Signs of confusion within the Chechen leadership were evident yesterday, as the head of the government’s antiterrorism unit, Khunkar Israpilov, broadcast a radio appeal for "holy war" against "pseudo-Islamic bandits." Addressing a hastily convened press conference, Chechnya’s President Aslan Maskhadov dismissed Israpilov’s allegations, saying the security chief was "overwrought." Israpilov, who led the unsuccessful March 16 attempt to free two British hostages believed to be being held in the town of Urus-Martan, claimed that accomplices of the kidnappers have seized a military building in Urus-Martan and are asserting control over the town itself. Anyone suspected of having given the authorities information about the hostages’ whereabouts is being threatened with reprisals, Israpilov said. Moreover, he went on, the kidnappers are being protected by highly placed officials within the Chechen security service, which has, he claimed, been infiltrated by foreign and Dagestani agents of "a pseudo-Islamic movement financed by eastern countries." Maskhadov insisted yesterday that he was in charge of the situation and that everything was calm in Urus-Martan. (RTR, March 19) (For more details on the alleged influence of Islamic extremists in the northern Caucasus, see Igor Rotar’s article, "Islamic Radicals in Dagestan," in the March 20 issue of Prism.)
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