Russian military officials initially charged that the Chechen rebel field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab were behind the December 9 car bombing in the Chechen village of Alkhan-Yurt, which killed twenty-one people (see the Monitor, December 11). Others have subsequently put the blame on another rebel field commander, Arbi Baraev. According to these officials, the car bombing was aimed at the Malik Saidulaev, head of the Chechnya’s State Council, and members of his inner circle. Alkhan-Yurt is Saidulaev’s home town, and the car bomb was detonated approximately 300 meters from his home (ORT, December 11). The State Council which Saidulaev heads was set up by the Russian authorities after the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, and includes Chechens loyal to the Kremlin. Indeed, the rebels continue to attack those they call “national-traitors”–Chechens who cooperate with the federal authorities. The rebels have distributed leaflets calling for the physical destruction of village administration and regional administration heads. Yesterday the body of Zura Kolieva, deputy head of administration in the town of Alkhan-Khala, was discovered along with the body of her husband. The couple had been shot (ORT, December 11).
According to the press center for the federal forces in Chechnya, another rebel field commander, Ruslan Gelaev, has ordered his forces to carry out propaganda work in Chechen refugee camps with the goal of presenting the terrorist act in Alkhan-Yurt as having been carried out the federal forces (ORT, December 11). As the Monitor already reported, kavkaz.org, the Chechen rebel website, has accused the “Russian occupiers” of having been behind the Alkha-Yurt blast (see the Monitor, December 11). According to the website, dozens of Alkhan-Yurt inhabitants have reported that they saw Russians setting up the car bomb. Russian officers initially reported that rebels had wired the car with explosives and that they, the Russian officers, defused the bomb in a controlled explosion. When a crowd of onlookers approached the burning car, a second, more powerful bomb went off, the Russian side reported. Kavkaz.org, however, reported that Alkhan-Yurt residents were accusing the “occupiers” of trying to pin the blame for the murder of civilians on the rebels and that nearly all of the town’s residents blame the Russians for the blast. The Chechen rebel command has also blamed the Russian side, pointing to the testimony of the Alkhan-Yurt residents and its own intelligence information (kavkaz.org, December 11).
Kavkaz.org’s version of the events in Alkhan-Yurt seems more convincing than the one being put forward by Moscow. The terrorist bombing in Alkhan-Yurt simply did not benefit the rebels. Saidulaev lives in Moscow, meaning that it was pointless to try and blow up his house in Alkhan-Yurt. And killing such a large number of civilians who were not collaborating with the federal forces would simply discredit the rebels in eyes of many Chechens.
Chechnya’s guerrilla war, meanwhile, claimed new lives over the last twenty-four hours. Chechen sources were quoted as saying that five Russian servicemen were killed and at least ten wounded in the republic’s Alkhan-Kala region. In Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital, there was an apparent attempt on the life of Nurdin Usamov, the general director of Grozenergo, the capital’s power company. Usamov, his bodyguard and driver were driving past a truck when it exploded. At the moment of the explosion, however, an armored personnel carrier happened to drive between Usamov’s car and the exploding truck, thereby shielding the car’s occupants. Usamov suffered contusions but was not seriously injured (Russian agencies, December 11; see also Chechnya Weekly, December 4, 11).
IRANIAN ROUTE ADVOCATED FOR EAST KASHAGAN OIL.