Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 233

According to the Georgian special services, international terrorist organizations have chosen Chechnya as one of their main bases, and training camps for Islamic guerrillas are already operating in the republic. Georgian intelligence claims that the four Western engineers employed by a British telecommunications firm, who were kidnapped and then brutally murdered, were targeted because they were involved in monitoring the activities of these terrorist bases. The Georgian authorities are not alone in claiming that the murdered telecommunications engineers were involved in an intelligence operation: Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov has made similar claims (Kommersant daily, December 11, 16).

According to the Georgian authorities, there are at least two camps in Chechnya for training international terrorists, who subsequently join the ranks of such extremist groups as Hezbollah, Hamas and those controlled by Osama bin Laden. After the United States bombed alleged terrorist sites in Sudan and Afghanistan, international terrorist organizations began to look for territory which the United States could not attack. Chechnya would be an ideal spot, given that it is legally part of the Russian Federation and therefore an unlikely target of the United States. A Russian daily, citing the influential London-based Arab newspaper “Al Hayat,” reported that the question of granting refuge to bin Laden was discussed by the leadership of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement and Abdul Vakhid Ibrahim, a representative of Chechnya’s Foreign Ministry, during a meeting in Kandahar, Afghanistan (Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 8; Kommersant daily, December 16).

Georgian intelligence believes that the terrorists who carried out the attack on Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on February 9 of this year were trained in camps located in the southern and southeastern regions of Chechnya. Camps run by one of the leaders of Chechnya’s Islamic fundamentalists–Khattab, a Jordanian–are also located in these regions (Kommersant daily, December 16). It is likely that the training of such terrorists is taking place against the wishes of the Chechen authorities, who are currently in an open confrontation with domestic Islamist groups. Official Djohar has accused field commander Arbi Baraev, an influential Chechen fundamentalist leader, of being behind a number of kidnapping cases, including those of the murdered Western engineers, and is considering the question of expelling Khattab from Chechnya (see the Monitor, December 13, 16). It is possible, however, that armed groups led by such opponents of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov as Salman Raduev and Shamil Basaev are involved in training international terrorists. Indeed, backers of Osama bin Laden in Chechnya enjoy the active support of Salman Raduev (Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 8).