Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 15

You wrote that the cutthroat Khattab was poisoned,” one letter to the editors of the weekly Argumenty i Fakty recalled, “Who did it, and how?” Citing sources in the Russian special services, the editors responded: “In the middle of May, in the Dagestani settlement of Gimry, not far from Buinaksk, they buried a certain Ibragim. His name was not pronounced aloud. His wife and three children did not show themselves in public.” This Ibragim, the editors noted, “was a double agent. On the one hand, he worked for the Russian special services; on the other, he was a close friend of Khattab, serving as his personal adjutant for special tasks. Serving in the role of courier, he brought from a secret postbox located in Azerbaijan the personal post of Khattab, as well as small presents and money. Ibragim made his last trip to Baku in the middle of March. From the Middle East they had sent Khattab a coded Sony video-camera, a watch and a letter.”

Having taken the envelope containing the letter from the courier, Khattab went into his tent. “He came out a half hour later with his face pale, rubbing his face with the stump of his arm, and he then fell into the arms of his bodyguards.” Feeling temporarily improved, Khattab gave an order to let Ibragim, who, along with five others, had been put under arrest, go: “He has to get back to Baku.” An hour later Khattab again felt bad. “He fell into some bushes, and a moment later he was dead. Khattab’s people searched for Ibragim in Baku for almost a month. It turned out that [Shamil] Basaev had personally ordered his execution. The bound body of the courier was found in the city outskirts with five bullets in the head” (Argumenty i Fakty, May 23). In an interview with the Prima News Service on May 15, Shamil Basaev confirmed that Khattab had indeed been successfully poisoned by the Russian special services: “They slipped him a poisoned letter,” Basaev remarked (Prima.ru, May 24).