Top Rebel Commander Reportedly Killed

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 14

RIA Novosti, on April 4, quoted an unnamed federal Interior Ministry official as saying that the commander of the rebel Eastern Front and close associate of the late Shamil Basaev, Suleiman Imurzaev, aka Khairulla, was killed by security forces. “As a result of a special operation, the so-called ‘commander of the Eastern Front, emir of the Vedeno district Khairulla, who was involved in a whole series of crimes on the region’s territory, was destroyed,” the official said. Interfax, citing Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov, reported that Khairulla was one the three most influential rebel field commanders still at large, along with Dokka Umarov and Rappani Khalilov. In March, Umarov, who is the president of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), named Imurzaev a ChRI vice-premier.

The separatist Chechenpress and Kavkaz-Center websites ran items on the reports that Imurzaev had been killed, but said that the rebels had not confirmed his death. RIA Novosti, quoting the federal Prosecutor General’s Office, reported on April 5 that Imurzaev’s mother and daughter-in-law had identified his body.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov told Interfax on April 4 that he was in direct control of the special operation that killed Imurzaev. “As a result of an operation that was carefully planned and conducted during the two months, [we] managed to follow the trail of the so-called front commander and so-called Ichkerian vice-premier Khairulla,” Kadyrov said. “He has been destroyed.” Kadyrov added: “Considering the special significance and importance of the operation that was [to be] carried out, its development and execution was under my personal control from day one. The commander of the group constantly reported to me on the course of the operation.” According to Kadyrov, the operation was carried out by a group of no more than six people in order to keep its existence secret.

Kavkazky Uzel, on April 4, quoted a source in the Chechen Interior Ministry as saying the operation was carried out at 6 a.m., local time, in the Vedeno district by members of the republican Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) branches. Khairulla was killed when he offered armed resistance to his capture, the source said. The website quoted representatives of “power structures” as saying that Imurzaev had been one of Shamil Basaev’s “closest associates” and quoted Ramzan Kadyrov as saying that Basaev and Imurzaev were the organizers of the bombing that killed his father, Akhmad Kadyrov, in Grozny’s Dinamo Stadium on May 9, 2004. Kadyrov said in March 2006 that the “direct executor” of the bombing that killed his father had been “eliminated” by law-enforcement agencies the previous year but that “the organizer of the crime, Khairulla, is still alive, but I hope not for long” (Chechnya Weekly, March 23, 2006).

Speaking to journalists in Grozny on April 4, Kadyrov called Imurzaev “one of the bloodiest terrorists,” Kavkazky Uzel reported. “This person took responsibility for the murder of my father and said that Ramzan Kadyrov will be next,” Kadyrov said. He added that Imurzaev, “along with these notorious terrorist acts, was also involved in the murder of civilians – directors of schools and representatives of administrations and public servants.”

Kadyrov said that the “immediate preparation” for the operation to take out Khairulla had lasted for two weeks and that the operation itself “was successfully carried out at dawn today by the staff of the Russian MVD and FSB for the Chechen Republic.” He also said that the operation resulted in a shootout that left dead and wounded among the militants “who were with the destroyed terrorist.” Adam Delimkhanov, the Chechen government vice-premier in charge of the republic’s force agencies, said there were no losses among the law-enforcement personnel that conducted the operation.

RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed federal FSB official as saying that Imurzaev was born in 1974, a native of Dagestan’s Novolaksk district and had commanded the rebel’s southeastern front. Delimkhanov told ITAR-Tass that approximately 50-60 fighters were under Khairulla’s command. Kavkazky Uzel quoted an unnamed special services source as saying that Khairulla was responsible for “numerous bloody crimes,” including the assassination of Akhmad Kadyrov, “the organization of the rebellion in the Republic of Dagestan in September 1999, and numerous attacks on servicemen, Chechen policemen [and] peaceful citizens.”