Pro-Moscow security agencies in Chechnya won a major victory on March 7 with the surrender of Magomed Khambiev, minister of defense in the underground separatist government of Aslan Maskhadov. Many, though not all, reports of this event in the Russian media have failed to mention the key tactical method by which this victory was apparently achieved: The systematic targeting, kidnapping and torture of the Khambiev family’s relatives.
According to an article written for the March 10 issue of Moskovsky komsomolets, but already on that newspaper’s website as of the evening of March 9, Khambiev surrendered in the highland village of Tsentorroi on Monday. He did this, wrote the newspaper, “because, beginning last fall, sixteen or seventeen of his relatives have been kidnapped and taken as hostages.” The newspaper said that, according to its sources, the kidnappings were conducted by Chechnya’s “security service” headed by Akhmad Kadyrov’s son Ramzan.
According to a statement distributed on March 8 by the Maskhadov government’s foreign minister, Ilyas Akhmadov, federal forces had been threatening that the captured Khambiev family members would be executed unless both Magomed and his brother Umar agreed to surrender. Umar is Maskhadov’s minister of health; on March 9 it was announced that he has scheduled a March 10 press conference in Strasbourg, France, to describe the tactics used by the Kadyrov family’s hostage takers.
Last September another Khanbiev brother, Ali, disappeared in Chechnya; his fate remains unknown.