Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 25

The death of Chechen separatist leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev was first announced by Chechen government officials on June 17. Interfax quoted Chechen government minister Muslim Khuchiev as saying that Sadulaev was killed in a special operation in the city of Argun—Sadulaev’s hometown— when members of the Chechen Interior Ministry’s Akhmad Kadyrov special task regiment and the Argun police, acting on “operational information,” established Sadulaev’s location and killed him when he put up armed resistance. “At the moment we have no doubts about the fact that Saidulaev has really been liquidated,” Interfax quoted Argun Police Chief Ali Tagirov as saying. “We are located next to his body; it has been identified by people who knew him very well.” (The rebel leader was referred to as “Saidulaev” rather than “Sadulaev” in most reports about his death by Chechen government officials and Russian news agencies.) Tagirov added that a hostage was freed during the operation. “Two militants from among Saidulaev’s bodyguards took a hostage with them and tried to use him as cover, however during the course of the armed clash police managed to liberate him.” He said that a policeman and a Federal Security Service (FSB) officer were killed in the shoot-out, but that the hostage was unharmed. Tagirov refused to identify the hostage, but gave a few other details about the operation. “The operation was carried out in the residential area on Ulitsa Svobody,” where Sadulaev and his associates were discovered in a private home, he said. That part of Argun is known as the “Indian Hamlet.” Tagirov said that a search was underway for the two rebel bodyguards.

For his part, Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov told Interfax that the killing of Sadulaev was a major blow against the separatists. “The terrorists have practically been decapitated,” Kadyrov told Interfax. “They have been dealt a decisive blow, from which they will never be able to recover.” Kadyrov claimed that the Chechen law-enforcement organs had paid a mere 1,500 rubles (US$55) for the information concerning Sadulaev’s whereabouts. “A person from Saidulaev’s inner circle sold information about him for only one thousand five hundred rubles; he needed this money to buy a single portion of narcotics.” Kadyrov added, “Saidualev up to now was located outside the Chechen republic. Yet, he arrived in Chechnya a week ago in order to organize a large-scale terrorist act in Argun. We received information about this for one thousand five hundred rubles, carried out an operation and Saidulaev was destroyed.” Kadyrov called Sadulaev “the main terrorist, the ideologist of the terrorists,” who had the blood of a large number of civilians on his hands. He also vowed that Shamil Basaev, the rebel warlord and first deputy prime minister in the government of the rebel Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), and Dokku Umarov, the rebel government’s vice president, would meet the same fate. “Basaev said that he organized the terrorist act against Akhmad Kadyrov and we responsibly declare that Basaev awaits an end worse than the one which Saidulaev has met.”

On June 15, the separatist website on June 15 posted a video clip of Basaev discussing the May 2004 assassination of Akhmad Kadyrov and plans to kill his son, Ramzan Kadyrov. In it, Basaev said he had promised a $50,000 reward for the murder of the elder Kadyrov and had paid that sum to a group of “mujahideen” who carried it out. On the same video, Basaev said he was offering $25,000 for the killing of Ramzan Kadyrov, but would pay $50,000 if necessary (Chechnya Weekly, June 15).

Russia’s main television channels on June 17 showed footage of Ramzan Kadyrov, clad in a camouflage uniform and a beret, standing along with members of Chechen government security forces over a bloody dead body, apparently that of Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev. In the footage, Kadyrov repeated his claim that Sadulaev’s location had been betrayed by a member of his inner circle for 1,500 rubles to by “a gram of heroin.” According to NTV, Sadulaev’s body was taken to the Akhmad Kadyrov regiment’s base in Tsentoroi, the Kadyrov clan’s hometown. The television channel reported that the operation that killed Sadulaev, which it said took place at 11 AM that day, local time, was carried out by members of Kadyrov’s regiment together with FSB staff. It also reported that a group of 4-5 militants had been hiding in the house on Ulitsa Svobody in Argun, including a fifty-year-old woman. When security forces attempted to check the documents of those in the house, they resisted, resulting in a battle that last around 15 minutes, during which Sadulaev was killed, NTV reported.

Kommersant on June 19 quoted Igor Yegorov, head of the Argun criminal police, as saying that explosives, assault rifles, pistols and large amount of ammunition had been found in the basement where the militants were hiding. He also said that a laptop computer was found there, which investigators believed contained “the militants’ archives.” The computer, he said, had been sent to the Russian military base at Khankala outside Grozny for deciphering.

Like Kadyrov, Chechen President Alu Alkhanov portrayed the killing of ChRI President Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev as a great victory over the separatists. “He never was any kind of president,” Alkhanov said. “He was the ringleader of the gang formations. On his conscience and the conscience of his collaborators are numerous victims among the peaceful citizens, and his liquidation graphically demonstrates what end awaits terrorists in Chechnya.”

On June 21, the separatist Chechenpress news agency’s website posted an official announcement by the head of the ChRI presidential administration, Ibragim Mezhidov, that Dokku Umarov had assumed Sadulaev’s duties. “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful!” the announcement began. “In connection with the death of the president of the ChRI Abdul-Khalim Saidulaev, in compliance with Article 75 of the ChRI Constitution, ChRI vice-president Dokka Umarov as of 17 June 2006 took the duties of the ChRI President.”