[Marxism] Chechen rebels were not Chechen
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Oct 18 14:22:46 MDT 2005
Russia's terrorists: Now it's not just Chechens
Heavy-handed Kremlin tactics have expanded number of rebel groups
By Preston Mendenhall
Updated: 2:30 p.m. ET Oct. 18, 2005
NALCHIK, Russia In their haste to blame Chechen terrorists for a bold
attack on government buildings in this faded resort town last week, Russian
authorities initially failed to reveal one crucial detail: the gunmen were
Residents who encountered the 100 or so militants said they spoke with
local accents, suggesting that the attack was home-grown in
Kabardino-Balkaria, an impoverished Muslim region in southern Russia.
The eyewitness accounts are a disquieting reminder to the Kremlin that
terrorism in Russia no longer originates only from the war-torn republic of
And if that message wasnt clear, in a statement on a rebel Web site
Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev Russias most-wanted man praised the
forces of Mujahideen from Kabardino-Balkaria, and not from Chechnya, for
Analysts say the heavily armed gunmen who took part in last Thursdays
attack represent a new wave of militancy in Russia whose ability to arm and
organize in local Muslim communities is now a bigger threat to the Kremlin
than bands of Chechen rebels sneaking through the mountainous terrain of
Russias southern Caucasus region.
Its a total failure of [Russian President Vladimir] Putins policies in
the Caucasus, said Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow-based defense analyst.
Putin began with having a problem in Chechnya. Now he has a problem in the
entire northern Caucasus. The war that began in Chechnya has spread out to
a number of other local republics.
(Meanwhile, there were further clashes Nalchik on Tuesday as Russian
security forces continued their search for suspected militants in order to
gain control in the town. Gunfire was heard and a suspect in last week's
attacks was reported killed in a clash with police.)
Fanning the flames of historic mistrust of the Kremlin, locals say, is the
combustible combination of high unemployment, easy access to weapons and
frustration with endemic government corruption.
This summer, in a report leaked to the Russian press, a senior adviser to
President Putin warned that some areas of the region were close to anarchy.
When all the mosques are closed down except for the one with a
Kremlin-friendly imam, extremists seize on discontent and recruit more to
their ranks, said 28-year-old Ruslan, a Nalchik resident who, fearing
repercussions, did not want to give his last name.
Brunt of Belsan
The Nalchik attack took place only 60 miles down the road from Beslan,
where 331 hostages, mostly children, were killed when Russian forces
stormed a school held by Chechen rebels. In the year since the Beslan
tragedy, Nalchik has borne the brunt of Kremlins crackdown in the region.
Following Beslan, the Kremlin began to impose strict rule from Moscow.
Elections of local leaders were abolished in favor of Kremlin appointees, a
policy that has alienated local ethnic groups. Reports of human rights
violations have increased.
Amid accusations that police planted weapons and ammunition on civilian
corpses in Nalchik in an effort to support their claims that dozens of
terrorists were killed, grieving families have yet to recover relatives
bodies. Russian anti-terrorism laws allow the government to bury bodies of
terrorists in unidentified graves, a policy that has aggravated the Muslim
The oppression of Russias Muslim population, using heavy-handed tactics,
has backfired, said analyst Felgenhauer.
Despite Moscow's brutal tactics, there are signs the Kremlin is beginning
to acknowledge that brute force and central rule are weakening its hold on
In a rare acknowledgement that anti-terror policy could be flawed, the
pro-Putin president of Kabardino-Balkaria, Arsen Kanokov, admitted that the
government might be reaping what it sowed.
It will get only worse if we continue to forbid them to pray, close their
mosques and force them underground, where it is harder to control them, he
told the daily Kommersant newspaper. This will only harden them. And what
is banned always seems to be right to people.
The governments reaction to the assault on Nalchik certainly reflects a
policy in crisis.
Although senior Moscow officials quickly claimed Basayev was behind the
Nalchik events, Kabardino-Balkaria Prime Minister Gennady Gubin has
reiterated, There is no information that Basayev participated in this
raid, even indirectly.
And while other Russian officials were pointing to the Chechen leaders
role, defense minister Sergei Ivanov stated categorically that the
militants posed as peaceful citizens in Nalchik, without the help of
The lack of coordination extended to official reports of the number of dead
militants. The Kabardino-Balkaria president said 70 were killed by security
forces. The Russian Interior Ministry reported 92. Meanwhile, Basayev said
41 militants had died in the attacks.
Preston Mendenhall is an NBC News Correspondent based in Moscow.
© 2005 MSNBC.com
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