Kadyrov Exaggerating the Threat of Suicide Attacks Backfires

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 201

The late Sulim Yamadaev, former commander of the GRU’s Vostok battalion

Chechen authorities are increasingly reporting successes in operations against suicide bombers. Official data suggests that the number of suicide bombers has increased exponentially and that they are now occurring everywhere. The latest attempt on Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s life again made the issue of suicide bombers a topical problem in Chechnya. On October 23, Russian news agencies reported from Grozny that an attempt on the lives of Ramzan Kadyrov and Adam Delimkhanov had been prevented in the Chechen capital (www.newsru.com, October 23).

The circumstances of the attempt remain obscure. The official media report mentioned only that during an inspection tour by Adam Delimkhanov of the construction site at the memorial center of Akhmad-Hadji Kadyrov (Ramzan Kadyrov’s assassinated father), a suicide attacker tried to break through in a motor vehicle. In all likelihood, Adam Delimkhanov (a member of the Russian parliament who is wanted by Interpol in connection with the murder of Sulim Yamadaev, the former commander of the GRU’s Vostok battalion, this past March 28 in Dubai, and who accompanies Ramzan Kadyrov wherever he goes in Chechnya) was awaiting the Chechen president at the site. While waiting for Kadyrov, a VAZ-2114 compact vehicle with Ingush registration plates tried to break through to the site at breakneck speed. According to the Chechen Deputy Interior Minister Roman Edilov, the police spotted a metal tank inside the car, fired warning shots, and then opened direct fire (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 23). The slain driver turned out to be Bislan Bashtaev, a resident of the city of Urus-Martan. Bashtaev was immediately called emir (leader) of the Urus-Martan jamaat (www.argumenti.ru, October 24). The people of Chechnya find out about the slain guerillas being alleged emirs only after their death. The fact is that the true emir of Urus-Martan is Abdul-Malik, who has no connection with Bislan Bashtaev.

Some local observers (employees of the local human rights organization “Abu”) have noted that much about the attack remains obscure. The question at issue is that while the news video recording showed Delimkhanov at the construction area, and the voiceover was reporting that the suicide bomber was trying to break through to the site, it is unclear why not a single shot could be heard (Grozny TV, October 23). If the vehicle had tinted windows, then how were the guards able to spot the tank inside? If the guards shot up the vehicle, then why were no traces of this shooting visible on it? Why was the vehicle not defused on site, but instead “towed out of town” and blown up there, endangering local residents? According to observers who shared their opinion with human rights information resource Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot), it all “looked more like theater, rather than an actual attempted assassination (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 25).

That was already the second recent report about an averted attempt on the life of Ramzan Kadyrov (www.kommersant.ru, October 24). According to Interfax, on the evening of October 22, a housing estate was completely destroyed in a special operation in Grozny. Four bodies were found in the rubble (two men and two women). All those killed were presented as combatants who had been preparing explosives for an attack against Kadyrov. It was just a continuation of the operation conducted in Grozny on the previous day. In the course of these operations, again according to the authorities, the emir of Gudermes, Saidemi Khizriev, was killed (www.lenta.ru, October 22). The slain Khizriev was better known not as a fighter, but as one of Sulim Yamadaev’s people. Most probably the information about those killed in Grozny was received after the detention of someone close to the Sulim Yamadaev group, who knew the group’s plans all too well. It was precisely his tip that helped to locate the other members of the group who were preparing an armed attack on Ramzan Kadyrov. So, despite the murder of Sulim Yamadaev and the utter defeat of his group (http://studies.agentura.ru/tr/russia/sk/chechnya), his people remain potentially dangerous for Kadyrov and are not ceasing their attempts to inflict a strike in retaliation for the death of their leader.

It is worth noting that earlier this year two young Chechen students in Moscow were charged with plotting an attempt on Kadyrov’s life. Kadyrov himself did not bear a grudge against the young men, because he understood that the whole process was staged by the police. In spite of that the Moscow college students Lors Hamiev and Umar Batukaev were sentenced to eight and five years in a strict regime colony “for organizing an assassination attempt” (www.kommersant.ru, April 3).

Prior to 2009 no one spoke about attempts on Kadyrov’s life in Chechnya. If there were people who did, they all relied on unverified rumors. It all stemmed from the directive that Kadyrov’s position of strong authority should not be questioned, and nobody was supposed to be able to organize an assassination attempt against him.

That all changed in the summer of 2009 when, while trying to demonstrate the effectiveness of their counter-insurgency activities, Kadyrov’s image-makers decided to show him against the backdrop of daily peril. These changes can obviously be traced to the appointment of the former correspondent of the Russian news agency Interfax, Alvi Kerimov, as Kadyrov’s press secretary.

Frequent reports of the elimination of potential suicide bombers and special operations carried out by security services in Grozny make the capital’s residents doubt the reassuring prognostications made by authorities on local television. The image of the leader constantly jeopardizing his life for his people is increasingly having the opposite effect. That is exactly what was on Kadyrov’s mind when, at a meeting with the chiefs of the official broadcasting agencies of the republic last month, he instructed them to substitute negative news stories for positive ones (www.gazeta.ru , September 11).

The truth of the matter, however, is that the situation in Chechnya looks much more unstable today than it was last year or even at the beginning of 2009.