Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 18

Chechen rebel field commander Doku Umarov has announced that separatist forces are changing their tactics and will attack outside Chechnya. RFE/RL reported on May 10 that Umarov, who made his comments in an interview with its North Caucasus Service director Aslan Doukaev on May 7, said that rebel fighters had until now restricted their operation mainly to Chechen territory, but had decided to attack “enemy territory” because “the killing and abductions of civilians” in Chechnya “is on a massive scale, even flagrant.” Umarov said his 70-year old father, brother, wife and 7-month old baby were recently abducted by pro-Moscow Chechens tied to Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov and are being held captive. Umarov warned that his forces “have begun to determine targets” inside “enemy territory.”

Chechenpress reported on May 9 that Umarov told RFE/RL that his relatives’ kidnappers were “bandits from the so-called ‘oil regiment'” led by a close relative of Ramzan Kadyrov named Adam Delimkhanov. According to the news agency, Umarov also told the radio station that Russia’s special services used the same “Kadyrovite bandits” to abduct several close relatives of Abdul-Vakhab Khusainov, a minister in the Chechen separatist government. Umarov claimed that the relatives of rebel leaders who have been kidnapped, including relatives of the late Aslan Maskahdov, have been “secretly murdered by Putinite terrorists” because news of their kidnapping was “made public in world mass media.”

Umarov said there was no news of fighting in Chechnya simply because the republic remains closed to journalists and that in fact “large-scale” battles resulting in “heavy losses” for federal forces have been taking place, particularly in the mountainous areas. Asked about the effect that the death of Aslan Maskhadov, Umarov said it was a heavy loss for the resistance and the Chechen people as a whole but had not negatively affected the rebel fighters’ “combat efficiency and solidarity.” Umarov praised Maskhadov’s successor, Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, saying that he “enjoys unquestionable authority among fighters and commanders as a brilliant expert on the norms of Sharia and Chechen traditional laws” and that the “mujahideen” are deeply impressed by his “crystal honesty and fairness.”

Meanwhile, Kavkazky Uzel on May 10 reported that Chechnya’s law-enforcement organs have no information concerning the kidnapping of Umarov’s relatives and that Chechnya’s Interior Ministry has refused to confirm that Umarov’s father, wife and child were abducted. The website quoted an anonymous Interior Ministry officer as saying that no relatives of Umarov had reported the abductions – a necessary step in launching a criminal investigation. A distant relative of Umarov told Kavkazky Uzel that armed men in camouflage abducted Umarov’s father, wife and child on May 5. “Currently the practice of taking the relatives of field commander and even ordinary fighters hostage is prevalent; this is not a secret,” the relative said. “[Former rebel national guard chief] Umar Khambiev was ‘captured’ precisely this way: He was forced to turn himself in after around 40 of his close relatives were kidnapped. But I don’t think Doku Umarov will agree to surrender to the current authorities in exchange for the lives of his nearest and dearest.” The relative said that Umarov’s 43-year-old brother, Ruslan, was kidnapped by soldiers in February, and that a nephew and cousin were abducted in October 2004 and November 2003, respectively.