Chechen separatist ringleader Shamil Basayev has been killed

FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev reported to President Vladimir Putin yesterday that Russia’s most wanted terrorist, Shamil Basayev, has been killed in Ingushetia. According to Patrushev, Basayev and ten other guerrillas were planning a major act of terrorism, timed for the G8 summit.

Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev reported to President Vladimir Putin yesterday that Russia’s most wanted terrorist, Shamil Basayev, has been killed in Ingushetia. According to Patrushev, Basayev and ten other guerrillas were planning a major act of terrorism, timed for the G8 summit. The terrorists were blown up in a truck carrying explosives. President Alu Alkhanov of Chechnya said that Basayev’s death marks the end-point of the counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus. Ramzan Kadyrov told us that his only regret is that he wasn’t the one who killed Basayev.

Everything started with a brief report: a KamAZ truck carrying explosives had blown up in Ingushetia. The explosion happened around midnight, near the village of Yekazhevo. The blast woke up the whole village, breaking windows in many homes.

It turned out that a KamAZ truck, packed full of explosives and weapons, had blown up on a road near the village. The explosion also destroyed two light vehicles escorting the truck; four guerrillas were in those vehicles.

Staff at the FSB Directorate for Ingushetia told us: “The guerrillas were transporting weapons and ammunition in the truck, because they were making preparations for several acts of terrorism – and not only in Ingushetia. They were on a country road with an uneven surface, and apparently the jolting of the truck triggered an explosive device.”

But this was only the first version of events. FSB counter-intelligence was deliberately withholding information. Later on, it was announced that the explosion had been the result of a planned special operation. Staff at the Interior Ministry’s Regional Directorate in Nazran, Ingushetia, told us that federal commandos had surrounded the truck and two light vehicles on the outskirts of Yekazhevo.

According to the investigation team, the guerrillas were planning a truck-bombing on Monday, July 10, at the Ingushetian Interior Ministry’s headquarters. Specialists say that if this plan had been carried out, the blast would have been powerful enough to destroy the Interior Ministry building and damage nearby apartment buildings.

Investigators at the site estimated that the force of the explosion was equivalent to over 100 kilograms of TNT. Two of the dead guerrillas were identified: well-known terrorists Isa Kushtov and Tarkhan Ganizhev. They had long been wanted in Ingushetia. Isa Kushtov was involved in the abduction of Magomed Chakhkiyev, the father-in-law of Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov. Tarkhan Ganizhev was involved in the June 21-22, 2004 armed attack on Ingushetia.

Later that day, reports came in that Shamil Basayev was among the dead guerrillas. FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev informed President Putin of this. According to Patrushev, Basayev was destroyed in the course of a complicated special operation. The nature of the operation can be inferred from a close analysis of Patrushev’s words.

“The special operation we had been preparing, as I reported to you earlier, was carried out last night in Ingushetia,” said Patrushev to President Putin. “It resulted in the destruction of Shamil Basayev and a number of bandits who were preparing to commit acts of terrorism in Ingushetia. This operation became possible thanks to the fact that operative positions had been established abroad, primarily in those countries where weapons were collected and subsequently sent to Russia for the purpose of terrorist attacks.”

So the explosives-packed KamAZ truck didn’t hit a pot-hole at all. In other words, FSB counter-intelligence was working with some people, in some other countries, who were trusted by the “weapons-buyers.” The weapons were collected, packed, and shipped in the knowledge that the consignment would become a “detonator” at the appropriate time. Cleary, more than one “partisan” was involved in preparations for this, or it wouldn’t have succeeded in completing the long road to Basayev. But since Patrushev is now speaking of it so openly, there’s also the possibility that an exact copy of the weapons consignment was made, and substituted at some stage along the route. Or was something planted within it?

Further support for the assertion about connections abroad can be found in President Putin’s recent hardline statement to the effect that those who killed the Russian Embassy hostages must be found and destroyed, anywhere in the world. He also said that he hopes for the assistance of our friends abroad. President Putin spoke very confidently, but at the time he made the statement, the only well-known special operation of this kind was the elimination of Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Qatar. But now it’s become clear what Putin had in mind: the FSB was reporting in detail to him about a consignment of weapons crossing the border, Basayev taking delivery of it, and so on – including some real assistance from our “friends” abroad. If this is the case, President Putin’s order to find the executioners is likely to be carried out successfully.

Note that the truck didn’t explode in a town or a village, but on the outskirts of a village. All the roads there are covered in pot-holes, but the explosion happened in a place where accidental casualties would be minimized. Perhaps it was a time-bomb. Or was it detonated by remote control? Given the experience of Basayev’s bodyguards, it’s absolutely impossible that the truck was being tailed. So there might have been a tracking device attached to it, or it could have been targeted via satellite.

The terrorists were killed as they approached the city of Nazran. The risk of them reaching the city center was increasing with every kilometer they traveled. This suggests that Basayev might have arranged to meet the truck at the last moment – in other words, he might have been hiding on the outskirts of Nazran, or in the city itself. Most likely, this part of the operation involved espionage work and patient waiting. According to Patrushev, the bandits were planning a terrorist attack in order to put pressure on Russia’s leaders during preparations for the G8 summit.

What we know of Shamil Basayev shows that he’d always turn up wherever the next “momentous” (in its level of brutality) terrorist attack, timed for a specific date, was about to happen. Basayev was seen in Grozny before May 9, 2004, and in Beslan before September 1, 2004. He’d hover over the scene of the crime like a vampire, and hole up after the attack.

President Putin congratulated all FSB special forces personnel, saying: “This is deserved retribution against the bandits – for our children in Beslan, for Budennovsk, for all the terrorist attacks they have committed in Moscow and in other regions of Russia, including Ingushetia and Chechnya.”

Eliminating Shamil Basayev is the second success the special services have reported in the past month. Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, the self-proclaimed president of Ichkeria who replaced Aslan Maskhadov, was killed on June 17.

President Alu Alkhanov of Chechnya said that the battle against terrorism in the North Caucasus is over: “In my view, today may be regarded as the date of the logical conclusion of the most difficult battle fought against illegal armed formations by the special services, the federal forces, and the law enforcement agencies.

“We are grateful to those who destroyed Basayev, but I regret that I wasn’t the one who did it,” said Ramzan Kadyrov. “Basayev wasn’t only the most wanted terrorist, but also my personal enemy, responsible for the deaths of 420 of my closest allies, family members, and friends. He also claimed responsibility for the death of my father, Akhmad Kadyrov.”

But President Putin pointed out at his meeting with Nikolai Patrushev that even though Basayev is dead, the terrorist threat hasn’t abated.

“You and I are well aware that the terrorist threat is still very great, and operative efforts in that direction must not be relaxed,” said President Putin. “On the contrary, they should be strengthened, and our actions should be made more effective.”