Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 13

Itar-Tass on March 23 quoted Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov as reporting that rebel field commander Rizvan Chitigov had been killed in a raid carried out by pro-Moscow security forces and republican Interior Ministry troops. RIA Novosti reported on March 24 that Chitigov was killed in during a raid on an apartment in Shali that was carried out after Russian security services intercepted his mobile phone transmissions. According to the news agency, security service officers visited the three-room apartment three times, but only found Chitigov, who had been hiding in a small niche in a wall covered by tiles, on a fourth visit after he accidentally dropped a tiled panel.

Kommersant reported on March 24 that Chitigov had traveled to the United States in the early 1990s with the assistance of an international Muslim foundation, and that when he returned to Shali in 1994, he told compatriots that he had graduated from an elite U.S. sabotage and reconnaissance school and served on a contract basis in a U.S. Marine battalion. This earned him the aliases “Amerikanets” (the American) and “Morpekh” (the Marine). According to Kommersant, the Federal Security Service (FSB) received “operational information” in 2001 that Chitigov planned to use chemical and biological weapons against federal troops, and ricin was later found in an “underground base” of his in Gudermes. This earned Chitigov his third alias, “Khimik” (the Chemist). The Shali district branch of the Interior Ministry claims Chitigov was personally involved in the murder of 50 local inhabitants, while the FSB says that the August 31, 1999 bombing of Moscow’s Manezh shopping mall, which killed one person, was carried out on his orders.

Russian authorities say Chitigov was the third-most influential field commander behind Shamil Basaev and Doku Umarov, and was close to Khattab, the Saudi-born rebel field commander who was reportedly poisoned to death in March 2002. MosNews on March 23 reported that back in April 2001, then FSB spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich said the FSB suspected that Chitigov had been maintaining ties with foreign intelligence services and was himself a CIA agent.

The Chechen Interior Ministry told RIA Novosti on March 24 that security agents loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov had killed Alvi Tasuev. Tasuev, alias “Assad,” had been an assistant to Abu Walid, the Arab commander of Chechen rebel forces who was reportedly killed in April 2004, and was said to have served as a bodyguard to Aslan Maskhadov. Kadyrov told Interfax on March 24 that he had seen a videotape on which Tasuev had vowed to “find my whereabouts and shoot me.” Kadyrov also charged that Tasuev was “personally responsible for the murders of numerous policemen and members of their families, including their parents.” According to Kadyrov, Tasuev was killed during a security operation in the Grozny district village of Berdykel.

Meanwhile, the deputy commander of an Interior Ministry Internal Troops unit and two conscripts were wounded on March 29 when their armored personnel carrier hit a landmine on a road in the Shali district, Interfax reported. A landmine killed an Interior Ministry serviceman in Grozny’s Staropromyslovsky district on March 23, Itar-Tass reported the following day. RIA Novosti reported on March 24 that the head of the operational-investigative bureau of the Naursk district police was found shot to death in the Grozny district. According to Interfax, the body of the police officer, who was later identified as Movsredin Kantaev, was found in a car parked by the side of the road near the village of Petropavlovskaya. The attackers are believed to have taken two pistols registered in his name. Radio Liberty’s Russian service reported on March 23 that a police officer from Sverdlovsk Oblast was killed in Grozny when a masked gunman opened fire on his car.