Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 15

Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said at the end of last week that he had information concerning the whereabouts of Kenneth Gluck, the American member of the international aid group Doctors Without Borders who was kidnapped in Chechnya earlier this month. Rushailo said that the law enforcement organs had also obtained operation information about the identity of Gluck’s kidnappers. While the Rushailo gave no specific information, the press center for the Interior Ministry troops in the North Caucasus reported that Gluck was in the hands of Khattab, the Chechen rebel field commander, who was hiding along with his armed unit in the Vedeno region, the home base of Shamil Basaev, his fellow field commander and ally. While Rushailo did not directly connect Gluck’s kidnapping with the arrival in the North Caucasus of a delegation from the European Union’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), he said that the rebels had shown their “true face” with the kidnapping and that this should influence the position of the Council of Europe. Lord Frank Judd, head of the PACE delegation, called the Gluck kidnapping a “cynical action” aimed at undermining the basis of democratic society. Judd said that while Europe was concerned about the behavior of Russian troops in Chechnya, “it is impossible not to view with outrage what terrorists are doing in that republic” (Russian agencies, January 19; see also Chechnya Weekly, January 17).

Khattab–whose full name is Habib Abd al-Rakhman Ibn al-Khattab–was born in 1963 to a very noble Circassian family in Jordan. (In Jordan, all people hailing from the North Caucasus, including Chechens, are called Circassians. Khattab is ethnically a Chechen.) Khattab graduated from the military academy in Amman and served for several years in the “Circassian guard” of Jordan’s King Hussein. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Khattab fought on the side of mujaheddin there, where he met Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire and notorious international terrorist. During the war in Bosnia, Khattab set up a training camp there for local Muslim guerrillas. In 1994, Khattab traveled to Chechnya. Shortly afterwards he married a woman from the Karamakhi, a center for Islamic fundamentalist activity in the republic of Dagestan. After the introduction of troops into Chechnya, Khattab became one of the most influential rebel field commanders. In March 1996 his men ambushed a Russian troop column at the village of Yarysh-Mardy, killing more than seventy Russian servicemen. It was the most serious single blow by the Chechen rebels against the federal forces during the first Chechen conflict. After Russian troops withdrew from Chechnya in 1996, Khattab set up a network of training camps, which trained not only Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas from the North Caucasus republics, but also followers of former Georgian leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia and even, allegedly, Muslims from the republics of Central Asia. The U.S. State Department put Khattab, along with his ally Shamil Basaev, on its list of international terrorists (Mikhail Roshchin, Religious war in Dagestan, Keston News Service, September 15, 1999).