On March 14, at one of the roadblocks near the Chechen town of Gudermes, the father-in-law of field commander Khattab, Magomed Bidaev, was taken hostage. Khattab’s bodyguard, who was accompanying Bidaev, was shot. Immediately after the abduction, Shamil Basaev announced on the local “Kavkaz” television channel that if Bidaev were not freed within three days and the hostage-takers were not punished, all responsibility would be put on Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, whom Basaev claimed was behind the kidnapping. Bidaev was released on March 15 (Kommersant daily, March 16).
Khattab–a Chechen of Jordanian extraction, reportedly a citizen of Jordan and married to a Dagestani–is viewed as one of the leaders of Chechnya’s Wahhabi Muslims. Moscow and official Djohar (Grozny) suspect Khattab and Basaev of being behind the kidnapping of General Gennady Shpigun. Thus, according to one version, Bidaev was kidnapped by Maskhadov’s people to exchange for Shpigun (Kommersant daily, March 16).
One can now expect new collisions between Chechnya’s factions. Maskhadov’s inner circle has tightened security around the Chechen president: Specifically, an order has been given to increase the readiness of a special battalion within the Chechen state security ministry that is already the most efficient fighting unit within the armed forces loyal to Maskhadov (Kommersant daily, March 16).
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