On October 26, Azerbaijan’s National Security Ministry (NSM) announced that it has detained ten individuals, and placed six others on the wanted list, on charges of conspiracy to assassinate President Haidar Aliev and seize power. The accused ringleaders are a former prosecutor of the city of Baku, Mammad Guliev, currently living in Russia, and an ex-prosecutor of Baku’s Hattai district, Mahir Javadov, currently living in Iran.
Azerbaijan’s law enforcement authorities have applied to the harboring countries to extradite Guliev and Javadov for trial. Additionally, Baku seeks explanations from Moscow as to how Guliev managed “unlawfully” to obtain Russian citizenship several years ago. Javadov, for his part, fled to Iran following the 1995 abortive coup of OMON [special-purpose police] troops led by his elder brother, Colonel Rovshan Javadov, who was killed in the fighting. Mahir Javadov, an ex-OMON major, has since made broadcasts on Iranian radio, threatening to enter Azerbaijan at the head of an armed detachment in order to spark a revolt. More recently, in a bid for the attention of Azeri ultranationalists, Javadov has offered to lead a mass paramilitary operation against Armenian forces.
The NSM’s October 26 communique provides a summary of the pre-trial investigation. It reports that Guliev and Javadov established contact among themselves and with their respective supporters in Azerbaijan in 1999. The following year, Guliev and three of his associates traveled from Russia to Iran and met Javadov there. In January and March 2001, two of Guliev’s associates from Azerbaijan met Guliev and unnamed Russian officials in Moscow for discussions on creating an armed group in northern Azerbaijan.
According to the investigation, Guliev’s and Javadov’s groups drew up a coup plan focusing on Baku and envisaging the seizure of the presidential executive staff building, state television and radio, the international airport and some other key points. The plan included infiltration of the presidential bodyguard unit in preparation for an attempt on Aliev’s life and for installing a ruling group, the composition of which was being discussed by the two alleged ringleaders. The suspects face trial on charges of conspiracy to form unlawful armed groups, to assassinate a state leader and to seize power by force.
The arrested and wanted individuals seem for the most part to be residents of the Barda and Balakan districts. Barda is a former OMON stronghold. Balakan, on the Dagestan segment of the Russia-Azerbaijan border, offers opportunities for clandestine passage and has recently been troubled by brigand raids of Avar and Lezgin highlanders.
Last week, Aliev postponed his visits to Iran and to Russia, both due in November. In each case, Baku cited differences over certain bilateral issues. The visit to Tehran has not been rescheduled as yet. The visit to Moscow has tentatively been rescheduled for February.
Also last week, Azerbaijan’s NSM announced that it had foiled preparations for an assassination attempt against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who paid an official visit to Azerbaijan in January of this year. The main conspirator was recently sentenced to ten years in prison by an Azerbaijani court for terrorism. He is an Iraqi Kurd who had arrived in Baku via Chechnya on a false Russian passport identifying him as a resident of Russia’s Dagestan republic. The NSM said that it learned of his preparations by eavesdropping on his satellite telephone conversations with Chechen and Afghan accomplices (Zerkalo, ANS, Turan, October 26-27).
AMERICAN-UZBEK RELATIONSHIP GROWING STRONGER: