Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 170

Yesterday’s Chechen rebel attacks occurred against the backdrop of the showdown between the United States and Afghanistan over the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and both the rebels and the federal authorities continued to use the U.S. incidents in their ongoing propaganda war. The state’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted sources in the Federal Security Service (FSB) branch in Chechnya as saying that it had discovered a hiding place belonging to a rebel field commander known as “Abdurakhman Malenky” (Abdurakhman the Small). Among the items found in the hiding place–besides weapons, ammunition, explosives, “Wahhabi literature” and equipment for forging documents–were, the sources said, two CDs that included technical instructions for the Boeing 737 airliner, a pilot’s manual and an electronic map of Chechnya (NTV.ru, September 17). Last week, anonymous FSB officials claimed that an Islamic extremist organization based in Afghanistan might have been connected to both the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington and the bombings of apartment buildings in Russia a year ago. The same officials claimed that in 1996 Chechen rebel ideologist Movladi Udugov had publicly warned that the Chechen rebels might use kamikazes to fly a commercial airliner into the Kremlin (see the Monitor, September 13).

For its part, the Chechenpress news agency, which is connected to rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, called the alleged discovery of Boeing 737 manuals “a new fairy tale by Russia’s Chekists,” comparing the report to the work of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. It also put out a statement protesting items that have appeared in the Russian press “accusing the Chechen side of supporting international terrorists.” The statement reiterated that Maskhadov “decisively condemned those guilty of the terrorist act against the American state, calling on the governments and people of the world to unite against international terrorism” (Chechenpress, September 18).

Some Russian observers also expressed skepticism over the alleged discovery of Boeing 737 manuals in a rebel hiding place. “It is strange that [the FSB] did not find such a hiding place, for example, a week ago: It is unlikely that [Chechen rebel] fighters, having studied the Boeing, would have decided to hijack this kind of plan immediately after September 11,” wrote columnist Olga Romanova. “While the Boeing 737 model is rather common in Russia, they would more likely have been studying the Tu-154 or Il-76” (Vedomosti, September 18). “It cannot be ruled out,” another paper suggested, “that the [Chechen rebel] fighters really planned to crash a jet into, for instance, the government building in Grozny or the home of Akhmad Kadyrov in Tsentroe. But most likely the Chekists simply want to attract the world community’s attention to the threat of Chechen terrorism. Understanding that a kamikaze pilot can wind up in the air space of any country, no one even the West will now protest when the Russian army uses its all of its power to deal a blow against [rebel] fighters entrenched in one or another Chechen village” (Kommersant, September 18).