrested in the plot or release their names, but the Vesti-24 news channel identified two detainees as Magomed Aziev and Adani Dumkhazhiev, natives of Dagestan and Chechnya, respectively.

Meanwhile, Aslambek Aslakhanov, an ethnic Chechen who advises President Vladimir Putin on ethnic relations, criticized the naming of suspects and their nationalities. “To say that there is a Chechen connection is immoral,” Interfax quoted him as saying. “I thought the time had passed when no matter what happened they immediately looked for a ‘Chechen trail.’ It was fashionable at one time.” According to the Moscow Times, Aslakhanov said that because a Chechen link was made public, there could be attempts to prove “at any price” that Chechens were behind the plot. “That, unfortunately, has happened before,” he said.

Svetlana Gannushkina, chairwomen of the “Grazhdanskoe sodeistvie” (Civil Assistance) Committee, said she was convinced that the young Chechens arrested in Moscow in connection with the alleged bombing plot were innocent, Kavkazky Uzel reported on May 12.