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Chechnya terror groups and ties to Al Qaeda
Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs:
On Oct. 23, 2002, members of the battalion, along with two other Chechen groups seized more than 800 hostages at Moscow's Dubrovka Theater in a dramatic debut for the previously unknown group.
The attackers wired the theater with explosives, threatening to blow it up, killing themselves along with the hostages.
One hundred and twenty-nine hostages died when Russian Spetsnaz special forces flooded the building with narcotic gas during a rescue operation.
The group was listed as a terrorist organization linked to al Qaeda by the U.S. government and the United Nations less than four months later.
The group also has used female suicide bombers known as "Black Widows" to carry out attacks, such as the August 2004 airline and subway bombings in Russia.
According to the United Nations, the battalion was founded and led by Shamil Salmanovich Basayev, a long-time Chechen extremist leader killed in 2006.
Islamic International Brigade:
The brigade was the second of the three groups that seized the Dubrovka Theater. It also was led by Shamil Salmanovich Basayev and Saudi jihadist Ibn al-Khattab. Its members include fighters from several Arab states as well as Chechnya, according to the UN listing.
Two months after the theater siege's bloody end, two days after Christmas 2002, suicide bombers sent by Basayev got into the well‑fortified headquarters of the Russian-backed Chechen Administration in the center of the capital, Grozny, killing more than 80 people and wounding another 150.
Basayev later claimed in an interview that he had not only been behind the attack, but that he had personally pressed the button of the remote control detonator. The brigade, along with the martyrs' battalion and Basayev himself, were listed as terrorists by the United Nations and the U.S. government in March 2003.
Special Purpose Islamic Regiment:
The third group involved in the Dubrovka Theater hostage-taking, the regiment was led by Movsar Barayev, who personally led — and was killed in — the theater attack. Prior to him, the regiment had been led by his uncle, Arbi Barayev. The group was linked to al Qaeda and identified as terrorists by the UN in March 2003.
Links to Al Qaeda:
"Numerous ties link the leadership of these [three] entities with al Qaeda, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden" going back to the 1990's, according to the U.N. listing.
Saudi jihadist Ibn al-Khattab was in Afghanistan with extremist fighters 1989 to 1994, where he first met bin Laden.
Basayev joined him in 1994, bringing a group of Chechen fighters with him.
Several hundred of his fighters eventually trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. With bin Laden's financial support, Al-Khattab also mobilized fighters from the neighboring Russian Caucasus republics of Ingushetia, Dagestan and Ossetia, and from the newly independent neighboring states Georgia and Azerbaijan to fight in Chechnya.
By August 1995, the U.N. listing says, substantial numbers of those fighting against Russian troops in the breakaway republic were "Afghan Arabs," Arab extremists with combat experience fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
In October 2001, after the 9/11 terror attacks, Al-Khattab reciprocted the aid, sending fighters to Afghanistan to help the Taliban and al-Qaeda brace themselves for an expected U.S. invasion.
Caucasus Emirate/Emarat Kavkaz:
The group seeks the establishment of an Islamic state in the North Caucasus — an area of southwestern Russia consisting of half-a-dozen republics including Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia.
The emirate was listed as a terror group by the Russian in February 2010 and by the United Nations the following year. It was declared by its leader and spiritual guide Doku K. Umarov in October 2007.
"Our next task is to make the Caucasus a purely Islamic area by instituting Sharia in the land and driving out the infidels," he said.
He called on his supporters to go to war not just against Russia, but against all states. The groups' supporters maintain a website which regularly posts videos of its leaders caliming responsibility for terrorist acts in Russia, including the suicide bombing at the Domodedovo airport in Moscow on Jan. 24, 2011.
Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Dagestani Shari'ah Jamaat
Islambouli Brigades of al-Qa'ida
Sword of Islam
There are many other little known groups involved in the insurgency and terror campaign against Russia and the government it backs in Chechnya, led by former rebel turned Putin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.
The Global Terrorism Database maintained by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at Maryland University lists hundreds of attacks in Chechnya, Russia and even Turkey by these and other unknown Chechen groups.
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About the Author
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
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