Interviews in Gazeta last week provided further indications that elements in the security agencies are helping the terrorist warlord Shamil Basaev avoid arrest—in spite of repeated announcements that the Russian authorities consider him their most wanted fugitive. Recently the authorities offered a $10 million bounty for his capture.
For example, a former separatist guerrilla who insisted on anonymity said that four years ago Basaev arranged with Beslan Gantamirov, then head of the police force in Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration, for that force to hire fighters from among Basaev’s own guerrillas. The source said that Gantamirov refused to form an entire unit consisting solely of such ex-guerrillas, but “did promise Basaev that he would accept his
people into the police force, and took about six to eight men into every subdivision. For the last four years, these people have been able to make a career in the police force. They understand, of course, that for this they are indebted to Basaev and are obliged help him.”
Among the Russian journalists who believe that the security agencies share the blame for various terrorists’ success in evading capture is Vyacheslav Izmailov, military correspondent for Novaya gazeta. Izmailov wrote in an October 11 article for the newspaper that during the period from 1997 to 2001 the notorious kidnapper and slave trader Arbi Baraev was able to live peacefully in his own house in Chechnya and travel freely about the republic thanks to the protection of an FSB agent named Yunus Magomadov. Baraev consistently avoided federal security sweeps and even continued his lucrative career of selling hostages for ransom, according to Izmailov. Magomadov regularly escorted Baraev through federal checkpoints simply by displaying his FSB credentials—even though the Chechen terrorist’s victims included not only foreign civilians (including three British subjects) but officers of the FSB itself.
Baraev was finally killed in mid-2001—not by federal troops, but by Chechens avenging their relatives. Magomadov, according to Izmailov, is still an officer in one of the federal security agencies—commanding a unit which guards an oil pipeline in Chechnya.