Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 62

Russia’s Interior Ministry has sent a statement to various news media organizations claiming that four groups of terrorists trained in camps in Chechnya have been sent to other parts of Russia to carry out terrorist acts. These camps are said to be controlled by Jordanian rebel commander Khattab, and the areas to which the terrorists have been sent include Moscow, St. Petersburg and Volgograd. According to the Interior Ministry claim, the bombing earlier this month of the market in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia–which killed dozens–was an initial “test” carried out by terrorists trained in these same camps. The report says that Khattab has trained at least 500 terrorists in four camps located in the Vedeno and Nozhai-Yurt regions. At the same time, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has ordered the republic’s armed forces to increase their readiness and to shoot down Russian helicopters which the Chechen authorities claim have violated Chechen airspace (Kommersant, Segodnya, March 30).

Meanwhile, on March 26, nineteen Russian servicemen freed from captivity in Chechnya arrived on a special flight in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria. Some of the soldiers had been captured during the war in Chechnya. According to official sources, no ransom was paid for their release. During the first three months of this year, 105 Russian servicemen have been freed by forces of the regional anti-organized crime unit, and the authorities have stepped up attempts to free General Gennady Shpigun. Top law enforcement officials have said they hope Shpigun will be freed imminently (RTR, March 26). Meanwhile, kidnappings are continuing in the North Caucasus. In the Dagestani city of Kizlyar, which borders Chechnya, two soldiers from Russia’s internal troops were recently taken hostage, while in Chechnya itself, two Russian Orthodox priests have been abducted (RTR, March 26; NTV, March 28).