Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Russian-Speaking Jihadists

Russian-Speaking Jihadists | Inna Naroditskaya

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Last week, New York police arrested three Brooklyn men, immigrants from post-Soviet states Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and charged them with aiding the Islamic State (ISIL). One of the men's online postings questioned whether it is "possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs while here [in the U.S.]... to shoot Obama and then get shot ourselves."
ISIL uses a rigorous propaganda method to recruit fighters like them, and they have attracted 20,000 foreign combatants so far. Russia has the largest Muslim population in the West, and, together with its newly independent Islamic neighbors, like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, has supplied a significant jihadist force. Reuters reported recently that the flow of European fighters has decreased due to tighter travel restrictions, while now most foreign fighters are coming from Asia. A recent report from president of Kurdistan Massoud Barzani revealed that ISIL has been recruiting retired Soviet army officers.
This is not an entirely new development: Uzbek radio announced last year that up to 3,500 Uzbeksjoined Islamists in Iraq and Syria, and in 2013, 1,700 Chechens formed their own military divisions in ISIL. Further, Russian is the lingua franca on thousands of online jihadist promotional sites directed to the multi-national, multi-ethnic population across post-Soviet territories, including music videos that use traditional nasheeds, song-poems, to sway impressionable young hearts. Recruiters in Russia, and especially in Caucasus, also visit market places to talk to merchants and frequent visitors to woo them.
And clearly, some are wooed, including youth. Last month, A Kazakh boy became the star of online ISIL propaganda when he shot two kneeling men accused of spying for Russia. Two months earlier, dressed in camouflage and a matching bandanna, Kalashnikov rifle in hands, he was filmed before a cohort of armed children, and when an interviewer asked him what he will do in the future, inshallah(Allah's will), the boy, looking straight at his interviewer, utters: "I will be the one who slaughters you, O kuffar, I will be a mujahidid [Islamic fighter], inshallah." Robbing them of their childhood, the Islamist extremists turn children like him into ideological killing machines.
The jihadists also exploit children's joy of play. For example, in one video, soft voices, simple melodies and engaging rhythms accompany Chechen-born Abu Omar al-Shishani, an ISIL leader, as he swims with two-or-three-year-old kids. He later is shown teaching them to use AK47s. Another red-bearded Muslim al-Shishani, visiting a training center for young mujahedeen, welcomes a stream of six- to eight-year-old boys, parading with automatics in their hands (the video and audio were removed, only photograph remains online).
Not protected and seen as disposable, children also become victims of jihadists. The U. N. Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report on January 22 about ISIL's treatment of children, including how they have sold and executed, burned, beheaded, crucified and buried them alive. They have also sold girls as sex slaves and used mentally disabled kids as suicie bombers. The mass destruction of minorities' children coincides with making their own into brainwashed monsters who play soccer with severed heads, are curious observers of tortured adults nailed tocrosses and kneel before executioners. The global madness of jihad defies humanity.
Of course, it's not just children who ISIL recruits. The men join as fighters, and women fulfill the fighters' needs, bury children, and also die as shahid(suicide-killers). Sometimes entire families are involved, such as the 150-member Kazakh family that migrated from its homeland to join ISIS in Syriain 2013 Speaking native Kazakh mixed with Russian and Arabic, the family consists of 60 armed men, dozens of women and teens and at least 20 small children.
Despite this targeted recruitment and the thousands who are joining ISIL from the region, the world's, particularly the U.S.', main focus regarding Russia is whether or not Putin will attack Ukraine. ISIL's atrocities and growing appetite must also be a priority for the united global community, but it's not. Currently, for example, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, established under the direction of the White House to "coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide foreign communication activities against terrorism," has an outreach team that counters terrorist propaganda in Arabic, Urdu, Somali, Punjabi and English, but not Russian. Among those attending the global summit on extremism in Washington, D.C. in February was Aleksandr Bortnikov, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, but as a last-minute surprise participant, suggesting the U.S. was not eager to work with Russia on this crucial issue.
Last week, Bortnikov proposed to "cooperate with his American counterparts" in fighting ISIL. While there are tensions between Russia and the U.S., there still must be coordinated communication among data analysts, media producers, psychologists and secret services in these countries, and others, to exchange, share and collaborate their efforts. Decades ago, the evil of World War II was crushed by the unlikely alliance of the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States. The historical precedent can be an example to current leaders in Russia, the U.S., and elsewhere as they work to crush ISIL.
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Russia's Very Secret Services | World Policy Institute

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By Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan
MOSCOW—When the Soviet Union collapsed, many observers expected its fearsome intelligence apparatus to wither as well. Instead, the post-Soviet era has seen the emergence of an even more influential collection of intelligence organizations that grew out of the two premier Soviet agencies: the KGB, which combined domestic and foreign political intelligence, and the gru, which handled military intelligence. The prominent—even dominant—role of intelligence within contemporary Russia’s political system is a sign of the Kremlin’s growing ambitions. But it also reflects a profound fear of being outmaneuvered by the West in Russia’s traditional sphere of influence, which now comprises 10 more or less independent nations that once belonged to the Soviet Union. Within that vast territory—and in the areas that directly border it—an intense and largely invisible battle for control is being fought every day.
 This struggle has put the Kremlin’s intelligence agencies in direct competition with Western intelligence services, with all parties retaining some old habits left over from the Cold War. At the same time, the unique status and financial resources provided to Russia’s secret services in the early 2000s by then-President Vladimir Putin makes them even more unpredictable than their predecessor, the KGB, which was a powerful organization, but came under the firm control of the political structure. The Communist Party presided over every KGB section, department, and division. By contrast, over the last decade in Russia, the resurgent secret services have become a new elite, enjoying expanded responsibilities and immunity from public oversight or parliamentary control. Today’s Russian secret services are impenetrable to outsiders. While the KGB played by the Cold War’s rules, its inheritors are given a freer hand to make decisions on their own.
Surprisingly, though, the biggest beneficiaries of the elevation of Russian intelligence have been the authoritarian regimes that filled the vacuum after the breakup of the Soviet Union—the dictators of Central Asia, who have used Russian security forces to facilitate the abduction, even rendition, of their own opposition forces. In an unexpected reversal, Russia has become a hunting ground for the security services of many of the world’s most vicious rulers.
COMPETING SPOOKS
Today, there are three principal Russian intelligence services. The SVR, or Foreign Intelligence Service, operates largely in Western Europe and the United States. The gru, the old military intelligence service under the Soviet Union, remains intact, with virtually the same global portfolio. The FSB, or Federal Security Service, the most direct successor to the old KGB, operates principally in the former Soviet Republics, sometimes still referred to as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the loose confederation that was established to succeed the USSR after it collapsed. The FSB is also active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, both of which border the former Soviet sphere. Of course, these delineations are not set in stone, and there is persistent overlap and competition between these organizations, as agents of both the FSB and SVR are often found falling all over each other.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in late 1991, the leaders of the former Soviet republics were very slow to create completely independent states. Initially, they even agreed to maintain the united armed forces of the CIS, giving Moscow a chance to retain its influence. Intelligence cooperation was a natural outgrowth of this dependency, and the Kremlin was happy to help the still-unproven leaders of these new states bolster their security structures. These relations were formalized in April 1992, when the SVR signed an agreement with its counterparts in the CIS, agreeing not to spy on each other.
But the relationship proved to be very much a one-way street. The SVR effectively assumed the posture of “Big Brother,” making visits to CIS capitals to attend multilateral meetings or bilateral talks, where they were sometimes received by heads of state.
Not all CIS members were equally happy at finding themselves once again under the direct scrutiny of the Kremlin. Throughout the 1990s, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan remained firm allies, allowing Russian military bases to remain on their soil and continuing to cooperate on intelligence. But Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine drifted in NATO’s direction, in part because Russia supported separatist movements in each of those nations. Lastly, the governments of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, long suspicious of ethnic Russians who had migrated during Soviet times, signaled their independence by purging Russians from the ranks of their security services.
During this time, Russia’s other security agency, the FSB, was also eager to establish its own special relations with security services in the CIS. This effort was aided in no small part by the rise of Putin, a veteran of the KGB’s First Directorate, which dealt with foreign intelligence activities. By the late 1990s, with Putin’s profile growing, the FSB had found its way into the “near-abroad,” as the former outlying Soviet republics are now called. It justified its expanded reach by pointing to a shared regional struggle against illegal drug trafficking and terrorism.
That explanation was nothing more than a pretext for a power grab—but it more than sufficed. By 2000, the FSB was becoming the dominant intelligence player in what had been the Soviet Union. That year, Russia backed the establishment of a CIS Antiterrorist Center, headquartered in Moscow with a Central Asian branch in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Though the center was conceived as a supranational structure, it was effectively under full FSB control—headed by the service’s first deputy director—and supervised “collective” anti-terrorist exercises in Central Asia every April. The Antiterrorist Center’s mandate was to create a database for intelligence sharing among the security services of all member countries. But the idea of pooling intelligence information was abandoned when members learned that the database would be located in Moscow. Some CIS states simply did not buy the notion that Russia had a sincere desire to help with counterterrorism efforts on their soil. Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan refused to send representatives to the center at all. They saw it, quite correctly, as a not very subtle Russian foot in their door. Still, the FSB’s timing was good. Under the umbrella of anti-terrorism, it soon had much more credible justification for its regional expansion.
In the early 2000s, it became evident that the political status quo in many of the post-Soviet republics was under threat. One after another, the old regimes that had been established in the early 1990s fell like dominoes in a series of popular uprisings known as the “color revolutions”: the Rose Revolution in Georgia (2003), the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2004), and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan (2005). These regime changes were neither predicted nor prevented by Moscow. The Kremlin and the FSB viewed these events as Western concoctions, modeled after the toppling of Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. As these events unfolded, the Kremlin became increasingly paranoid that Russia and its political allies in the region would be next. Russia’s sphere of influence, it seemed, had to be watched more carefully.
COVERT OPERATIONS
As the Kremlin turned increasingly to the FSB, it began to emerge as the single most powerful Russian secret service, especially in the former CIS regions. Although the SVR had promised not to spy within the territories, the FSB had never signed any such agreement and felt free of any obligation. As a result, in late 1999, the FSB was granted permission to establish a new directorate to focus on Russia’s nearest neighbors. The newly formed Directorate of Operative Information (ukoi) was established inside the Department of Analysis, Forecasting, and Strategic Planning. The structure of the directorate was established along geographical lines and its officers were granted the right to travel abroad—or at least to the “near-abroad.” ukoi was headed by Major General Vyacheslav Ushakov, a member of an influential group of intelligence veterans who had served together in the FSB’s regional departments in St. Petersburg and neighboring Karelia. The group included Putin himself, as well as then-FSB director Nikolai Patrushev.
On June 30, 2003, an amendment to the “Law on the Organs of the Federal Security Service” was adopted, stipulating that the FSB would contain a special body dealing with such foreign intelligence.
In 2004, the directorate was re-named the Department of Operative Information (DOI), and its chief, Ushakov, was promoted to deputy director of the FSB. Ushakov was replaced as head of the unit by Sergei Beseda, a general who had become influential and well-connected while serving in the FSB section supervising the Administration of the President.
While the operations of this department are cloaked in the deepest secrecy, some of its key officials are believed to have traveled to the former Soviet republics during political turning points. In May 2005, the head of the FSB, Patrushev, claimed before the Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, to have helped unmask a plot against the regime in Belarus. According to Patrushev, international NGOs, mostly based in the West, had met in the Slovak capital of Bratislava in late 2004 at the time of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution “to plan the downfall of the regime of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko.” Surprisingly, Belarus’s own KGB never expressed any outrage at this open intervention by the FSB into its internal affairs. Indeed, the day after Patrushev’s statement, the Belarussian KGB confirmed it, suggesting that it was perfectly content to have the Russian intelligence service operating so closely in matters relating to Belarus’s national security. A few days later, the heads of the security services of the CIS countries gathered in Astana, Kazakhstan. Patrushev warned his counterparts about the dangers of the “color revolutions.”
But the FSB’s involvement in the near-abroad has not always gone smoothly, and at times has even backfired. In 2004, the leadership of the FSB’s intelligence department reportedly visited Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia whose independence had yet to be recognized by Russia. The FSB officers met with Raul Khadjimba, a pro-Moscow candidate running for president of Abkhazia. It was one thing for the Russian Foreign Ministry to support an Abkhazian candidate; quite another for him to receive a visit from generals in the FSB. But Khadjimba lost the election.
His victorious opponent made it known that he was not happy with the FSB’s presence. As a result, FSB agents ceased to operate with a free hand in Abkhazia, seriously undermining the FSB’s position in Georgia and contributing to its failure to predict the Georgian move into South Ossetia four years later, which led to full-scale war between Russia and Georgia.
SAFE HAVENS
Beginning in the mid-1990s, Russia had become a safe haven for political opponents of Central Asian regimes. Using old but still valid Soviet passports, and taking advantage of suddenly porous borders, the flow of people into Russia included key political opponents of these regimes. In response, the secret services of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan began reaching into Russia to grab people who might cause trouble for the autocratic and corrupt regimes running those countries.
In most cases, Russia’s secret services turned a blind eye on the Central Asian secret services’ activities on Russian soil. But the system of abductions was provisional and imperfect. It lacked some important elements: a coordination center, immunity for the secret agents involved in abductions, and legal grounds for transferring the captives. These kinds of activities appeared to be at odds with post-communist Russian law, which officially maintains an established procedure for formal extraditions, overseen by the general prosecutor. A new system, designed to avoid legal extradition entirely, was soon developed by Central Asian security organizations with the connivance of the FSB.
The broader system was embedded in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), founded in 2001 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The stated purpose of the SCO was the joint struggle against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism. In 2004, a special anti-terrorism organization was created within the SCO and named the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure. (The English acronym, RATS, seems particularly appropriate.) RATS became the mechanism of choice for carrying out abductions across national boundaries and outside standard judicial procedures—operations quite similar to the American CIA’s practice of extraordinary rendition.
To improve RATS’s ability to detain suspects in the six participating states, it was necessary to guarantee absolute protection to the officers executing the operations. The SCO’s Convention on Privileges and Immunities, ratified by Russia in 2005, gave representatives of the organization the equivalent of diplomatic status.
They are not subject to criminal liability for any actions committed in the course of their duty, and they are immune from arrest and detention. The same unlimited immunity applies to RATS “experts”—secret service officers from any member country who are attached to RATS for the duration of their mission. Experts are shielded from arrest during and after their business trips. Even their luggage cannot be searched.
The regime in Uzbekistan has been especially enthusiastic in its embrace of RATS. Islam Karimov, the country’s autocratic ruler, has long fought a brutal counterinsurgency campaign against Islamist opposition groups, led by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Hizb ut-Tahrir. Members of these groups had been among those who found refuge across the border in Russia. RATS provided an effective way for Karimov to eliminate them.
“In the early 2000s, natives from Uzbekistan living in the Volga region and considered to be members of Hizb ut-Tahrir by Uzbek secret services started to disappear,” says Yelena Ryabinina, director for the Rights for Refugees Program at the Human Rights Institute, a nongovernmental organization based in Moscow. Ryabinina has spent many days in court, defending refugees from Central Asia against illegal deportation. Many of those deported were later found in Uzbek prisons.
In 2004, Alisher Usmanov, a teacher at an Islamic school in the Tatarstan region of Russia, was detained by Russian police and sentenced to several months in prison for illegal possession of ammunition. Usmanov had been wanted by Uzbekistan since 1998 for what the Uzbek government claimed was an “attempt to undermine the constitutional regime of the country.” But Usmanov had been granted Russian citizenship, and thus could not be extradited, since Russia, like many other countries, refuses to extradite its citizens. On July 24, 2005, he was due to be released. Instead, he simply disappeared, claims his wife, Aisha. “When we came to the prison, we were simply told that Alisher was released at 5:00 AM and went off with the people who met him,” Aisha says.
It was later determined that he had been abducted directly from prison by the FSB and its Uzbek counterpart. Usmanov was delivered to the airport and flown to Uzbekistan. In November 2005 he was convicted of “undermining the constitutional system,” participation in a criminal organization and falsifying documents, and sentenced to an eight-year prison term in Uzbekistan.
Perhaps no party has benefited more from the RATS program than the Karimov regime, to whom Russia has supplied a steady stream of dissidents, refugees, and alleged terrorists. Reflecting the centrality of Uzbekistan to the program, the RATS headquarters was moved from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to the Uzbek capital of Tashkent. And in 2005, Russia placed the Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir party, which is legal in Europe and the United States, on its national list of terrorist organizations, at the request of Uzbekistan.
“The international terrorist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have made attempts to spread their activity to Russia,” FSB director Patrushev later declared.
Uzbekistan’s enemies are now officially considered a threat to Russian national security—another political gift for Karimov.
In fact, to a surprising degree, it appears that the other countries involved in RATS—especially Uzbekistan and China—have benefited far more from the program than Russia. Russia routinely ships back individuals sought by other countries but apparently receives none of those it seeks from them. According to information from Yelena Ryabinina, in 2007 Russia began to deport Chinese members of Falun Gong, a movement banned in China in 1999 for being “opposed to the Communist Party of China and the central government, that preaches idealism, theism, and feudal superstition,” according to the Chinese government. Publicly available FSB reports indicate that in the past decade, there were very few detentions of Russians in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, or China, and not a single suspect in a terrorism or extremism case has been extradited to Russia from Uzbekistan.
It seems like little recompense for facilitating activities that could expose Russia to international condemnation. What, then, does Russia gain from RATS? The payoff, from the Kremlin’s point of view, is a higher profile for the SCO, which Russia sees as a counterbalance to the NATO and U.S. presence in the region. In the 1990s, the SCO—then known as the Shanghai Five—was a marginal group.
Now, its meetings are attended by the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India and Mongolia. The SCO’s growing profile has inspired the Kremlin to think that Russia might once again play a crucial role in the region—an impossible dream without the support of Uzbekistan and China. For the Kremlin, allowing Central Asian states to hunt down their dissidents on Russian soil seems to be an acceptable price in exchange for the chance to lead a strong regional alliance, which Russia has failed to do since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
ABDUCTIONS TO ASSASSINATIONS
On June 3, 2006, a Chevrolet Tahoe carrying five Russian diplomats was cut off by a minivan and a sedan about 400 yards from the Russian embassy in the upscale Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad. Gunmen attacked the diplomats’ car. One of the diplomats, Vitaly Titov, was severely wounded and died later that day. The other four men were kidnapped. On June 19, a group of Iraqi insurgents demanded Russian troops withdraw from Chechnya and free all Muslim prisoners in Russia within 48 hours—or the diplomats would be executed. On June 25, the terrorists released a hostage video showing one man being beheaded and another shot dead, as well as the body of a third. The next day Russia confirmed that the four diplomats were dead.
On June 28, Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s secret services to find and kill the insurgents responsible for kidnapping and killing Russian embassy employees in Iraq. Patrushev, the FSB director, stated that the special services would do everything possible to eliminate the terrorists.
“We should ensure that any terrorist who has committed a crime will not avoid the responsibility,” he said. “This is not a casual assignment. It is in the logic of what we do.” In other words, revenge is what shapes the Russian secret services’ understanding of counterterrorism.
A few months later, American forces captured the lead kidnapper—an alleged senior al-Qaida commander known as Abu Nur—and turned him over to Iraqi authorities. But the killings gave Vladimir Putin an excuse to propose new legislation, allowing new and more lethal operations abroad. Aside from their retributive aims, such operations have become a means of changing the policies and behaviors of nations that have sometimes provided safe havens for Russia’s enemies.
Although it was presented in news reports as an emotional reaction to the diplomats’ murders, Russia’s policy of carrying out assassinations abroad had been under preparation for some time. The Duma had spent months discussing a legislative initiative that would allow the FSB to kill terrorists on foreign soil. According to Mikhail Grishankov, a deputy chairman of the Security Committee at the State Duma, the first draft of the bill was presented to the Duma in March of 2006, three months before the murder of the diplomats in Baghdad. Barely a week after Putin’s call for retribution in Iraq, both houses of parliament approved foreign assassinations by intelligence agencies.
The battered republic of Abkhazia appeared to be the first target after the bills were approved. Khamzat Gitsba—nicknamed “Rocky” because of his devotion to boxing—had become an Abkhazian war hero during the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict of 1992–1993. He had joined a battalion of Chechen Islamists who entered the battle on the Abkhaz side during the war. Later, he was one of the terrorists who took Russian and foreign tourists hostage on the Avrasia ferry in Turkish waters in January 1996.
At some point after 2000, Gitsba returned to Abkhazia to take charge of a radical Muslim group in the region. On August 17, 2007, he was shot dead in the center of the tiny town of Gudauta, machine-gunned in front of a mosque by two assassins who waited for him in a Chrysler.
An hour later the Chrysler was found burning. The local police established that the car had been driven across the Russian-Abkhaz border at the Psou River a few days prior to the murder. Video cameras at the Abkhaz customs station identified the Chrysler’s registration plates, but because Abkhazia did not keep records of all those driving into the republic, the identities of the drivers were impossible to prove. The Abkhaz authorities turned to the Russian border guards, but Moscow media reported that the Russians said such a vehicle never crossed the frontier.
Around the same time, a spate of murders of Chechens occurred in Azerbaijan. The Chechen insurgency was effectively wiped out during its second war with Russia, and Chechnya is now ruled by a Moscow-friendly autocrat, Ramzan Kadyrov. Yet Russian intelligence agencies and Kadyrov’s squads still vigorously pursue any Chechen they suspect of anti-Moscow activity. In early 2007, the Council of Chechen Refugees in Azerbaijan sent an appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, reporting that the situation for Chechen refugees in Azerbaijan had “seriously worsened,” particularly as a result of “threats to the personal safety of our citizens who came to this country in search of refuge and protection.” The council referred to incidents involving “the abduction of people,” citing the case of Ruslan Eliev, who went missing in Baku in November 2006. In March 2007, his dead body was found in Chechnya near the village of Samashki. In November, Imran Gaziev, deputy chief of the representative office of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in Azerbaijan, was killed in the capital. A gunman shot Gaziev as he was getting out of his car.
In 2008 and 2009, a series of assassinations of Chechens took place in Turkey. In September 2008, Gaji Edilsultanov, a former Chechen field commander, was shot dead on a street in the Başakşehir district of Istanbul.
Three months later, on December 10, 2008, former Chechen warlord Islam Janibekov was also assassinated in Istanbul, in front of his wife and children. He received three gunshot wounds to his head and died on the spot. The Russian magazine Spetsnaz, which has close ties to Russian special operations forces, alleged that Janibekov was wanted by Russian authorities for terrorist attacks in the cities of Yessentuki and Mineralnye Vody and in the republic of Karachay-Cherkessia in the early 2000s. Musa Atayev (also known as Ali Osaev), another Chechen rebel, was killed in Istanbul on February 26, 2009.
These assassinations were apparently intended not only to reduce support for the Chechen insurgency abroad, but also to change the policy of the countries where these rebels—considered “enemies of the state”—had taken refuge. The strategy has proven effective.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Azeri authorities had tolerated Chechen militants on their soil, and allowed a Chechen office to operate in Baku. But in the mid-2000s, relations between Russia and Azerbaijan had surprisingly improved, and sources in Russia’s Interior Ministry confirm the existence of an agreement with Azeri law enforcement agencies that allows actions by Russian intelligence units and free passage across the border. (When we first published this information in the Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta, in December 2007, no denial was made by either Russia or Azerbaijan.)
Many Chechen refugees had found asylum in Turkey, mostly in Istanbul, and Russian secret services had long accused Turkey of providing support to Chechen rebels. Evidently, the assassinations in Istanbul did not damage Russian-Turkish relations, and in 2010 Turkey signed a deal lifting mutual visa requirements with Russia.
DEEPLY INGRAINED PARANOIA
Last December, the WikiLeaks “CableGate” trove of documents included a message sent from the American embassy in Moscow to Washington in advance of a visit to Moscow by the director of the FBI on November 9, 2009. In the cable, Ambassador John Beyrle described the leadership of the Russian secret services as “the most influential opponents of the engagement agenda”—the Obama administration’s “reset” policy toward Russia. Russian intelligence chiefs, Beyrle noted, “tend toward a Cold War mentality, which sees the U.S. and its allies intent on undermining Russia—and they have made public accusations to that effect.”
Unable to rid themselves of that deeply ingrained KGB mind-set, the Russian secret services remain locked in the past, repeatedly exhibiting the same paranoia toward the West that marked decades of Cold War confrontation. At the same time, the closeness of high-ranking intelligence officials to the Kremlin—unprecedented even when compared with Soviet times—makes it difficult for Russian leaders to arrive at any independent assessment of information provided by the secret services. With increasing frequency, this has resulted in miscalculations and errors in Kremlin policy at home and abroad, especially when dealing with Russia’s enemies—real or perceived.
Facing terrorism in the North Caucasus, the FSB makes paranoid claims about the involvement of Western intelligence services in the activities of local Islamist rebels, compromising the ability of those services to help Moscow find and extradite militants who have fled Russia. As a result, Putin’s secret services have embraced assassinations, seriously damaging Russia’s reputation. A Russian hand is now suspected every time a Kremlin opponent is killed abroad.
By engaging in battles to counter a mostly imaginary threat of Western intelligence influence throughout former Soviet territory, Russia’s secret services repeatedly provide ammunition to the Kremlin’s critics, who promulgate an equally mythical image of an “imperial Russia.” In response, the Kremlin seeks to silence all criticism of the secret services in the wake of their failures. It’s a vicious cycle, one that effectively licenses, even mandates, that the FSB and SVR adopt ever more adventurous policies and brutal methods.
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Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan are Russian investigative journalists who cover the operations of Russian security services. They are co-founders of the website Agenturawhich chronicles the services’ activities. Last year, they co-authored The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB (PublicAffairs).
[Illustration by Marshall Hopkins]
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Shame and scandal in Saudi Arabia | Fatah | Columnists | Opinion

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There is a disgraceful spectacle unfolding in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in which some of the leading lights of the West are playing the role of medieval court jesters, singing platitudes to tyrants in a demonstration of subservience that shames the rest of us.
Ostensibly, the American, British, French and other European leaders travelled to the medieval monstrosity we call Saudi Arabia to offer condolences to the family of the late King Abdullah.
But the reality is different. They are there because the Saudis have money and oil.
On one hand the West claims it is fighting to destroy Islamic State (ISIS), yet it strengthens its ties with the very people who have spent an estimated $100 billion to spread Wahhabism, the foundational Islamist creed of ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and the Taliban.
How such statesmen and personalities of the free world as President Barack Obama, Prince Charles, French President Francois Hollande, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the Archbishop of Canterbury could be taken in by the Saudis is mind-boggling.
But the hypocrisy and chicanery of western leaders has not gone unnoticed.
Alastair Crooke the former MI-6 agent and author of the book, Resistance: The Essence of Islamic Revolution, has been trying to educate western Liberals.
Writing in the Huffington Post, Crooke says, “You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia.”
Saying there is little difference between the Saudis the West supposedly admires and the Islamic State (ISIS) it is fighting, the former MI6 agent explains his argument by citing a historic slaughter the Saudis and their ISIS-like allies of the time committed:
“Their (Saudi) strategy — like that of ISIS today — was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear.
“In 1801, the Allies (Saudis and Wahhabis) attacked the Holy City of Karbala in Iraq. They massacred thousands of Shiites, including women and children ... A British official, Lieutenant Francis Warden, observing the situation at the time, wrote: ‘They pillaged the whole of it (Karbala) ... slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above 5,000 of the inhabitants...’”
While Crooke relied on history and his knowledge of the area to nudge western leaders out of their intoxicated slumber, English author and former Conservative MP Louise Mensch launched a tirade on Twitter to express the feelings of millions of us in the West who felt betrayed by their leaders.
Mensch was furious when Cameron said he was “deeply saddened” by the Saudi king’s death while Obama’s boasted of his “friendship” with him.
She tweeted: “F--- you Saudi Arabia and shame on the supine male leaders of the West @David_Cameron @BarackObama #Freethe4 #JeSuisFemme”.
The hashtag #Freethe4 was in reference to the four daughters of King Abdullah whom the Saudi tyrant had imprisoned under house arrest for many years.
As western leaders lined up to pay homage to a new dictator in Riyadh, they pretended they didn’t know that just two weeks before his death, Abdullah’s government had lashed liberal Saudi blogger Raif Badawi 50 times for the “crime” of defending atheists. Up to 950 more lashes could await the brave Badawi.
While Prime Minister Stephen Harper also praised Abdullah upon his death, at least he knows cola in a can is the same thing as cola in a bottle.
Read the whole story
 
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You Can't Understand ISIS If You Don't Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia | Alastair Crooke

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BEIRUT -- The dramatic arrival of Da'ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq has shocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed -- and horrified -- by its violence and its evident magnetism for Sunni youth. But more than this, they find Saudi Arabia's ambivalence in the face of this manifestation both troubling and inexplicable, wondering, "Don't the Saudis understand that ISIS threatens them, too?"
It appears -- even now -- that Saudi Arabia's ruling elite is divided. Some applaud that ISIS is fighting Iranian Shiite "fire" with Sunni "fire"; that a new Sunni state is taking shape at the very heart of what they regard as a historical Sunni patrimony; and they are drawn by Da'ish's strict Salafist ideology.
Other Saudis are more fearful, and recall the history of the revolt against Abd-al Aziz by the Wahhabist Ikhwan (Disclaimer: this Ikhwan has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan -- please note, all further references hereafter are to the Wahhabist Ikhwan, and not to the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan), but which nearly imploded Wahhabism and the al-Saud in the late 1920s.
Many Saudis are deeply disturbed by the radical doctrines of Da'ish (ISIS) -- and are beginning toquestion some aspects of Saudi Arabia's direction and discourse.
THE SAUDI DUALITY
Saudi Arabia's internal discord and tensions over ISIS can only be understood by grasping the inherent (and persisting) duality that lies at the core of the Kingdom's doctrinal makeup and its historical origins.
One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader -- amongst many -- of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)
The second strand to this perplexing duality, relates precisely to King Abd-al Aziz's subsequent shift towards statehood in the 1920s: his curbing of Ikhwani violence (in order to have diplomatic standing as a nation-state with Britain and America); his institutionalization of the original Wahhabist impulse -- and the subsequent seizing of the opportunely surging petrodollar spigot in the 1970s, to channel the volatile Ikhwani current away from home towards export -- by diffusing a cultural revolution, rather than violent revolution throughout the Muslim world.
But this "cultural revolution" was no docile reformism. It was a revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab's Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived all about him -- hence his call to purge Islam of all its heresies and idolatries.
MUSLIM IMPOSTORS
The American author and journalist, Steven Coll, has written how this austere and censorious disciple of the 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, Abd al-Wahhab, despised "the decorous, arty, tobacco smoking, hashish imbibing, drum pounding Egyptian and Ottoman nobility who travelled across Arabia to pray at Mecca."
In Abd al-Wahhab's view, these were not Muslims; they were imposters masquerading as Muslims. Nor, indeed, did he find the behavior of local Bedouin Arabs much better. They aggravated Abd al-Wahhab by their honoring of saints, by their erecting of tombstones, and their "superstition" (e.g. revering graves or places that were deemed particularly imbued with the divine).
All this behavior, Abd al-Wahhab denounced as bida -- forbidden by God.
Like Taymiyyah before him, Abd al-Wahhab believed that the period of the Prophet Muhammad's stay in Medina was the ideal of Muslim society (the "best of times"), to which all Muslims should aspire to emulate (this, essentially, is Salafism).
Taymiyyah had declared war on Shi'ism, Sufism and Greek philosophy. He spoke out, too against visiting the grave of the prophet and the celebration of his birthday, declaring that all such behavior represented mere imitation of the Christian worship of Jesus as God (i.e. idolatry). Abd al-Wahhab assimilated all this earlier teaching, stating that "any doubt or hesitation" on the part of a believer in respect to his or her acknowledging this particular interpretation of Islam should "deprive a man of immunity of his property and his life."
One of the main tenets of Abd al-Wahhab's doctrine has become the key idea of takfir. Under the takfiri doctrine, Abd al-Wahhab and his followers could deem fellow Muslims infidels should they engage in activities that in any way could be said to encroach on the sovereignty of the absolute Authority (that is, the King). Abd al-Wahhab denounced all Muslims who honored the dead, saints, or angels. He held that such sentiments detracted from the complete subservience one must feel towards God, and only God. Wahhabi Islam thus bans any prayer to saints and dead loved ones, pilgrimages to tombs and special mosques, religious festivals celebrating saints, the honoring of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad's birthday, and even prohibits the use of gravestones when burying the dead.

"Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. "

Abd al-Wahhab demanded conformity -- a conformity that was to be demonstrated in physical and tangible ways. He argued that all Muslims must individually pledge their allegiance to a single Muslim leader (a Caliph, if there were one). Those who would not conform to this view 
should be killed
, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. The list of apostates meriting death included the Shiite, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all. 
There is nothing here that separates Wahhabism from ISIS. The rift would emerge only later: from the subsequent institutionalization of Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab's doctrine of "One Ruler, One Authority, One Mosque" -- these three pillars being taken respectively to refer to the Saudi king, the absolute authority of official Wahhabism, and its control of "the word" (i.e. the mosque). 
It is this rift -- the ISIS denial of these three pillars on which the whole of Sunni authority presently rests -- makes ISIS, which in all other respects conforms to Wahhabism, a deep threat to Saudi Arabia. 

BRIEF HISTORY 1741- 1818
 Abd al-Wahhab's advocacy of these ultra radical views inevitably led to his expulsion from his own town -- and in 1741, after some wanderings, he found refuge under the protection of Ibn Saud and his tribe. What Ibn Saud perceived in Abd al-Wahhab's novel teaching was the means to overturn Arab tradition and convention. It was a path to seizing power. 

"Their strategy -- like that of ISIS today -- was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear. "

Ibn Saud's clan, seizing on Abd al-Wahhab's doctrine, now could do what they always did, which was raiding neighboring villages and robbing them of their possessions. Only now they were doing it not within the ambit of Arab tradition, but rather under the banner of
 jihad
. Ibn Saud and Abd al-Wahhab also reintroduced the idea of martyrdom in the name of jihad, as it granted those martyred immediate entry into paradise. 
In the beginning, they conquered a few local communities and imposed their rule over them. (The conquered inhabitants were given a limited choice: conversion to Wahhabism or death.) By 1790, the Alliance controlled most of the Arabian Peninsula and repeatedly raided Medina, Syria and Iraq. 
Their strategy -- like that of ISIS today -- was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear. In 1801, the Allies attacked the Holy City of Karbala in Iraq. They massacred thousands of Shiites, including women and children. Many Shiite shrines were destroyed, including the shrine of Imam Hussein, the murdered grandson of Prophet Muhammad. 
A British official, Lieutenant Francis Warden, observing the situation at the time, wrote: "They pillaged the whole of it [Karbala], and plundered the Tomb of Hussein... slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above five thousand of the inhabitants ..." 
Osman Ibn Bishr Najdi, the historian of the first Saudi state, wrote that Ibn Saud committed a massacre in Karbala in 1801. He proudly documented that massacre saying, "we took Karbala and slaughtered and took its people (as slaves), then praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and we do not apologize for that and say: 'And to the unbelievers: the same treatment.'" 
In 1803, Abdul Aziz then entered the Holy City of Mecca, which surrendered under the impact of terror and panic (the same fate was to befall Medina, too). Abd al-Wahhab's followers demolished historical monuments and all the tombs and shrines in their midst. By the end, they had destroyed centuries of Islamic architecture near the Grand Mosque. 
But in November of 1803, a Shiite assassin killed King Abdul Aziz (taking revenge for the massacre at Karbala). His son, Saud bin Abd al Aziz, succeeded him and continued the conquest of Arabia. Ottoman rulers, however, could no longer just sit back and watch as their empire was devoured piece by piece. In 1812, the Ottoman army, composed of Egyptians, pushed the Alliance out from Medina, Jeddah and Mecca. In 1814, Saud bin Abd al Aziz died of fever. His unfortunate son Abdullah bin Saud, however, was taken by the Ottomans to Istanbul, where he was gruesomely executed (a visitor to Istanbul reported seeing him having been humiliated in the streets of Istanbul for three days, then hanged and beheaded, his severed head fired from a canon, and his heart cut out and impaled on his body). 
In 1815, Wahhabi forces were crushed by the Egyptians (acting on the Ottoman's behalf) in a decisive battle. In 1818, the Ottomans captured and destroyed the Wahhabi capital of Dariyah. The first Saudi state was no more. The few remaining Wahhabis withdrew into the desert to regroup, and there they remained, quiescent for most of the 19th century. 

HISTORY RETURNS WITH ISIS
 It is not hard to understand how the founding of the Islamic State by ISIS in contemporary Iraq might resonate amongst those who recall this history. Indeed, the ethos of 18th century Wahhabism did not just wither in Nejd, but it roared back into life when the Ottoman Empire collapsed amongst the chaos of World War I. 
The Al Saud -- in this 20th century renaissance -- were led by the laconic and politically astute Abd-al Aziz, who, on uniting the fractious Bedouin tribes, launched the Saudi "Ikhwan" in the spirit of Abd-al Wahhab's and Ibn Saud's earlier fighting proselytisers. 
The Ikhwan was a reincarnation of the early, fierce, semi-independent vanguard movement of committed armed Wahhabist "moralists" who almost had succeeded in seizing Arabia by the early 1800s. In the same manner as earlier, the Ikhwan again succeeded in capturing Mecca, Medina and Jeddah between 1914 and 1926. Abd-al Aziz, however, began to feel his wider interests to be threatened by the revolutionary "Jacobinism" exhibited by the Ikhwan. The Ikhwan revolted -- leading to a civil war that lasted until the 1930s, when the King had them put down: he machine-gunned them. 
For this king, (Abd-al Aziz), the simple verities of previous decades were eroding. Oil was being discovered in the peninsular. Britain and America were courting Abd-al Aziz, but still were inclined to support Sharif Husain as the only legitimate ruler of Arabia. The Saudis needed to develop a more sophisticated diplomatic posture. 
So Wahhabism was forcefully changed from a movement of revolutionary 
jihad 
and theological takfiri purification, to a movement of conservative social, political, theological, and religious da'wa (Islamic call) and to justifying the institution that upholds loyalty to the royal Saudi family and the King's absolute power. 

OIL WEALTH SPREAD WAHHABISM
 With the advent of the oil bonanza -- as the French scholar, Giles Kepel 
writes
, Saudi goals were to "reach out and spread Wahhabism across the Muslim world ... to "Wahhabise" Islam, thereby reducing the "multitude of voices within the religion" to a "single creed" -- a movement which would transcend national divisions. Billions of dollars were -- and continue to be -- invested in this manifestation of soft power. 
It was this heady mix of billion dollar soft power projection -- and the Saudi willingness to manage Sunni Islam both to further America's interests, as it concomitantly embedded Wahhabism educationally, socially and culturally throughout the lands of Islam -- that brought into being a western policy dependency on Saudi Arabia, a dependency that has endured since Abd-al Aziz's meeting with Roosevelt on a U.S. warship (returning the president from the Yalta Conference) until today. 
Westerners looked at the Kingdom and their gaze was taken by the wealth; by the apparent modernization; by the professed leadership of the Islamic world. They chose to presume that the Kingdom was bending to the imperatives of modern life -- and that the management of Sunni Islam would bend the Kingdom, too, to modern life.

"On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism."

But the Saudi Ikhwan approach to Islam did not die in the 1930s. It retreated, but it maintained its hold over parts of the system -- hence the duality that we observe today in the Saudi attitude towards ISIS.
On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.
ISIS is a "post-Medina" movement: it looks to the actions of the first two Caliphs, rather than the Prophet Muhammad himself, as a source of emulation, and it forcefully denies the Saudis' claim of authority to rule.
As the Saudi monarchy blossomed in the oil age into an ever more inflated institution, the appeal of the Ikhwan message gained ground (despite King Faisal's modernization campaign). The "Ikhwan approach" enjoyed -- and still enjoys -- the support of many prominent men and women and sheikhs. In a sense, Osama bin Laden was precisely the representative of a late flowering of this Ikhwani approach.
Today, ISIS' undermining of the legitimacy of the King's legitimacy is not seen to be problematic, but rather a return to the true origins of the Saudi-Wahhab project.
In the collaborative management of the region by the Saudis and the West in pursuit of the many western projects (countering socialism, Ba'athism, Nasserism, Soviet and Iranian influence), western politicians have highlighted their chosen reading of Saudi Arabia (wealth, modernization and influence), but they chose to ignore the Wahhabist impulse.
After all, the more radical Islamist movements were perceived by Western intelligence services as being more effective in toppling the USSR in Afghanistan -- and in combatting out-of-favor Middle Eastern leaders and states.
Why should we be surprised then, that from Prince Bandar's Saudi-Western mandate to manage the insurgency in Syria against President Assad should have emerged a neo-Ikhwan type of violent, fear-inducing vanguard movement: ISIS? And why should we be surprised -- knowing a little about Wahhabism -- that "moderate" insurgents in Syria would become rarer than a mythical unicorn? Why should we have imagined that radical Wahhabism would create moderates? Or why could we imagine that a doctrine of "One leader, One authority, One mosque: submit to it, or be killed" could ever ultimately lead to moderation or tolerance?
Or, perhaps, we never imagined.
This article is Part I of Alastair Crooke's historical analysis of the roots of ISIS and its impact on the future of the Middle East. Read Part II here.
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HAIDAR HAMDANI via Getty Images
  • An Iraqi Shiite fighter, loyal to Muslim Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, takes part in military and first aid training on Aug. 19, 2014 in Najaf, central Iraq. (HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Iraqi forces patrol the town of Jurf al-Sakhar in Babil province after the Iraqi army announced a military operation against Islamic State (IS) militants on Aug. 17, 2014. (Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
  • Members of the Hezbollah Brigade in Iraq, a Shiite movement supporting Iraqi government forces in the ongoing clashes against Islamic Sate (IS) jihadists in northern Iraq, carry the coffin of a comrade during his funeral procession on Aug. 20, 2014 in Najaf after he was killed in combat south of Baghdad. (HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Mideast Iraq
    Smoke rises during airstrikes targeting Islamic State (IS) militants at the Mosul Dam in Iraq on Aug. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
  • A car bomb exploded outside the house of Iraqi Intelligence Service member Abdulemir Asgar Kamal, damaging buildings in Kirkuk, Iraq on Aug. 20, 2014. (Ali Mukarrem Garip/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
  • A Peshmerga fighter flashes the sign for victory on top of an armored vehicle at the frontline of fighting with Islamic State (IS) militants east of Mosul on Aug. 18, 2014. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Peshmerga soldiers pose for a group portrait at a military base south of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. (Vianney Le Caer/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images)
  • A Shiite fighter, loyal to Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, holds a position against Islamic State (IS) militants after re-taking control of an area in the Jurf al-Sakher district south of Baghdad, Iraq on Aug. 18, 2014. (ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Members of Iraqi anti-terrorism forces wave the national flag in celebration after securing a checkpoint from Sunni militants in the village of Badriyah, west of Mosul, Iraq on Aug. 19, 2014. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
  • An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter monitors the area from a frontline position in Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, Iraq on Aug. 16, 2014. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Members of the minority Yezidi religious sect, who fled their homes after assaults from Islamic State (IS) militants, take shelter in buildings under construction in the Zakho district nearby the Iraq-Turkey border on Aug. 16, 2014. (Ahmet Izgi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
  • An internally displaced Iraqi woman holds her sister during a sandstorm outside the Bajid Kandala camp in Feeshkhabour, Iraq on Aug. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
  • Displaced Iraqis catch clothes provided by a charity outside the Bajid Kandala camp in Feeshkhabour, Iraq on Aug. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
  • Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters monitor the area from a frontline position in Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, Iraq on Aug. 16, 2014. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
  • On Aug. 16, 2014, Kurdish Peshmerga forces patrol a bridge, which led from Guver village to Mosul, after it was destroyed by Islamic State (IS) militants. (Ahmet Izgi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
  • On Aug. 14, 2014, an Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter takes position on the frontline near the Kurdish checkpoint of Aski kalak, west of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. (SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
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An Iraqi Shiite fighter, loyal to Muslim Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, takes part in military and first aid training on Aug. 19, 2014 in Najaf, central Iraq. (HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Putin’s Russia. Do traces of KGB, FSB and GRU lead to Islamic State?

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This time I decided to draw attention to a significant role (which was a surprise for many experts) of Chechen terrorists in a battle of Islamic state that has become a main threat to the West. Based on this role, it is not only possible, but vital to examine the potential links between the Islamic state and Russian secret services.
One of the inspiration sources was the article published in ‘The Huffington Post’ called ‘You Can't Understand ISIS If You Don't Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia’. It was written by Alastair Crooke, a famous expert of the Middle East terrorism, a former diplomat and a ranking figure in British intelligence MI-6.
That article is definitely worth reading for all of those who want to understand more about the phenomenon and threats of the Islamic state. And I don’t even consider arguing with the famous expert, especially when I, myself, do not aspire a career of terrorism expert.
However, after long years of exploring Putin’s current regime and it’s KGB roots, I believe that Crooke’s headline can be rephrased like this: ‘Is it really possible to fully understand the phenomenon of the Islamic state without paying attention to the alleged links between Russian secret services and Chechen terrorists?’
Some things are hard to deny
In general, the links between Chechen terrorist and Russian secret services cannot be denied even by those Western experts and commentators who tend to call these links a conspiracy theory.
Šamilis Basajevas
Šamilis Basajevas
© AOP nuotr.
The fact that the famous Shamil Basayev, Ruslan Gelayev and some others Chechen terrorist commanders began their career not only fighting on the Russian side during the Georgian-Abkhaz war, but were directly trained by the special forces of Russian military intelligence (GRU), was basically never even denied in Russia. The traces of GRU agents were not a secret as well.
Even Yuri Drozdov, the legend of Russian secret services, former KGB General-Major and a longtime chairman of the board at ‘S’, in his interview for fontanka.ru in 2011 publicly admitted that all this information about Basayev was true. According to Drozdov, Basayev was ‘one of the leaders of a special military division’.
Also undenied is the fact that Basayev’s incursion into Dagestan and house bombing afterwards contributed, to say the least, to Putin’s coming to power. The Western world has less and less doubt that this was all a well-executed, although seemingly unthinkable, operation of Russian secret services.
Whether we read Litvinenko's and Felshtisnky’s book ‘FSB blowing up Russia’, David Satter’s ‘Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State’, John Dunlop’s ‘The Moscow Bombings of September 1999: Examinations of Russian Terrorist Attacks at the Onset of Vladimir Putin's Rule’, or the especially popular investigation carried out by Karen Dawisha, professor at the Miami University, called ‘Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?’, it is difficult to deny the tons of odd coincidences and inexplicable actions of Russian government. In the meantime, Putin’s regime closed all doors to any kind of investigations, and many people, who were trying to shed some light on these allegations, were murdered or died under very strange circumstances.
What are the roots of Chechen’s Wahhabism?
However, this time the examination should not start from the aforementioned allegations. It is worth following Crooke’s example and examine the history of Wahhabism - not only in Saudi Arabia but inChechnya and the former USSR in general. Because namely the so-called Chechen Wahhabis are now battling for Islamic terrorists - they were always the synonym for the term ‘terrorists’ in Russia.
Russian journalist Sanobar Shermatova, who died in 2011, was considered not only a journalist, but also one of the best Russian experts of Middle Asia and Caucasus. After the events in Chechnya and Dagestan in summer 1999 she wrote a serious analytic piece called ‘The so-called Wahhabis’.
In this essay Shermatova digs into Wahhabism roots not only in Chechnya and Dagestan, but also in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kirghizia. She doesn’t tend to any conspiracy theories, and examines various links of ‘the so-called Wahhabis’ - also with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
But the story begins with the protests in Dunshanbe in autumn 1991 that resulted in Tajikistan government allowing the first free elections and registering the Islamic party (not without the help of Moscow’s go-betweens, including Vladimir Putin and Anatolij Sobczak, who is more likely Putin’s comrade rather than a democrat which he is often referred to - aut. note).
Many authors in Tajikistan itself claim that namely the pressure from Sobczak-led delegation led to Tajikistan’s government decision to register the Islamic party, although it has already been labeled extremists and ‘Wahhabis’ by then.
After emphasising that this Islamic party was merely a ‘branch of USSR Islamic Revival party’, Shermatova continued: ‘Islamic activists played a pretty important role in the opposition. I mean those who were called ‘Wahhabis’ in KGB chronicles. At the time this term was not widely known, and not entirely understood even by those who were called this name. USSR had banned the Islamic literature, and only those few who went to study in Arab countries, had knowledge about Islam history, movements and streams. But these people, as usual, were inspected for their loyalty to KGB, and then included into ‘religious nomenclature’ while constantly being controlled by the special services. Ordinary Muslims were not familiar with Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhabi’s doctrine. In Shermatova’s research and in further investigation of Uzbekistan’s and Kirghizia’s ‘Wahhabis’, KGB traces stretch along the story.
Which theory is more reliable?
Truth is, many other Russian researchers deny any role of the KGB in spreading Wahhabism ideas in the former USSR territory. For example, a famous Russian historian of religion and Islamic researcher Roman Silantyev states that KGB allegedly had no more power to resist this spread. Aleksei Kundryavtsev, associate at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, even claims that the young generation of Islamists turned the Wahhabism direction precisely because the old religious authorities had KGB shadows on them. Other authors elaborate these ideas to a level where it turns out that KGB started to use the name ‘Wahhabis’ on those Muslim activists who were not willing to collaborate with KGB in the first place.
But none of these experts deny that establishing a USSR Islam Revival party was a main element of ‘Wahhabism’ rudiment in the former USSR territory.
In the meantime, Akhmed Zakayev (who then lived in London and was even called the Prime minister of the unrecognised Chechen Republic of Ichkeria), Aslan Maskhadov (former Chechnya’s president) and other so-called representatives of the wing of the secular battle for Chechnya’s independence has long and consistently called many radicals the agents of Russian special services. Zakayev’s attitude towards the aforementioned congress of USSR Islam Revival party in Astrakhan is also unambiguous.
Achmedas Zakajevas
Achmedas Zakajevas
© AOP nuotr.
‘When the the founding congress of USSR Islamic Revival party was held in Astrakhan in 1989 (other sources say 1990, so Zakayev might be mistaken - aut. note), KGB undoubtedly knew what they wanted. Just as Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s liberal democrat party, which has been preventing the true Russian liberal democrats from uniting for two decades now, the branches of USSR Islam Revival party, that have taken roots into in Muslim regions of the former USSR, have successfully separated Muslims by dividing them into ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. This is how Moscow turned Islamic radicalism into an effective vaccine against various nations’ movements for national liberation’, Zakayev explained in his interview back in 2008.
A lot can be said about KGB’s role in these events from the emerged stories that KGB agents were being infiltrated into democratic movements, and tried to control them (see ‘Putin’s Russia. System’s spine - KGB: who was hiding behind Gorbachev’s and Putin’s backs’). It would have been weird if KGB had treated Islamic movement different than the democratic.
Returning to Shermatova’s idea that the rise of Wahhabism can be viewed both through the prism of Islamic Revival party congress and the events in Tajikistan, it is worth noting that there are at least three different witnesses who claim that KGB had consciously provoked the bloody events in Dushanbe in 1990. Their goal was to prevent the liberation movement in Tajikistan which was based on the examples of Ukraine and the Baltic States.
One of these testimonies was published by the then-officer of Tajikistan KGB - Abdul Nazarov. Another was announced by Kakhar Makhmarov, longtime leader of Tajikistan during Soviet days and the first president of Tajikistan. The third testimony was published by Makhmadali Khait, a former activist of folk movement ‘Rastochez’, now the deputy chairman at Tajikistan Islamic Revival party.
In this context it would be hard to believe that KGB did no longer control the situation regarding the spread of Wahhabism in the former USSR territory, let alone made effort that the congress of Islamic Revival party in Astrakhan went according to their scenario. This leads to thinking that the statements of both Shermatova and Zakayev sound much more logical than those claiming that KGB had no role in creating the aforementioned party and during the rise of Wahhabism.
Chechen terrorists forged in Tajikistan
Šamilis Basajevas
Šamilis Basajevas
It is also worth speaking about Tajikistan in the context of Wahhabism history in Chechnya because Basayev, ‘one of the leaders of the special purpose military unit’, went to Tajikistan where the political war had already gained momentum by then, and fought in the opposition side.
It is stated that Basayev was personally familiar with Said Abdul Nuri, the leader of United Tajik opposition and Islamic party. Ostensibly this acquaintance led to Khattab moving to Chechnya and becoming Basayev’s loyal comrade.
Moreover, some experts in Armenia claim that Basayev, just like Chechen terrorists Gelayev and Salman Raduyev, who were always linked to Russian special services, fought for Afghanistan side in another war (before Abkhazia) where the examination of the role of Soviet secret services will probably never be complete - in Nagorno-Karabakh. Namely in Nagorno-Karabakh Basayev allegedly met Khattab who was fighting in the same battlefield.
Telling links to Dugin
However, it is worth returning to the congress of USSR Islamic Revival party in Astrakhan and its main players. Though Akhman-Kadi Akhtayev, a modest Islamic teacher from Dagestan, was elected a leader of the party, the names of other organizers speak for themselves. First of all - Geydar Dzhemal, the current chairman at the Russian Islam committee, a longtime companion of Alexander Dugin who earned fame during the aggression in Ukraine.
Although Dzhemal is sometimes even referred to as a dissident of Soviet times, and now turned into Putin’s opponent, this figure is worth taking a closer look. Not only because of his longtime friendship with Dugin. Dzhemal is a grandson of a chairman of Azerbaijani USSR supreme court, formerly a high-ranking officer at the Caucasian NKVD. He started his career in 1965 when he entered the Institute of Oriental languages (later renamed the Institute of Asian and African studies). By the way, the famous Zhirinovsky entered the same institute in 1964).
Heidaras Džemalis
Heidaras Džemalis
© wikipedia nuotr.
There are many testimonies on what kind of institution it was and how it was related to USSR secret services. But probably the most eloquent is the one published by a famous Russian journalist Yelena Tregubova in her book ‘The tales of a Kremlin digger’.
The journalist quotes Mikhail Margelov, a former chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council of Russia, currently a vice-president of ‘Transneft’. It should be noted that in 1997, when Tregubova published her words, Margelov was only a ‘young PR specialist’
But it is worth noting what he said to journalist’s voice recorder: ‘after my studies at the Institute of Asian and African studies I had two ways - back to KGB or ‘following a party line’. Everything else is only branches of these lines: you can go to APN (press agency ‘Novosti’), to the Ministry of Foreign affairs, and to the ideological department of the Central Committee... Or you end up in the First Chief Directorate (KGB foreign intelligence - aut. note) in Yesenevo’.
However, the official Dzhemal’s biography says that he was expelled from the institute after his first year of studies - allegedly because of the ‘bourgeois nationalism’. Yet it is inexplicable how he managed to land a job at the publishing house when this type of institutions were carefully protected from any kind of ‘anti-Soviet elements’ during USSR times. Also inexplicable is how Dzhemal and Dugin avoided any serious problems with KGB after practicing ‘underground’ activities, spreading fascist ideas and event creating the ‘Black Order of SS’.
It is also difficult to explain why KGB did not take an interest into the fact that Dzhemal allegedly affiliated with Tajikistan Islamists back in 1979. And in 1980 he traveled to Tajikistan together with Dugin - it could hardly be overlooked by the KGB.
Truth is, Dugin’s case is much clearer. It is known that his father Gelyi Dugin was a general-lieutenant at GRU. In 1990-1992 Dugin himself was granted unprecedented access to the secret KGB archives, despite his alleged underground activities, and he later admitted that his first geopolitical textbook was written under a ‘closed regime in General Staff Academy’. Looks like the invisible hand of GRU protected Dugin during other career steps as well, thus it can be assumed that he had always been a GRU man.
It can explain things that seem inexplicable in Dzhemal’s biography - it doesn’t matter whether he personally collaborated with GRU or KGB - for those who know USSR reality, the trace of secret services seems highly likely in this case.
Aleksandras Duginas
Aleksandras Duginas
© AOP nuotr.
By the way, after the spread of Wahhabism in USSR territory Dzhemal had publicly supported the actions of Chechen Wahhabis or even justified terror acts numerous times. However, even under Putin’s regime, he managed to avoid the attention of Russian law enforcement for many years by some miracle.
In summer 2009 Maksim Mishchenko (deputy of the State Duma, founder and leader of the youth movement ‘Young Russia’) made an official address to the Russian prosecutor general’s office regarding Dzhemal’s extremist public announcements. He demanded that the Islamic committee was declared an extremist organization, and Dzhemal was prosecuted. But again - no result.
Dzhemal was inviolable until March 2012 when he could no longer avoid the persecution against Putin’s critics after the end of 2011 and the mass protests in the beginning of 2012. FSB performed a search at his house and allegedly found extremist literature. Nevertheless, although the proceedings were instituted, Dzhemal enjoys freedom and active social lifestyle, unlike other leaders of the ‘Left front’.
A net of KGB agents
Dzhemal’s involvement in creating USSR Islamic Revival party, of course, is not a sufficient evidence of a link between Chechen Wahhabism and Russian secret services. Especially when he can only indirectly be called a supporter of Wahhabism - at least in public he prefers to be referred to as a representative of Russian Islam in general.
So let’s take look at other famous figures from the congress in Astrakhan. Among them, apart from Basayev and Nuri, is Bagautdin Kebedov, a leader of Dagestan’s Wahhabis and active organizer of Basayev’s intrusion into Caucasus republic.
But the most attention should be drawn to the two Chechens who are considered not just representatives of the radical wing, but ideologists of Wahhabism. One of them - Adam Deniyev - was openly called ‘Wahhabi’ back in 1989 by the officers at the Religious board under the Chechnya-Ingush council of ministers. He denied his belonging to this Islam radical movement at the time, but nowadays even the researchers of ‘Wahhabism’ in USSR consider this man one of the first ideologists of Wahhabism in Chechnya.
Apart from the aforementioned titles, Deniyev was also a longtime KGB and FSB agent. At least he was called that by various sources not only in Chechnya but in Russian media.
For example, ‘Nezavisamaya Gazeta’ wrote after Deniyev’s death in 2001: ‘Upon his visit in Baghdad, president Dzhokhar Dudayev informed Iraq’s government about the links between Deniyev (who went to Iraq to study in 1992 after unsuccessful attempts to take roots in Chechnya - aut. note) and Russian FSB. It was probably the first accusation for Deniyev regarding his connections with special services. Later on these accusations were following him constantly’.
In 2000, after the Russian forces uptake in Chechnya, when Deniyev was appointed the deputy of Akhmad Kadyrov, Chief Mufti of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, gazeta.ru announced that, according to their sources, Deniyev was not only an FSB agent, but would also be executing a special FSB operation in the republic’s government.
Andrei Babitsky, a famous Russian journalist, also called Deniyev an FSB agent and even accused him of kidnapping. Deniyev publicly responded that he had never been related to any special services, but “if he was a KGB agent, he would definitely be proud of that’. Deniyev has never hidden his pro-Russian position, at least after the second Chechen war. It is also known that his brother was a high-ranking officer at Chechen FSB.
There is also enough evidence in Russian media about Supyan Abdullayev (another ideologist of Wahhabism and one of the main initiators of creating a USSR Islamic Revival party) and his links with special services. But in this context it is important to emphasize not the testimonies themselves, but the fact that Abdullayev, according to these evidence, started to collaborate with KGB well before founding the USSR Islam Revival party.
For example, in 1999 (already in the current regime) ‘Moskovskij Komsomolets’ wrote: ‘Abdullayev demonstrated radical views well before the collapse of USSR and organizing the ‘Islam Revival Party’. According to some sources, Abdullayev was recruited by KGB officers back in 1980s’.
Zakayev’s insights worth noting?
So the creation of the party itself should raise serious suspicions about the key role of KGB in these processes - whether we believe Zakayev’s testimony, or not. The rudiment of Wahhabism in Chechnya is apparently also related to the suspected KGB agents.
But now we have to talk not only about historic consequences. Because Abdulayev, until his death in 2011, was the main comrade and ideologist of Dokka Umarov, leader of Caucasian emirate. And namely the role of Umarov and his other companions (also the creators of USSR Islam Revival party) is especially important talking about the current fight of Chechen Wahhabis in the Islamic state.
But first let’s go back to June 4, 2013, when the world spoke very little about the Chechens fighting inSyria. That exact day Zakayev gave a very interesting interview to radio station ‘Radio Svoboda’.
When asked about the rumours that Umarov had passed away, Zakayev put a whole theory that is definitely worth quoting: ‘according to our sources, the information about Umarov’s death is false; he is alive and healthy. The thing is that Russia, its special services and Vladimir Putin are once again preparing a surprise for theirWestern partners who are involved in intense negotiation on Syria’s situation.
Doku Umarovas
Doku Umarovas
© AOP nuotr.
Syria witnessed confronting forces who not only fought for Assad (Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad; in 2011 a revolutions against him started in Syria - aut. note) or against Assad: they represent different influence areas - the Western world that wants to leave Russia without its last foothold in the Middle East, and Russia which understands that losing the influence in Syria means losing influence in the whole Middle East region. Therefore Russia is interested in delaying or overall preventing the process of Assad’s withdrawal. To do so, according to our information, Kremlin made a decision to transfer Umarov to Syria.
And what does Umarov’s show-up in Syria (at the opposition fighting against Assad) really mean? After all, Russia claims that for Assad opposition is not some sort of political forces or state’s population, but merely dregs from all around the world, the so-called Islam radicals who promote the global ideology of Jihad. Can you imagine what position the Western leaders, who made the decision to lift embargo of arms for the opposition, will be put in? Dokka Umarov’s show-up in Syria will become an evidence that the opposition has criminal organizations among its ranks. Moreover, those organizations have been declared terrorist by the UN and various other states.’
A journalist, in his own view, found this version ‘interesting but very extravagant’, so he asked straightforwardly whether such response of Zakayev meant that Umarov was related to Russian special services.
To which Zakayev responded calmly: “We announced it many times. In 2007 Umarov declared war to America, Great Britain and Israel. Before this statement, Dokka was in the radar of Russian secret services, but was released by some miracle, and announced this statement. Umarov is under full command of Russian special services. To this day he was (and will be, I’m sure) performing the tasks assigned to him by these structures. The emerging of his organization in Northern Caucasus complied with Kremlin’s interests because it kind of proved this: Chechnya is not fighting for independence and statehood, but rather for creating a caliphate “from sea to sea”. Russian propaganda was trying to show to the world that the ones fighting in Chechnya are not freedom fighters but radicals who will put all effort to recreate caliphate, and are the enemies of civilized world’.
In this interview Zakayev also stated that “according to our sources, Umarov’s main ideologist and the main author of emirate concept - Isa Umarov- is already is Syria. A few days ago he announced that the epicenter of events is namely there, and that all supporters of jihad have to be in Syria.’
Looking back to those weird (at the time) statements from today’s perspective, we can notice that everything basically came true. Umarov, of course, did not show up in Syria, but was murdered after less than a year - in winter or spring in 2014. Meanwhile, Omar al-Shishani (real name Tarkhan Batirashvili), who suddenly rose to power at Islamic state, admits openly that he came to Syria under Umarov’s command.
The rise of Wahhabis provides a lot of pabulum to Russian propaganda and political games. Based on various sources in Syria itself it can be assumed that Umarov certainly is in Syria. And it looks like he is involved in recruiting new terrorists to Islamic state. It was stated by Usman Ferzauli, a self-proclaimed Ichkeria’s minister of foreign affairs, in his interview for Russian newspaper ‘Komersant’ on July 26, 2013.
Wahhabism, Georgian intelligence or GRU?
But let’s take a sharper look at Chechens themselves (their biographies, to be specific) in Islamic state’s government which has been considered the biggest threat to the West lately. Especially in the context of other vague links between Russian regime and Islam terrorists- both in terms of what was written in this essay, and the historic parallels in my previous essay ‘Putin’s Russia. Will Kremlin get away with this again?’
These two Chechens (originally from Pankisia, Georgia) are the aforementioned al-Shishani and Muslim Abu Walid al Shishani (real name Murad Margoshvili). The two were included into the list of the most wanted terrorists in US.
A famous British journalist and blogger Joana Paraszczuk, who is currently focusing on Chechen battle in Syria, wrote in one of her pieces about the ‘ridiculous conspiracy theory that al-Shishani is actually a KGB agent’.
Since al-Shishani is only 28 year old, this theory might seem ridiculous at first glance. When USSR collapsed and KGB was reorganized into other Russian secret services, the kid was just 5 years old. But it is important to note that these rumours are also circulating among the Chechens who are fighting in Syria. Moreover, the journalist herself thinks that it is vital to publish such rumours, and adds that they are also related to the opinion that Umarov has a strong influence on al-Shishani.
At first glance it seems that other al-Shishani’s biography facts would deny even the slightest possibility that al-Shishani is an agent of Russian secret services. It is widely known that Batirashvili (al-Shishani’s real name) was serving in Georgian army and fighting against Russian aggression in 2008. Some say he was an agent of Georgian special services or at least the special divisions of Georgian army.
Ruslanas Gelajevas
Ruslanas Gelajevas
© AOP nuotr.
But Batirashvili’s biography is worth taking a closer look. Especially interesting details were provided by his father Teimuraz Batirashvili who is an orthodox, not Islamist. He told that until the arrest for illegal possession of weapons his son was not a Wahhabi or Islamist in general. According to father, al-Shishani ended up in Syria not because of religion. He simply wanted to make money.
But the most interesting detail is that Batirashvili apparently started his career not in Georgian army but in Gelayev’s terrorist squad when he was barely 14.
The information calls for serious investigation because Gelayev, who had GRU traces stretched behind him for many years, was hiding in Pankisia at the time, and in 2001 he actually participated in the attack in Abkhazia (which was mentioned by Batirashvili’s dad). But this time Galayev was not on Russian side but allegedly aiming to help Georgia win back Abkhazia.
Gelayev’s attack is best illustrated by Irakli Alasania, former Georgian defence minister, in his interview for Georgian press in 2009. In this interview Alasania openly stated that Gelayev and his squad was a ‘weapon against Georgians in GRU hands’ during the attack in Abkhazia.
Irakli Alasania
Irakli Alasania
Knowing such an eloquent detail of Shishani’s career sunrise, all the aforementioned information about suspicious links between Wahhabis and Russian secret services, Zakayev’s statements in 2013 about the upcoming Chechen role in Syria, and the testimonies of Batirashvili’s father, the theory that this character has suspicious associations (not with KGB but with, say, GRU or FSB) sounds dramatically different. And this possibility should be examined more thoroughly
Terrorist who walked free
Muslim Abu Walid’s biography should raise even more thoughts. When this man was known as Margoshvili, he was arrested for terrorism in Russia, and released after two years.
Simply reading what Russian media wrote in 2003, when Margoshvili was arrested, it seemed obvious that this guy, responsible for deaths of many people, was never to see daylight again. But by some miracle he was first sentenced to two years in prison, and then suddenly acquitted during retrial.
If it wasn’t enough, a strange story happened in courtroom - FSB officers were allegedly trying to arrest him after the acquittal, however unsuccessfully. According to experts, this can only mean one thing - Margoshvili became (or have already been) an agent of Russian special services.
Not too many consistent coincidences?
By the way, Walid became a headache not only to those worrying about the war in Syria, but to, say, Germany. In the beginning of December, a newspaper ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine’ announced that the diaspora of Chechen natives is radializing, and the biggest contributors are Walid and Shishani who has allegedly become ‘an idol of German Islamists’.
Such information would be yet another reason to examine the real story of Margoshvili - especially knowing KGB traditions to direct their agents towards weakening Western states, the unexpected story of al-Zawahiri’s (Al Qaeda’s leader) potential links to Russian special services, and the fact that many experts finally admit that the Islamic state is a bigger threat to the West than Al Qaeda.
All of this information is in no way an attempt to prove that all Islamic terrorism is directed only by Russian secret services. This is not the case. I perfectly understand that this issue is much more complex.
It would be ignorant to deny various historic facts about the links between Islam terrorists and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Middle East, and the never ending conflicts in these regions. There even is a basis to talk about the current links between some of the Muslim states and terrorism.
There are various attitudes to such theories as the one presented by Drozdov in his interview for ‘fontanka.ru’. Although he admits that Basayev was one of the leaders of a special purpose military unit, he argues that it is merely Russia’s mistake - the same one USA made regarding bin Laden. KGB general-major had in mind the undenied theory that US supported bin Laden when they provided support to mujahideen during Afghanistan war against USSR.
But there is a basic difference between Muslim or Western states and Russia when it comes to links with terrorism. First of all, if a Western or Muslim state is accused of such links, the story receives media coverage, the facts are examined and researched. However, it seems that Russia is immune to international research or public discussions although the allegations are long-term and consistent. There is no other state (having in mind the undoubtful USSR traditions that Russia might have adopted) that can be suspected for including terrorism in its arsenal and strategies for fighting in international arena.
So I would like to finish this piece not only by encouraging you to reevaluate all these allegation and threats to the Western states. I’d like to remind once again the Preobrazhensky’s warning in 2007:
‘The basic difference between Russia’s and America’s attitude towards Islamic terrorist is that America regards it as an external threat, while Russia employs terrorism as an object and government tool both internally and abroad. Islamic terrorism is only a part of international terrorism. KGB was using terrorism to spread communist regime principles all over the world, and it was well before Islamic terrorism became a global threat.‘
After this quote and all the information presented in this essay, the rhetoric question arises: ‘Doesn’t Putin’s current regime use terrorism cynically to reach the same victories - both internally and against the West?’
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Marius Laurinavičius is senior analyst at the Vilnius-based Eastern Europe Studies Centre
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Rumors Swirl in Moscow, But Kremlin Is Silent | Opinion

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More than two weeks have passed since the murder of Boris Nemtsov, and investigators have already managed to report the initial results of their work. They have arrested five people: 28-year-old Zaur Dadayev, the former deputy commander of the Chechen Interior Ministry's Sever battalion that serves as Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's "personal guard," 32-year-old truck driver Shagid Gubashev, 33-year-old private security guard Anzor Gubashev, 35-year-old Tamerlan Eskerkhanov and 45-year-old Khamzad Bakhayev.
One more suspect blew himself up with a grenade during his arrest in Grozny. The man who allegedly shot Nemtsov, Zaur Dadayev, supposedly confessed to the crime. However, human rights activists who visited Dadayev in detention reported that he retracted his confession, that he had been tortured into confessing and that he had only confessed because he was afraid his captors would kill him otherwise.
After that, investigators paid a visit to the rights activists on the suspicion that they were "interfering in the investigation process." Following that visit, Dadayev once again confessed to the murder. Also, searchers found the alleged murder weapon at the bottom of the Moscow River near the site of the killing.
Meanwhile, citing "a source in the FSB," state-controlled media have put forward a theory that is politically satisfying for Russia's security forces, the Kremlin, Kadyrov and all of their rival groups — namely, that Chechen Adam Osmayev ordered Nemtsov's murder.
Osmayev was arrested in 2012 in Ukraine on charges of planning an assassination attempt against President Vladimir Putin and then released when the current Ukrainian authorities came to power. Osmayev now leads the Dudayev battalion that was named in honor of Chechnya's leader while the republic was at war with Moscow. In other words, the "Kiev junta" killed Nemtsov.
At this point, information regarding the official investigation ends and the speculation and guessing begin — each theory more shocking than the last.
And even though the previous official theory — that Nemtsov was killed because of anti-Islamic statements he made — does not hold water, the authorities have not formally retracted that explanation.
In fact, it has come to light that the murder suspects were tracking Nemtsov even before the Charlie Hebdo shootings and Nemtsov's subsequent comments. What's more, information released about the murder suspects indicates that they were not devout Muslims who lived strictly according to Koranic law.
Suggestions have surfaced in the mass media and in the blog of opposition figure Alexei Navalny that Federation Council member Suleiman Geremeyev and State Duma Deputy Adam Delimkhanov — senior Chechen politicians and relatives of Ramzan Kadyrov — might have been complicit in the killing.
Rumors are rife that this theory, which casts a shadow of suspicion on Kadyrov himself, has caused a split at the highest levels of power. Supposedly, top siloviki officials in the FSB, Interior Ministry and Investigative Committee want to push the investigation to its conclusion this time and actually identify the individuals behind Nemtsov's murder, but they are meeting resistance from other, equally senior officials.
The argument is that, because the truth might hurt Ramzan Kadyrov, only Putin can make the necessary political decision regarding which information, if any, to divulge.
And at the peak of that controversy, Putin "disappeared" from the political scene for more than a week, his ubiquitous presence suddenly missing from television screens. Up until his recent reappearance, the only sign of Putin was a short clip shown last Friday of his meeting with Supreme Court head Vyacheslav Lebedev in which he made no mention of the most delicate topic of the moment.
This is not Putin's first such disappearance during his 15 years in power. He dropped out of sight several times before, during his first two presidential terms and his tenure as prime minister. And after each return to public view, Putin took no sudden or radical steps concerning the pressing issues that might have prompted his withdrawal. Instead, he simply reappeared as if nothing had happened, and the country's political life continued on as usual.
The difference this time is that his disappearance sparked an unprecedented flurry of wild rumors on the Internet — suggestions that Putin was suffering from a deadly disease, that he secretly joined mistress Alina Kabayeva in Switzerland where she allegedly give birth to their child at St. Anne hospital in Ticino, that presidential chief of staff Sergei Ivanov or Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had led the siloviki in a coup d'etat or the more banal theory that Putin had secluded himself in the remote Valaam Monastery for prayer and meditation. However, there is no factual evidence to support any of these theories.
All this commotion on the Internet only prompted Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov to make the cynical joke that he would hold a contest for the most far-fetched theory explaining the president's absence. But the very fact that Peskov could make such jokes might indicate that nothing serious actually happened.
In any other country, even one-tenth as many rumors would cause a full-fledged national scandal, but silence reigned on this subject in Russia's state-controlled media. They offered not so much as a hint of major political changes afoot, an acute crisis or a "palace coup."
In any case, Russian history shows that such crises, revolutions and other abrupt changes occur without any forewarning to the public, and not after citizens have discussed the possibility "from every angle" for a week in advance — even if that speculation was confined largely to the Internet.
Georgy Bovt is a political analyst.
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Russian intelligence agency accused of poisoning Chechens in Istanbul

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ISTANBUL

DHA Photo
A Chechen activist has died in Istanbul after being hospitalized with his family members for food poisoning, as some of his relatives and Turkish activists accuse the 
Russian
 intelligence agency of poisoning wild garlic sent to him from Chechnya.
The 47-year-old Kaim Saduev, who had settled in Istanbul’s Başakşehir neighborhood after fleeing his war-torn homeland 11 years ago, received a package from his sister in Chechnya on Feb. 23.  The Saduev family ate their dinner the same day, in which they used wild garlic included in the package as an ingredient. Falling ill, they were all hospitalized for food poisoning at a hospital in the Bakırköy neighborhood. 
Though his wife and one of his hospitalized children survived the incident, Saduev died in the intensive care unit on March 2.
During the funeral ceremony at Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque on March 3, several of Saduev’s relatives claimed “the 
Russian
 intelligence poisoned him like former KGB agent Alexendar Litvinenko and Arab fighters in Chechnya.”
“We all ate the food. I was not harmed, but my father died. They poisoned the honk (the wild garlic species),” 19-year-old Cabir Saduev said. 
The deceased man’s father Alvi Saduev said he lost his fifth son and “feels lonely.” 
“Four of my sons had been martyred by the Russians in the past [while fighting in Chechnya],” he added.
The head of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH), a conservative NGO in Turkey, said during the funeral that he also thought the
Russian
 intelligence agency was behind Saduev’s death. “I’m addressing my Chechen brothers: Be very careful, no one among you is safe. Be careful of what you eat and where you go,” İHH head Bülent  Yıldırım said, claiming Moscow prepared “a new assassination list” to target Chechen dissidents in Turkey.
With his four brothers, Saduev had once fought alongside Shamil Basayev, a Chechen militant leader who was killed in Ingushetia in 2006.
A Turkish prosecutor had said in an indictment last year that five Chechens who were killed in Istanbul between 2009 and 2011 were done so in the name of Russia’s intelligence agency.
On May 22, 2013, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria’s honorary consul in Turkey, Medet Ünlü, was killed by armed assailants in Ankara. The Turkish man who is suspected of killing Ünlü had been detained and confessed to the murder, claiming “pro-Russian Chechens” had made him shoot the victim.
Separately, an Uzbek dissident who was living in Turkey for around 12 years was assassinated in Istanbul’s Zeytinburnu district on Dec. 11, 2014, with a Chechen-origin 
Russian
 national being detained as the sole suspect.
March/04/2015

PHOTO GALLERY

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What Happened in Homs by Jonathan Littell | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

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Chechnya is a case in point. After Russia’s humiliating defeat there, in August 1996, at the hands of a few thousand rebels armed only with Kalashnikovs and RPGs, the Russian special services, FSB (the successor organization to the KGB) and GRU (military intelligence), immediately began preparing the grounds for the next conflict. The three years during which a de facto independent Chechnya managed its own affairs rapidly turned into a disaster: the systematic kidnappings of foreign journalists and aid workers, culminating in the spectacular decapitation of four British and New Zealander telecom engineers in December 1998 by the well-known Islamist commander Arbi Barayev, ruined any good will abroad for Chechnya and generated an effective media blockade as journalists ceased traveling there; rising political and even military pressure by rogue Islamist rebel groups on the freely elected nationalist president Aslan Maskhadov forced him to radicalize his position, eventually declaring a “sharia law” no one really wanted or even understood; further decapitations of Russian captives and other atrocities, conveniently filmed by their Islamist perpetrators, helped justify the inevitable excesses of the “anti-terrorist operation.”
What followed is well known: the total destruction of Grozny, the mass killings and disappearances, the waves of refugees. What is less so, though it has been extensively documented by a handful of courageous Russian journalists, is the sinister pas-de-deux played by the special services and the Islamists throughout the years. This insidious strategy would bear fruit: After Maskhadov was finally killed, during a Russian operation in 2005, his successor Doku Umarov renounced the drive for national independence in favor of the creation of a pan-Caucasian Islamic Caliphate—a move that drove virtually all the remaining nationalist commanders into the arms of Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s puppet in Chechnya, thus bringing to an effective and squalid end the long-held Chechen dream of independence.
It would be tempting, given this history, to see the hand of Bashar al-Assad’s Russian advisors in the shop-worn idea of allowing radicalized Islamist factions totally to discredit the popular revolt, all the more so as the wave of kidnappings and murders of foreign observers that accompanied the rise of the Islamists closely resembles the Chechnya model. But as a Syrian friend pointed out to me, themukhabarat too are old hands at these games, and have no need of lessons from their Russian patrons. Their strategic philosophy is explicitly stated in graffiti now very common around Damascus: “Assad or we burn the country.”
Ever since the beheading of the journalist James Foley, Da‘esh has become the overwhelming obsession of Western governments, clouding all other issues. The regime and its Russian friends can be proud: their goal of, if not quite rehabilitating, at least bringing al-Assad back into the game as a key player, is now within reach. Even more than the fate of the broader Middle East, it is the fear, even to the point of psychosis, of another jihadi backlash against Western interests—of another September 11 or July 7 or January 7—that is driving European and US decision making. From there to working with al-Assad is only a step, no matter how much our leaders deny it. Sadly, this won’t benefit the Syrian people much.
A recent set of statistics published by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, usually considered one of the most reliable independent observer of the conflict, might serve as a useful reminder even if the figures are probably underestimated: as of March 2015, the regime had killed 176,678 Syrian civilians, including 18,242 children, as opposed to 1,054 civilians (of which 145 were children) killed by Da‘esh. Our new enemy should not make us forget who is at the root of the disaster; the Syrians certainly haven’t. The French journalist Sofia Amara cites, in her recent book, the new slogan chanted, with their eternal dark humor, by Syrian activists seen in a video marching through devastated streets: “What is left of the Syrian people wants the fall of the regime.”
Nothing could be more emblematic of the descent into hell of the Syrian revolution than the fates of our Homsi activist friends. The dream had been dreamed by many; but what happened to them when it turned into a nightmare? I only received news of them quite recently, from Orwa Nyrabia, a Syrian filmmaker and producer now living in exile in Berlin, whom I first met in the al-Bayada neighborhood of Homs at the home of the Sufi shaykh Abu Brahim, a highly respected local activist. Orwa, unlike me, had never lost touch with the Homsi activists, many of whom were his dear friends.
Many, of course, are dead. Abu Hanin, the Media Center activist from Baba Amr with whom Mani and I had so many problems, was killed together with his closest friend and rival Abu Sham in one of the battles for al-Khalidiya, some time in 2013. Bilal, the medical activist who greeted us in al-Khalidiya together with his friend Zayn, was killed in June 2013 trying to smuggle medical supplies into besieged Homs. And Shaykh Abu Brahim, after having survived the terrible siege and evacuation of Homs, was killed in June 2014, in an ordinary car crash somewhere north of the city: maktub, as he might have said himself.
The others have fared little better. Ali Othman, aka Jeddi, is still under detention by the mukhabarat, along with Osama al-Habaly (aka Osama al-Homsi), who filmed parts of Return to Homs together with Orwa. Neither one of them, though they never wielded a weapon more dangerous than a camera, seem to have benefited from the amnesty declared by Bashar al-Assad upon his June 2014 “re-election” for all prisoners “without blood on their hands.” Abu Adnan, the al-Khalidiya activist who drove us around the city’s besieged central neighborhoods, and whose real name is Kahtan Hassoun, is currently struggling in bitter exile in Turkey. Omar Telawi, the Bab as-Saba‘a activist made famous by his raging YouTube and Al Jazeera speeches, was wounded in October 2013 and has dropped out of sight for the past few months.
Some, finally, have been overwhelmed by the nightmare and now feed it. Abu Bakr—the red-bearded activist who reminded me of a cheerful Chechen, and who was considered around Khalidiya as the harmless neighborhood fool–has joined Jabhat al-Nusra, where he has carved out a sinister reputation for himself through executions and beheadings.
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Chechen leader in Ankara ‘killed for $1 million’ - aysor.am

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A man who is suspected of involvement in the killing of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria’s honorary consul in Ankara in 2013 told friends that his group committed the crime for $1 million, a witness has told the court. The Hurriyet Daily News reports.
Medet Ünlü, 53, was killed by armed assailants at the honorary consulate in Ankara on May 22, 2013.
Turkish citizen Murat Aluç was arrested as the main suspect on Oct. 11, 2014. He confessed to the crime, claiming that pro-Russian Chechens in Turkey “promised him a life in Ukraine” for the assassination.
Ö.Ş., another detained suspect who is accused of hiding Aluç from law enforcement for months, was released by the court pending trial, despite the prosecutor’s request that he be arrested.
A witness told the prosecutor in Ankara on Jan. 28 that Aluç was wearing a different hat every time he left Ö.Ş’s house during his time as a fugitive following the murder, daily Hürriyet has learned.
“We killed Medet Ünlü for $1 million. We were planning to kill five more people from this neighborhood, but the balloon burst,” the witness quoted Ö.Ş. as angrily yelling at a local cafe, according to the testimony.
Goldsmith in Istanbul probed
Aluç told the prosecutor that he received $40,000 from a goldsmith in Istanbul’s Beyazıt neighborhood for the killing.
The Prosecutor’s Office in Istanbul is probing the claim, while the investigation in Ankara is continuing.
Meanwhile, the family of Ünlü has filed a new complaint after the latest testimonies, demanding the released suspects in the case to be arrested.
The family claims that Aluç was hired by a Russian citizen who returned to Russia two days after the murder.
Ünlü was against Russian military operations in Chechnya and had been working as an activist to stop Chechens from going to fight in Syria as jihadists. His wife had claimed in a petition in July that Ünlü had been under the surveillance of Turkish intelligence when he was killed and “suffered oppression” from some circles, particularly pointing to Ramzan Kadirov, the pro-Russian leader of Chechnya who is accused of gross human rights violations in the territory.
In a separate case, five Chechens who were killed in Istanbul between 2009 and 2011 were murdered in the name of Russia’s intelligence agency, according to a Feb. indictment by Bakırköy Public Prosecutor Ahmet Demirhüyük in Istanbul.
A Chechen activist died in Istanbul after being hospitalized with suspected food poisoning on March 2, with some of his relatives and Turkish activists accusing Russia’s intelligence agency of poisoning him.
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In Midst of War, Ukraine Becomes Gateway for Jihad

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“OUR BROTHERS ARE there,” Khalid said when he heard I was going to Ukraine. “Buy a local SIM card when you get there, send me the number and then wait for someone to call you.”
Khalid, who uses a pseudonym, leads the Islamic State’s underground branch in Istanbul. He came from Syria to help control the flood of volunteers arriving in Turkey from all over the world, wanting to join the global jihad. Now, he wanted to put me in touch with Ruslan, a “brother” fighting with Muslims in Ukraine.
The “brothers” are members of ISIS and other underground Islamic organizations, men who have abandoned their own countries and cities. Often using pseudonyms and fake identities, they are working and fighting in the Middle East, Africa and the Caucasus, slipping across borders without visas. Some are fighting to create a new Caliphate — heaven on earth.  Others — like Chechens, Kurds and Dagestanis — say they are fighting for freedom, independence and self-determination. They are on every continent, and in almost every country, and now they are in Ukraine, too.
In the West, most look at the war in Ukraine as simply a battle between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian government. But the truth on the ground is now far more complex, particularly when it comes to the volunteer battalions fighting on the side of Ukraine. Ostensibly state-sanctioned, but not necessarily state-controlled, some have been supported by Ukrainian oligarchs, and others by private citizens. Less talked about, however, is the Dudayev battalion, named after the first president of Chechnya, Dzhokhar Dudayev, and founded by Isa Munayev, a Chechen commander who fought in two wars against Russia.
Ukraine is now becoming an important stop-off point for the brothers, like Ruslan. In Ukraine, you can buy a passport and a new identity. For $15,000, a fighter receives a new name and a legal document attesting to Ukrainian citizenship. Ukraine doesn’t belong to the European Union, but it’s an easy pathway for immigration to the West. Ukrainians have few difficulties obtaining visas to neighboring Poland, where they can work on construction sites and in restaurants, filling the gap left by the millions of Poles who have left in search of work in the United Kingdom and Germany.
You can also do business in Ukraine that’s not quite legal. You can earn easy money for the brothers fighting in the Caucasus, Syria and Afghanistan. You can “legally” acquire unregistered weapons to fight the Russian-backed separatists, and then export them by bribing corrupt Ukrainian customs officers.
“Our goal here is to get weapons, which will be sent to the Caucasus,” Ruslan, the brother who meets me first in Kiev, admits without hesitation.
WITH HIS WHITE hair and beard, Ruslan is still physically fit, even at 57. He’s been a fighter his entire adult life. Born in a small mountain village in the Caucasus, on the border between Dagestan and Chechnya, Ruslan belongs to an ethnic minority known as the Lak, who are predominantly Sunni Muslim.
The world that Ruslan inhabits — the world of the brothers — is something new. When he first became a fighter, there wasn’t any Internet or cell phones, or cameras on the street, or drones. Ruslan joined the brothers when the Soviet Union collapsed, and he went to fight for a better world, first against the Russians in Chechnya and Dagestan during the first Chechen war in the mid-1990s. He then moved to Azerbaijan, where he was eventually arrested in 2004 on suspicion of maintaining contact with al Qaeda.
Even though Ruslan admits to fighting with Islamic organizations, he claims the actual basis for the arrest in Azerbaijan — illegal possession of weapons — was false. Authorities couldn’t find anything suspicious where he was living (Ruslan was staying at the time with his “brothers” in the jihad movement) but in his wife’s home they found a single hand grenade. Ruslan was charged with illegal weapons possession and sent to prison for several years.
In prison, he says he was tortured and deliberately housed in a cell with prisoners infected with tuberculosis. Ruslan took his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, accusing the authorities in Azerbaijan of depriving him of due process. The court eventually agreed, and asked the Azerbaijani government to pay Ruslan 2,400 euros in compensation, plus another 1,000 euros for court costs.
But when Ruslan was released from prison, he didn’t want to stay in Azerbaijan, fearing he would be rearrested, or even framed for a crime and again accused of terrorism. “Some of our people disappear and are never found,” he says. “There was one brother [who disappeared], and when he was brought for burial, a card was found showing that he was one of 30 people held in detention in Russia.”
In Russia, a warrant was issued for Riuan’s arrest. Returning to his small mountain village was out of the question. If he goes back, his family will end up paying for what he does, anyhow. “They get to us through our families,” he says. He condemns those who refused to leave their own country and fight the infidels. This was the choice: either stay, or go abroad where “you can breathe freedom.”
“Man is born free,” Ruslan says. “We are slaves of God and not the slaves of people, especially those who are against their own people, and break the laws of God. There is only one law: the law of God.”
After his release from prison in Azerbaijan, Ruslan became the eternal wanderer, a rebel — and one of the brothers now in Ukraine. He came because Munayev, now head of the Dudayev battalion, decided the brothers should fight in Ukraine. “I am here today because my brother, Isa, called us and said, ‘It’s time to repay your debt,’” Ruslan says. “There was a time when the brothers from Ukraine came [to Chechnya] and fought against the common enemy, the aggressor, the occupier.”
That debt is to Ukrainians like Oleksandr Muzychko, who became one of the brothers, even though he never converted to Islam. Muzyczko, along with other Ukrainian volunteers, joined Chechen fighters and took part in the first Chechen war against Russia. He commanded a branch of Ukrainian volunteers, called “Viking,” which fought under famed Chechen militant leader Shamil Basayev. Muzychko died last year in Ukraine under mysterious circumstances.
Ruslan has been in Ukraine for almost a year, and hasn’t seen his family since he arrived. Their last separation lasted almost seven years. He’s never had time to raise children, or even really to get to know them. Although he’s a grandfather, he only has one son — a small family by Caucasian standards, but better for him, since a smaller family costs less. His wife calls often and asks for money, but Ruslan rarely has any to give her.
I N THE 17th century, the area to the east of the Dnieper River was known as the “wilderness,” an ungoverned territory that attracted refugees, criminals and peasants — a place beyond the reach of the Russian empire. Today, this part of Ukraine plays a similar role, this time for Muslim brothers. In eastern Ukraine, the green flag of jihad flies over some of the private battalions’ bases.
For many Muslims, like Ruslan, the war in Ukraine’s Donbass region is just the next stage in the fight against the Russian empire. It doesn’t matter to them whether their ultimate goal is a Caliphate in the Middle East, or simply to have the Caucuses free of Russian influence — the brothers are united not by nation, but by a sense of community and solidarity.
But the brothers barely have the financial means for fighting or living. They are poor, and very rarely receive grants from the so-called Islamic humanitarian organizations. They must earn money for themselves, and this is usually done by force. Amber is one of the ideas Ruslan has for financing the “company of brothers” fighting in eastern Ukraine — the Dudayev battalion, which includes Muslims from several nations, Ukrainians, Georgians, and even a few Russians.
The brothers had hoped the Ukrainian authorities would appreciate their dedication and willingness to give their lives in defense of Ukrainian sovereignty, but they miscalculated. Like other branches of fighters — Aidar, Azov and Donbass — the government, for the most part, ignores them. They’re armed volunteers outside the control of Kiev, and Ukraine’s politicians also fear that one day, instead of fighting Russians in the east, the volunteers will turn on the government in Kiev. So ordinary people help the volunteers, but it’s not enough. The fighters associated with the Ukrainian nationalist Right Sector get money, cars and houses from the rich oligarchs.
Ruslan has a different plan. He’s afraid that if they begin stealing from the rich, the Ukrainian government will quickly declare their armed branch illegal. He’s decided to work in the underground economy — uncontrolled by the state — which the brothers know best.
Back in the ’90s, the amber mines in the vast forests surrounding the city of Rivne were state-owned and badly run, so residents began illegally mining; it was a chance at easy money. Soon, however, the mafia took over. For the right daily fee, miners could work and sell amber to the mafia at a fixed price: $100 per kilogram. The mafia conspired with local militia, prosecutors and the governor. That was the way business worked.
As a result, although Ukraine officially produces 3 tons of amber annually, more than 15 tons are illegally exported to Poland each year. There, the ore is processed and sold at a substantial profit. The Rivne mines operate 24 hours a day. Hundreds of people with shovels in hand search the forest; they pay less to the mafia, but they extract less amber and earn less. The better off are those who have a water pump. Those people pump water at high pressure into the earth between the trees, until a cavity 2 to 3 meters deep forms. Amber, which is lighter than water, rises to the surface.
At one point, Ruslan disappeared in Rivne for several weeks. When he returned, he was disappointed; he’d failed to convince the local mafia to cooperate with the brothers’ fight for an independent Ukraine. But now, he has other arguments to persuade them. His men are holding up the mines, by not allowing anyone into the forest. Either the local gangsters share their profits, or no one will get paid.
Ruslan doesn’t like this job. He knows it won’t bring him any glory, and could land him in prison. He would have preferred to be among the fighters at the front lines, where everything is clear and clean. He says he can still fight, but he’s already too old to really endure the rigors of battle, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. He may still be physically fit, but fighters don’t usually last longer than a few years. Then they lose their strength and will to fight.
He has other orders from Munayev: he’s supposed to organize a “direct response group” in Kiev. The group will be a sort of rear echelon unit that take care of problems, like if someone tries to discredit the Dudayev battalion. It will also collect debts or scare off competition. There’s no doubt the new branch will work behind the lines, where there isn’t war, but there is money — as long as you know where to get it. If need be, the direct response group volunteers will watch over the mines in Rivne, or “will acquire” money from illegal casinos, which operate by the hundreds in Kiev.
Ruslan sends me photos of the group’s criminal exploits: they came into the casinos with weapons, and broke into the safes and slot machines. They disappeared quickly, and were never punished. The money went to food, uniforms, boots, tactical vests and other equipment necessary for the fighters. The mafia knows they can’t beat them at this game. The brothers are too good, because they are armed and  experienced in battle. The police aren’t interested in getting involved either. In the end, it’s illegal gambling.
I told Ruslan that it’s a dangerous game. He laughed.
“It’s child’s play,” he says. “We used to do this in Dagestan. No one will lift a finger. Don’t worry.”
RUSLAN FINALLY DROVE me to see his “older brother,” to Isa Munayev, and his secret base located many miles west of Donetsk.
Riding in an old Chrysler that Ruslan bought in Poland, we drove for several hours, on potholed and snowy roads. Ruslan had glued to the car one of the emblems of Ukraine’s ATO, the so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation, which includes both soldiers and volunteers in the fight against separatists.
The bumper sticker allows him to drive through police traffic stops without being held up — or if he is stopped, they won’t demand bribes as they do from other drivers. The ATO sticker, Ruslan’s camouflage uniform, and a gun in his belt are enough to settle matters. Policemen salute him and wish him good luck.
He drives fast, not wanting to rest, sleep or even drink coffee. If he stops, it’s to check the compass on his belt to check the direction of Mecca. When it’s time to pray, he stops the car, turns off the engine, places his scarf in the snow and bows down to Allah.
Asked whether — after so many hardships, after so many years, and at his age, almost 60 now — he would finally like to rest, he answered indignantly, “How could I feel tired?”
There’s much more work to do, according to Ruslan. “There’s been a small result, but we will rest only when we’ve reached our goals,” he says. “I’m carrying out orders, written in the Holy Quran. ‘Listen to God, the Prophet.’ And I listen to him and do what I’m told.”
On the way into the city of Kryvyi Rih, we met with Dima, a young businessman — under 40 — but already worth some $5 million. He’s recently lost nearly $3 million from his business in Donetsk, which has been hit hard by the war. Dima worked for Igor Kolomoisky, one of the oligarchs who had been funding Ukraine’s volunteer battalions. Dima and Ruslan have only known each other for a short time. Ruslan claimed Dima owed him a lot of money, although it’s unclear from what. Ruslan kept bothering him, threatening to blackmail him. Finally, he got $20,000 from Dima.
That’s not nearly enough to support the Dudayev battalion. But Ruslan had something bigger to offer Dima: amber. Now, Dima was ready to talk. He came up with the idea to find buyers in the Persian Gulf, including wealthy sheikhs. They would like to sell an entire house of amber: furniture, stairs, floors, and inlaid stones. It only takes contacts, and Ruslan has them. The brothers from Saudi Arabia like to help the jihad in the Caucasus and the Middle East.
The next day, Ruslan was behind the wheel again. The old Chrysler barely moved, its engine overheated. A mechanic with an engineering degree and experience working in Soviet arms factories connected a plastic bottle filled with dirty water to the radiator using a rubber hose.
“I don’t know how long I’ll last,” Ruslan says suddenly. “It depends on God. I’ll probably die on this road. But I don’t have any other road to take.”
Photos: Tomasz Glowacki 
Next: The Life and Death of a Chechen Commander
At the request of the writer, “Ruslan” is identified by a pseudonym.
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The weird world of Boris Berezovsky: Alexander Litvinenko's inquest has provided an intriguing insight into the dead tycoon - Europe - World

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True, there were intriguing postscripts. It was revealed that, in what were to be his last weeks, Berezovsky had penned two personal letters to his arch-enemy, President Vladimir Putin, pleading to be allowed back to his native Russia. Then there was the open verdict pronounced at the inquest a year ago, which left a sliver of doubt about his death by suicide (though the coroner said it was hard to believe that any assassin would come so ill-equipped that he had to use his victim's own cashmere scarf). Then finally, or so it seemed, the high court in London declared Berezovsky's estate insolvent, finding that he had owed the UK taxman £46m when he died.
But even these rather undignified details were not, as it turned out, the last we heard of Berezovsky. For the past two months, the deceased Russian oligarch has been living out a second life in court 73 at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand. He is playing a prominent, if spectral, role at the long-delayed inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the fugitive spy believed to have been murdered by radioactive poison in November 2006. And what has been emerging, from hours of painstaking evidence, not only throws new light on this mysterious schemer and his decade in British exile, but calls into question at least some of what was supposedly known before.
A maths whizz, whose talents had taken him to graduate studies at Moscow University, despite the Soviet Union's restrictions on Jews entering the most important institutes of learning, Berezovsky forsook academia to capitalise on the economic chaos that attended communism's collapse. Starting small, by importing second-hand cars from Germany, he founded a subsidiary of Avto-VAZ, the Soviet-era manufacturer of the popular Lada cars. From there, he branched out in all sorts of directions: media tycoon; shareholder in the national airline, Aeroflot; and speculator in the oil and gas business (which is how his path crossed, expensively, with that of fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich).
The picture of a dying Alexander Litvinenko publicised by Alex Goldfarb The picture of a dying Alexander Litvinenko publicised by Alex Goldfarb (Getty) 
Through the 1990s, he used his money to buy personal ease and political influence in Russia. By 1999, when the ailing Boris Yeltsin announced he was bequeathing the presidency to Vladimir Putin, Berezovsky had insinuated himself into Yeltsin's inner circle, attained the post of deputy national security adviser, and – it was said – designated himself the king-maker who shepherded Putin to power.
Berezovsky regarded Putin as his friend. But he had disastrously misread his protégé. Within six months of taking over in the Kremlin, the new president had secured his position with an electoral mandate and Berezovsky's star was in sharp decline. Almost overnight, his influence had gone; he was subject to investigations as to the sources of his fortune, and warnings that his life was in danger crowded in. He spent more and more time at his estate on the French Riviera. But when the time came to settle outside Russia, his choice fell on the UK. It was the end of 2000. Three years later, he was granted political asylum, after what seemed unusually hush-hush proceedings.
There was, of course, good reason for the official reticence. As the Foreign Office reportedly advised, asylum for Berezovsky was a move that would infuriate the Russian authorities – as well as many ordinary Russians who felt affronted that a man who had, they believed, enriched himself mightily at their expense would not be returning to face a court. Sure enough, UK-Russia relations went into deep freeze, a state from which they have barely emerged since.
On thus securing his position in the UK, Berezovsky busied himself with his entrée into British society – becoming a frequent and welcomed figure, for instance, in the House of Lords. He sponsored public events, where he would pursue what was now a vendetta against Putin. He set up a charitable fund to support his work, the disingenuously named International Foundation for Civil Liberties, and commissioned a stream of publications hostile to the Russian government.
As has emerged since the Litvinenko Inquiry opened in late January, however, Berezovsky was not only infiltrating the upper echelons of British society and doing his best to turn opinion against Putin. He was also spinning a web of patronage in the world of Russia's anti-Putin emigres, of whom there was a large and growing London contingent in London. Alexander Litvinenko and his family were among them.
Berezovsky paid Alexander – known to everyone as Sasha – a monthly stipend to the tune, at the outset, of around $6,000 (£4,100). His duties included drafting books and other material that exposed corruption in Russian state institutions, especially in the FSB (the post-Soviet successor to the KGB), where he had worked. Berezovsky also paid for the house the Litvinenkos occupied in Muswell Hill, as well as private school fees for their son, Anatoly. Many payments were made, according to his poker-faced Russian-Israeli aide, Michael Cotlick, through tax-efficient trusts in Gibraltar.
Badri Patarkatsishvili with Berezovsky and Andrei Lugovoy Badri Patarkatsishvili with Berezovsky and Andrei Lugovoy (Alamy) 
Other beneficiaries of Berezovsky's largesse included a further thorn in the Kremlin's side: Akhmed Zakayev, a Chechen leader who was also granted UK asylum with his family, while wanted for murder and kidnapping in Russia. And his circle also numbered Alex Goldfarb, a garrulous Soviet-born academic chemist, who had worked for George Soros in the 1990s, with a charity that helped Russian scientists. (It was in that capacity that he encountered the influential Berezovsky.) However, Goldfarb fell out with Soros – and further in with Berezovsky – after he organised the Litvinenkos' escape.
It was Goldfarb who became the link man for Litvinenko as he lay desperately ill at University College Hospital; who presented the ghoulish photo that still defines Litvinenko's death, and who (it emerged at the inquiry) was largely responsible, along with Litvinenko's British lawyer, for drafting the death-bed statement that accused Putin of murder.
But Berezovsky's circle ranged even more widely. He kept his finger in an extraordinary number of pies. There were networks from his days at the heart of Russian power; international networks established during his years in Russia as a media magnate and then émigré propagandist; and tentacles that extended into Israel and the former Soviet bloc. There is almost no one, among the dozens who have testified at the Litvinenko Inquiry, who has not mentioned Berezovsky in some context.
Probably his closest friend – until a posthumous falling-out over wills – was Badri Patarkatsishvili, a business partner originally from Georgia, who died suddenly at his Surrey home in 2008. In a statement given to police after Litvinenko's death, Patarkatsishvili revealed how closely he and Berezovsky had co-operated on media matters, and the extent of their support for both the 2003 Rose revolution in Georgia, and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine the following year.
And then there was Andrei Lugovoy, the ex-KGB agent – now ensconced in Moscow and protected from either extradition or indictment by some niceties of Russia's constitution – who is accused of placing the fatal dose of radioactive polonium in Litvinenko's tea. Lugovoy, it is known, served as a special FSB protection officer to senior Kremlin officials in the early 1990s, before leaving and setting up his own security company – providing protection to some of those very same people. The precise nature of relations between Berezovsky and Lugovoy has remained cloudy, through almost two months of testimony at the inquiry, although their links with each other and Litvinenko go back further than those between almost any other of the main players.
Certainly, Lugovoy organised security, through his private company, both for Berezovsky's Russian media empire and for members of his family after he left. These services were recognised by Berezovsky when he invited Lugovoy to his 60th birthday party, held at Blenheim Palace, no less, in January 2006 – the last, perhaps the only, time that so many of Berezovsky's circle were gathered in one place.
Berezovsky and Boris Yeltsin in 1998 Berezovsky and Boris Yeltsin in 1998 (Alamy) 
But witnesses from Berezovsky's circle have also asserted that – although the oligarch had trusted Lugovoy to provide security over many years, and although Lugovoy dropped into the oligarch's offices when he was in London and partook of his select wines – relations between them were on a strictly business footing. Any suggestion that Berezovsky might have hired Lugovoy for more nefarious purposes – against Litvinenko, for instance – has been dismissed.
Indeed, among the many who frequented Berezovsky's strangely dismal offices in Mayfair, Litvinenko would appear to be one of the less significant – the relationship being a bit more than that of benevolent patron and supplicant. Berezovsky, it has often been reported, believed Litvinenko saved his life more than once, and felt obliged to return the favour.
The story goes that in 1997 Litvinenko had been ordered by his FSB bosses to arrange Berezovsky's assassination, or even to carry it out. Instead, Litvinenko passed on a warning, an act that Berezovsky believed saved his life, and which was seen by the FSB as treachery. When things then became too dangerous for Litvinenko in Russia, Berezovsky facilitated and funded his escape, via Georgia and Turkey, putting his private plane, as well as Goldfarb and another trustie, at the family's disposal.
Read more:  Former-KGB agent accused Putin of being a paedophile
What happened to the man who took tea with Litvinenko?
Putin admits Nemtsoy's murder may have been politically motivated
All traitors to Russia 'should be exterminated', suspect claims
Alexander Litvinenko widow describes her husband’s last moments
Litvinenko 'thought Putin wasn’t up to the job in secret service'
Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason won't work with him
That was in November, 2000. It was only a matter of weeks before the oligarch himself decided not to return to Russia and the whole Berezovsky circus – with its frenetic comings and goings, its cloak-and-dagger private-plane travel, and its ferocious anti-Putin rhetoric – relocated to London.
Berezovsky's sojourn in Britain always posed questions, but the inquiry into Litvinenko's death has raised more. One concerns the extent to which Berezovsky's life was really in danger in Russia (the argument, it is believed, that clinched his asylum claim). Another concerns relations between the UK and Russia.
The inquiry has heard from several witnesses that Litvinenko and Berezovsky fell out in the summer before he died, though it is not entirely clear why. According to some, the dispute stemmed from a reduction, or even the severing, of Litvinenko's stipend; others said that Litvinenko's paid work for MI6 was a bone of contention. The quarrel, most agreed, was patched up well before Litvinenko's death. But a recurrent theme of some testimony was that Litvinenko held a crucial secret: at least some of the death threats against Berezovsky, it was said, had been concocted for the sole purpose of obtaining UK asylum.
It is not necessary to "buy" this theory's extension – that Litvinenko was preparing to blackmail Berezovsky – to feel that such knowledge could have given him a hold, and provided a less noble motive for his patronage.
The second question concerns relations between the UK and Russia in the months before Litvinenko's death. In the first five years of his exile, Berezovsky seems largely to have been left alone by the British authorities. But in February 2006, after Berezovsky told a Moscow radio station that he wanted to replace what he called Putin's "anti-constitutional regime", the then-Home Secretary, Jack Straw, pounced.
He took the highly unusual step of warning him, in a letter made public in a Commons statement, that his asylum could be reviewed. The government, Straw said, would act "against those who use the UK as a base from which to foment violent disorder or terrorism in other countries". Berezovsky piped down a bit.
It now transpires, though, that the warning may have gone further than words. In a statement given to police in a different (libel) case, which was placed on the record at the Litvinenko Inquiry, Andrei Lugovoy says this: "During our dinner at one of the Chinatown restaurants in London, Litvinenko... touched upon the resumed negotiations between Russia and the UK regarding Berezovsky's extradition..." This was in October 2006.
Berezovsky wearing a Putin mask when he fought extradition Berezovsky wearing a Putin mask when he fought extradition (Getty) 
It would be easy to dismiss the statement, just because it comes from the chief murder suspect. But the en passant nature of the remark suggests it was something well known in Berezovsky's circle. The timing is also plausible.
Straw's intervention earlier in the year suggests Berezovsky had outstayed his welcome in Britain, and Russia is known to have submitted a new extradition request soon thereafter. (Granting that request would have improved bilateral relations almost overnight.) I have tried to confirm that talks were indeed taking place that autumn about the oligarch's possible return to Russia. But a spokesman for the same Home Office that was so reluctant to divulge Berezovsky's successful asylum application in 2003, said in the time-honoured phrase that he would "neither confirm nor deny" that talks had taken place. Note, this is not a denial.
I draw no link between any reopening of the Berezovsky case and Litvinenko's death (though some might) and see no reason to question Berezovsky's express denials of involvement. But the effect of Litvinenko's death was to destroy any UK-Russia rapprochement that might have been in train. The following April, Berezovsky went even further than before, telling The Guardian that Putin had to be removed by force. Despite loud objections from Moscow, the UK government let this pass.
With relations icy once more, the heat was off Berezovsky. He was able to spend six more years using and abusing British hospitality. By 2012, however, his luck was finally running out. He lost his high-profile claim against Roman Abramovich in a verdict that not only depleted his shrinking resources but demolished his credibility. Soon afterwards, he wrote his first begging letter to Putin, and then a second. But answer came there none.
By the spring, depressed and defeated, Berezovsky was dead. But the dividend of better UK-Russia relations – that might have been expected – has not ensued. With lawyers in the Litvinenko Inquiry arguing, day by day, that the Russian state was responsible for the spy's death, and with Putin in the international dock over Ukraine, any warming of relations is still a long way away.
Even now, though, Boris Berezovsky can still spring a surprise. In a bizarre footnote to the Litvinenko killing, the inquiry heard that, in 2010, the oligarch received a black T-shirt, sent by Lugovoy from Moscow. The garment carried the logo of the Moscow football team CSKA, and the macabre legend "Nuclear death is knocking at your door". According to an aide, Berezovsky had interpreted the gift as both "a joke" and an "admission of guilt". He turned it over to the Metropolitan Police.
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Putin's Russia is a Gangster Regime - Jeff Jacoby

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"I'm afraid Putin will kill me," Boris Nemtsov told a Russian website on February 10. He was dead before the month was out. The charismatic opposition leader, a former deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin, was assassinated in the heart of Moscow on Friday night as he walked over a bridge near Red Square, only yards from the Kremlin walls. The killing, it seems clear, was a professional hit. Nemtsov was shot four times in the back by gunmen who escaped in a precisely timed getaway car, the murder unrecorded by nearby security cameras, which were mysteriously turned off — all in a section of the Russian capital that normally teems with security personnel and surveillance.
It was a calculatedly shocking crime, the highest-profile assassination since the Stalin era, and Vladimir Putin's propaganda machine immediately moved to exploit it. The Russian ruler said he would personally oversee the inquiry into Nemtsov's killing, which his press aide described as a "provocation" intended to make the government look bad. With almost unfathomable cynicism, government investigators speculated that one of Russia's best-known liberal democrats might have been martyred by his own allies in a bid for sympathy.
"Nemtsov could have been a kind of sacrifice for those who stop at nothing to attain their political ends," spokesman Vladimir Markin suggested. Meanwhile, Pravda — a Putin mouthpiece — published a column labeling the murder "a CIA-staged false flag" and "Washington's latest attempt to destabilize Russia." Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia, noted on Twitter that he was being flooded with thousands of messages parroting the "USA killed Nemtsov" line.
In the Russia that Putin has built, such brazen Big Lies are pervasive, relentlessly promoted by a regime that manipulates the media and the law to destroy its critics and strangle democratic opposition. Putin's time in power have seen the elimination of a jaw-dropping array of inconvenient individuals: Courageous journalists like Anna PolitkovskayaAnastasia BaburovaIvan Safronov, andPaul Klebnikov. Human-rights defenders, such as historianNatalia Estemirova and lawyer Stanislav Markelov. High-placed whistleblowers, including one-time Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko and accountant Sergei Magnitsky. They are only a few of so many Putin foes who met untimely deaths. Other opponents have been neutralized in other ways, from long prison terms on trumped-up convictions to forced exile.
Did Putin order the latest assassination? As Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion and longtime Nemtsov friend, noted over the weekend, whether or not Putin issued a directive is beside the point. The Russian strongman "is directly responsible for creating the conditions in which these outrages occur with such terrible frequency." What Putin's propagandists and proxies have done in Ukraine, Chechnya, and Georgia — inciting hatred and violence against far weaker opponents, demonizing all critics as traitors, fifth columnists, and enemies of Russia — they do at home to liberal dissidents and democratic reformers.
In such a culture of fear, there is little point asking who gave the order to kill. Ask rather whose killing will be ordered next.
And ask an even more pressing question: When will American policymakers stop treating Putin's regime as anything but the gangster state that it is?
For those with eyes to see, there has never been any mystery about Putin's ways and means. He is coldly corrupt and vicious, a KGB-trained totalitarian who still resents the collapse of the Soviet Union, which he has called "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century." Unlike Mikhail Gorbachev, Putin is not a Russian leader with whom the West "can do business." He is a brute, one who scruples at nothing in his pursuit of power, wealth, and the breaking of his opponents.
Yet US leaders have consistently denied the obvious. George W. Bush famously looked Putin in the eye, got "a sense of his soul" and concluded that the former KGB colonel was "very straightforward and trustworthy." Barack Obama sought to "reset" relations with Moscow in his first term, and promised even more "flexibility" in his second. Putin took their measure, and acted accordingly: crushing Chechnya, occupying Georgia, annexing Crimea, running interference for Syria and Iran — all while eviscerating Russia's democratic opposition, plundering its wealth, and periodically reminding anyone who might forget that those who get in his way are apt to die young.
Washington can best give meaning to Nemtsov's death by emulating the resolve and courage he embodied in life. Condolences won't slow Putin's aggression. Backbone is a different story.
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Putin isn't just trolling for votes. His dislike of the West is real

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A report on Russian TV this weekend offered a startling revelation about the annexation of Crimea last year: President Vladimir Putin himself ordered the annexation, weeks before Crimea held a referendum on self-determination.
This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.
The Kremlin had previously depicted Putin as merely supporting the vote's call for union with Russia. So it seems like a case of classic Putin: confuse, obfuscate and conquer.
But that’s not really true to people who had to work with him. “When I was in the government, I think we had a pretty clear understanding of what he was doing and what he was thinking,” says Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador in Moscow. “He doesn’t mince his words. He’s very clear when you sit down with him and you talk with him about what he believes Russia’s interests are.”
McFaul thinks the problem is that some people believe the propaganda and the obfuscation from the Russian government. He says if you just look at what’s happening on the ground, it’s pretty easy to tell what Putin is doing.
But the propaganda is hard to ignore. Paranoid elements in Russia believe the Ukainian revolution may have been a CIA plot. And McFaul saw thousands of tweets that suggested the USA killed Kremlin opponent Boris Nemtsov, to embarass Putin. There was even a protest outside the US Embassy, blaming the US. That belief may change now that Chechens have been detained as suspects in the murder. But McFaul says people still think it was a CIA plot.
“That conspiratorial, blame-the-West mentality is something new. I actually lived in the Soviet Union,” says McFaul. “I don’t remember it being that way. Back then it was different. It was, ‘The regime is bad. Capitalism is bad. The White House is bad. But Americans are basically good.’”
He remembers Russians being friendly to Americans. But not so today. “Russia today doesn’t feel like a very friendly place for Americans.”
The Kremlin, and by extension Putin, creates much of that sentiment. His messaging seems to indicate the West is the enemy. But does Putin really believe thatt, or is it just a politician pandering to his base?
“I do believe [he believes that],” McFaul says. “I didn’t always, I’ll tell you honestly. I thought it was a set of arguments to win presidential election back in 2012. But the more I listen to him directly and the more I saw the activities of his government — they have a paranoid view about American intentions. They believe that President Obama and the CIA want to overthrow Putin’s regime and want to weaken Russia and some would even say, dismember Russia. It’s totally crazy. I want to emphasize that. There is no policy of regime change in Russia. Unfortunately, however, I think that is Putin’s view.”
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How Tsarnaev's overlooked Twitter account might hurt him (+video)

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The trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev took a confrontational and, at times, surreal turn Tuesday morning as defense lawyers launched a rare and piercing cross-examination regarding two Twitter accounts linked to their client.
The two accounts on the social media site appear to portray Mr. Tsarnaev in noticeably different states of mind. As both legal teams work to convince the jury just how involved he was in the planning and execution of the April 2013 bombings, the two accounts could provide pivotal insights into his frame of mind prior to the attacks.
Tsarnaev's primary account, @J-tsar, has been written about widely since the bombings, but the second account – not widely known to the public until now – may be more important to the trial. While Tsarnaev appears to have barely used the second account, @Al_firdausiA – sending only seven tweets over the course of three days – it is noticeably more preoccupied with Islam than his personal account.
All seven tweets – posted about a month prior to the April 15, 2013, bombings – reference Islam. The account is following nine others on Twitter, many also related to Islam.
The defense team's interest in the two Twitter accounts illustrates its continuing efforts to try to manage how the prosecution draws connections between their client and radical Islam.
On Monday, prosecution witness Steven Kimball, a Federal Bureau of Investigations agent, testified that the tweets point to Tsarnaev’s mind-set in the weeks leading up to the bombing. On Tuesday, Tsarnaev's defense team made efforts to characterize Tsarnaev's second Twitter account as casual and non-threatening over the course of a rigorous, hour-long cross-examination on Tuesday morning, that at times took detours into the bizarre.
Lead defense attorney Miriam Conrad pressed Mr. Kimball on a number of tweets he didn't discuss the previous afternoon. She pointed out that Tsarnaev often tweeted American and Russian rap lyrics, including one tweet about wanting to die young.
She also tried to show that many of the tweets were light-hearted or sarcastic. At one point, Conrad asked Kimball if he knew the meaning of the term "LOL," and pointed out that Kimball had mischaracterized a picture on the second account as the Muslim holy city of Mecca, when it is actually a picture of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.
"Is it fair to say that in addition to the 45 tweets that the government chose for you to introduce, there are a lot of tweets about things like girls, cars, food, sleep, homework, complaining about studying," she asked, according to Metro.
"Yes," Kimball responded.
Conrad added that one of Tsarnaev's more controversial tweets, referencing a "party" on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was actually a quote from a Comedy Central show. Another tweet, posted the day of the 2012 Boston Marathon and allegedly quoting Al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, is actually a quote from the Quran, she said.
Ultimately, however, the second Twitter account could still be damaging to Tsarnaev's defense, which is trying to portray Tsarnaev as an impressionable teenager bullied by his brother into participating in the bombings.
"It’s surprising that there is this second account, and I think it makes it easier for the government to show what they need to show, that is [Tsarnaev] himself was politically engaged and independent of his brother," says Rosanna Cavallaro, a law professor at Suffolk University in Boston.
"The fact that [the second account] is separated from his ordinary day-to-day tweets, and that his college friends didn’t know he had this other account suggests quite literally a double life," she adds.
The second Twitter account can help the prosecution establish Tsarnaev's personal motive and state of mind before the bombings, says Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Boston's Northeastern University.
"At least so far we haven’t heard much evidence about his thoughts before the incident so it’s important to establish motive and state of mind," says Professor Medwed. "These tweets help suggest that he had a sort of independent culpable state of mind and wasn’t just influenced by his brother’s view."
Testimony from later in the day Tuesday could also be damaging to Tsarnaev's defense, experts said.
Tsarnaev left a handwritten note in the boat in which he was captured in Watertown, Mass., on April 19 after a nearly 24-hour manhunt. He wrote that the United States government "is killing our innocent civilians," and "As a Muslim I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished," said Todd Brown, a Boston Police Department bomb technician who helped sweep the boat. Another message in the boat said "jealous of my brother," referencing his older brother, Tamerlan, who had been killed when Dzhokhar ran him over during a confrontation with police the night before.
But Tuesday did provide the defense with rare opportunities to cross-examine witnesses. So far, the defense has not cross-examined victims of the bombing because there would be "nothing to gain and a lot to lose," Medwed says. But as the prosecution calls law enforcement and expert witnesses, who will evoke less emotion, the defense can be more aggressive without putting off the jury.
"I think what’s great about this defense strategy is they're being very selective about who they’re cross-examining and what they're cross-examining about, and that says to the jury, 'Look, this is important. We’re not doing this very often so this is important,' " Medwed adds.
The defense's cross-examinations of officials are calculated to have a cumulative effect, says Thomas Nolan, a criminologist at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass.
"If they can have one small chink in the armor from each of them and build them up over many, many witnesses who are about to testify, I think their strategy is to at least create sufficient concern [among the jury] over the involvement of defendant to not impose death penalty."
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Searching for the Disappeared in Putin’s Crimea Fortress - The Daily Beast

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Thomas Peter/Reuters
Vladimir Putin is everywhere in Crimea these days. His face stares down from the rows of T-shirts cluttering market stands in Sevastopol, which boast tough-guy slogans like “The person who offends us won’t live for more than 3 days!” His portrait graces banners and clothes, and the Russian president is regularly broadcast on Crimean TV screens. Rallies are held in his honor—during one this week, a citizen recited poems she’d written about Putin’s heroism and stoicism.
The omnipresence of Putin’s personality cult in Crimea is a reflection of the Kremlin’s concerted push to portray him as the territory’s savior and protector. Indeed, according to a new documentary,Homeward Bound, which aired on the Rossia television station on Sunday night, Putin personally controlled every step of the Crimea annexation last year, turning the peninsula into a “sea and land fortress.” To demonstrate Russia’s readiness to fight for Crimea, Putin admitted ordering the deployment of K-300P Bastion coastal defense missiles and said that he was even ready to put Russian nuclear weapons arsenal “on alert.”
Translation: Crimea is well protected from any outside threat, be it Kiev, the EU, or even the U.S. But as it turns out, the real threat for those living under Putin’s “fortress” comes from the inside.
Since last spring, detentions, abductions, false accusations, and torture at the hands of local security agencies have become routine in Crimea. To pick just one family’s story—among many similar tales—the former Soviet dissident Abdureshit Dzhepparov lost his youngest son, 18-year-old Islyam, and his nephew, 23-year-old Dzhevdet Isliamov, last September when a group of men in black uniforms pushed the boys into a black vehicle during the middle of the day, in front of witnesses in the family’s hometown of Belogorsk. Neither Islyam nor Dzhevdet have been seen since. Meanwhile, Dzhepparov is sure “my boys were abducted by special security forces.”
Dzhepparov, who is Muslim, says that his older son was killed in Syria in 2013 under murky circumstances. He had been hoping to save up enough money to travel there and look for his son’s body. But Dzhepparov is adamant that it wasn’t the Syria connection that got his younger son snatched; rather, he says, “the boys were abducted for my own activism in the Tatar community.” 
Since the mid-1980s, Dzhepparov has been one of the key political activists fighting over land rights for Tatars returning to their homes after decades of deportation under Soviet rule. He had many connections with the Russian dissident community; in 1989, Dzhepparov says, he even attended the great Russian scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov’s funeral.
As in the Caucasus, Crimea’s Muslim communities seem to be a prime target for abductions, 
After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Tatar Muslims started to become targets of hate crimes. At least seven male residents of Belogorsk, mostly Tatar Muslims, have gone missing in the past year, including Dzhepparov’s two boys. To press for information on their disappearance, Dzhepparov has become a leader of Contact Group, a community of human-rights defenders and relatives of the disappeared. Every few weeks, they meet with Putin’s deputy in Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, to find out if there is any new information about their missing friends and family members. 
“How did I or my boys offend Russia?” Dzhepparov asked during a recent interview in his now-empty house. He covered his tired eyes with both hands. He said he felt deeply tormented for not forseeing what would come to pass if Russia came to rule over Crimea.
Dzhepparov’s story sounds similar to the “epidemic” of hundreds of abductions by Russian security agencies in the North Caucasus, says Oleg Orlov, the chairman of the Moscow-based human-rights group Memorial. As in Dagestan and Chechnya, “in Crimea people could be ‘disappeared’ by so-called self-defense militias, either for their political views or for their beliefs,” said Orlov. “Some Muslim got in trouble on suspicion of being a part of Hizb ut-tahrir, a community considered extremist in Russia.”
As in the Caucasus, Crimea’s Muslim communities seem to be a prime target for abductions, particularly as the Kremlin suspects the Tatars to be secretly pro-Ukraine. There are at least 60,000 Muslims in Crimea’s Tatar community, around a quarter of the total Tatar population, and their numbers are believed to be growing.
Russian security agents have reportedly searched the houses of several Crimean Muslims for books banned in Russia for extremism. After one such search, two men were found dead; one had signs of torture on him.
Meanwhile, Crimea’s courts are meting out harsh punishments for any activism deemed to be pro-Ukrainian. Last Thursday, a court sentenced three activists and local intellectuals—Leonid Kuzmin, Alexander Kravchenko, and Veldar Shukhurdzhiyev—to prison for demonstrating on the birthday of Ukraine’s most famous poet, Taras Shevchenko. The activists were found guilty for carrying the “extremist” and “forbidden” Ukrainian flag. Just one more victory for the climate of fear in Putin’s new fortress.
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Has Vladimir Putin been 'neutralised' by security chiefs staging 'secret coup'?

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Vladimir Putin is alive but has been 'neutralised' by shadowy security chiefs who have staged a stealthy coup, according to the head of a leading Russian Muslim group.
Geydar Dzhemal, chairman of Russia's Islamic Committee, claimed former security service chief Nikolai Patrushev was behind the plot.
The Russian leader hasn't been seen in public for the past 9 days.
Dzhemal, who is seen as a Kremlin loyalist, said: "I think that Putin is neutralised at the moment, but of course, he is alive.
"He is under the control of the power-wielding agencies, who have, in my opinion, organised a coup d'etat."
Recent pictures of Putin supposedly working during a nine day absence from public sight was "playing for time" by the plotters, he claimed.
"My information is that Patrushev met Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in Pyatigorsk on 11 March and tempted him over to his side."
He also pointed to a recent visit by Patrushev - head of Putin's security council and seen as a Putin crony - to the US.
The visit came despite sanctions barring visits by most senior Russian officials.
"I think he was offered something there that he failed to reject," claimed Dzhemal on Georgian TV channel Rustavi-2.
This came amid a claim that pictures issued by the Kremlin on Friday of Putin meeting Supreme Court head Vyachevslav Lebedev may date from 2011.
The images were rushed out in a bid to show Putin is still at work, and followed the release of other photographs which had been taken on or before 5 March when he was last seen in public.
With feverish speculation in Moscow over Putin's health and whereabouts, and claims of a bitter power struggle in his entourage which could even trigger an attempted coup, the head of Chechnya spoke emotionally of people "trying to harm the president of Russia - and Russia itself".
And he claimed that forces were scheming "to break us apart", referring to him and his guarantor Putin.
As startling has been the lack of shows of support in recent days from other senior Kremlin cardinals during an absence which has no obvious parallel in his 15 years as president or premier.
The voices of prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Chief of the Kremlin staff Sergei Ivanov - and Putin's intelligence tsars - have remained silent.
Kadyrov has enjoyed extraordinary power and largesse under Putin as a reward for keeping an iron grip on the rebellious oil-rich Chechen region, scene of two bloody wars since the collapse of the USSR.
As a result he is hated by many senior Putin loyalists.
But Kadyrov's enemies claimed yesterday that the 38 year old bearded regional potentate is in "panic" because he can no longer contact his mentor.
"He is phoning anyone he can in an attempt to arrange a talk with Putin - but he fails," alleged a website linked to Islamic hardliners seeking to overthrow Kadyrov.
One of the two men formally charged with killing opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is a personal friend of Kadyrov, who spoke out in his support for the second time yesterday.
"I'll repeat now that I knew him as a true warrior and patriot," he said of Zaur Dadayev, who is accused of murder.
There are allegations that a security official closer to Kadyrov ordered the Nemtsov murder, and that the FSB and Interior Ministry in Moscow have full proof.
His slaying has triggered bitter factional infighting in the Kremlin, which includes talk of defence and security service generals seeking to replace Putin.
Others believe Putin will reemerge tomorrow to stamp his authority once more on his government.
There were also unverified claims last week that Putin's alleged girlfriend, Olympic gymnast Alina Kabayeva, 31, had given birth to a child in Switzerland. This was denied by the Kremlin.
The political chaos in Moscow comes after Western sanctions and a low oil price have caused mayhem to the Russian economy, with a serious fall in the rouble.
Many of the clans in Putin's entourage became hugely rich under his rule, but now face their fortunes evaporating.
Software experts in Russia yesterday suggested the pictures of Putin meeting Lebedev, supposedly taken Friday, were created in 2011 and modified a year later.
But Putin is shown in front of the presidential flag, though he was not head of state in 2011.
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Russia Has Armada of Spy Boats Off British Coast – Report | News

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Russia has a fleet of converted fishing boats equipped with intelligence-gathering equipment near the British east coast, the Daily Mail newspaper reported, citing a retired senior British commander.
"They are very capable trawlers. There are lots of things the Russians want to know and they do go to try and find it out," Lord West of Spithead, a former first sea lord, was quoted as saying, adding that they were used to obtain intelligence on the Britain's nuclear missiles and warships.
The boats, which can intercept voice transmissions up to 320 kilometers away, are also likely monitoring airbases to alert Russian military planes flying close to British airspace if reaction teams are scrambled in response, the report said.
The newspaper cited another senior military source as saying the boats are supporting Russian bombers seen off the east coast and "as far south as Cornwall."
"While they look like fishing vessels they are packed with electronic counter-measures and make no secret of their presence. All they want is to sit and test our reaction times and collate communications," the unnamed source was quoted as saying.
One boat was seen west of Scotland where a NATO military exercise will be conducted next month, the report said.
Russia recently put its Northern Fleet on full alert and has been conducting a large-scale naval exercise as a show of force apparently meant to dwarf a NATO naval drill in Norway.  
This week Latvia's military said that it detected at least two Russian submarines in waters near the country. Latvia and Lithuania said Wednesday that NATO jets had been scrambled to intercept half a dozen Russian planes flying over the Baltic Sea.

Russia Won Nothing in Chechnya | Opinion

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The events connected with the investigation into the murder of Boris Nemtsov have forced Russian society to face an issue it has long put off: the situation in Chechnya. The federal center has resorted to the large-scale use of force twice over the last quarter-century in order to suppress the separatist movement there. It claims to have succeeded in that struggle, but has it really?
In the late fall of 2014, Moscow police, with support from the special forces, attempted to detain someone in the capital who was suspected of conducting fraudulent cash transactions. However, the special forces were unable to even enter the hotel where the suspect was staying. The man's armed guards fought off the officers, almost resorting to hand-to-hand combat. As a result, the suspect fled and the police operation was cancelled.
The investigator from the Moscow criminal investigation department who planned the sting operation lost his job, although he was one of the "golden group" of Moscow police. It turned out that the man they had wanted to detain was Ramzan Tsitsulayev, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's special enjoy to Ukraine. Tsitsulayev lives openly in Chechnya, but Moscow investigators lack the resources to bring him to justice.
In February 2015, a group of Dagestani residents were charged with planning the murder of Saigidpasha Umakhanov, the mayor of the Dagestani town of Khasavyurt. Dagestani investigators had done a great deal of work, even managing to infiltrate the group that received instructions for the assassination.
Some of the results of that investigation were published. That information revealed that one of Kadyrov's advisors, the separatist Shaa Turlayev, was the mastermind behind the planned murder. Everything about him is known — his name, job, even his home and work telephone numbers. Dagestani investigators know that Turlayev is connected with the group planning to assassinate the mayor. The only problem is, they cannot bring him to justice because he is in Chechnya.
This is what's called extraterritoriality — meaning exempted from local law — and it negates all past efforts to stop Chechnya from being an extraterritorial region.
The problem that Moscow investigators face in the Tsitsulayev case and that Dagestani investigators face in the Turlayev case is no different than the difficulties that Russian prosecutors encountered when trying to obtain timely information in the search for those who had kidnapped and killed four foreign engineers whose heads were found beside a Chechen road in October 1998.
The only difference is that in 1998, Chechnya was de facto independent, whereas now, at least ostensibly, it is not. In fact, Moscow practically holds up Chechnya as an example for other Russian regions to emulate.
Of course, it is wrong to conclude that everything in Chechnya has been going badly in recent years based on the failure of a few investigations. After all, the Chechen war ended long ago and Grozny has been rebuilt and outshines every other city in the North Caucasus.
What's more, Chechnya is perhaps the only place in Russia that not only scrupulously accounts for every ruble it receives from the federal budget, but where residents can even show you every building, road and bridge that that money has purchased. Taken together, that cannot but create a very positive impression.
But who resides within those new buildings and drives over those new roads and bridges? The problem is not that part of Chechnya's current establishment consists of former separatists. That is nothing to be ashamed of — in fact, it shows that Russia not only found a positive solution to the conflict, but also has something positive to offer, if former die-hard freedom fighters have given up their struggle.
The problem is that those former rebels have never adopted Russian laws. Chechnya is a unique experiment, although the locals are usually reluctant to discuss the subject with outsiders. Of course, every Russian region has its share of legal abuses, but Chechnya has become a practically lawless society.
The stabilization of Chechnya is touted as one of, if not the main domestic victory of Putin's rule. Indeed, events in Chechnya played a significant role in Vladimir Putin's rise to power. And whereas prior to Putin Chechnya was a Somalia-like failed state in the patchwork fabric of Russia's North Caucasus, and still lay in ruins during the early years of Putin's rule, by about the end of his second presidential term the situation in Chechnya took a turn for the better.
Apparently, the point is not whether automobile showrooms and jewelry stores now stand on the site of former ruins, but that, for example, Russian officialdom completely ignored the 15th anniversary of the heroic death of the 6th company of the Pskov Airborne Division.
In the spring of 2000, those men encountered a huge gang of insurgents on a wooded hill above the Chechen village of Ulus-Kert. Almost every soldier in the company was killed, but the survivors did not flinch or give up.
Only the surviving paratroopers, the relatives of the slain and Russian nationalists commemorated that battle, even while the Russian media suggested several times recently that a Chechen who shoots someone whom he feels has insulted Islam can be considered a patriot.
There are no grounds for asserting that some of the insurgents who killed the Pskov paratroopers at Ulus-Kert now hold official positions in Grozny, but more than a few Russian siloviki and law enforcement officers working with Chechnya are veterans of the war there.
And whenever they confront a cynical silence in response to their latest request for assistance with an arrest, for example, they must ask themselves: Was it really worth it to fight two wars to restore constitutional order here if it was never actually restored? Are the people holding power in Chechnya the same who rained heavy fire down on Russian positions in Grozny in 1996 and 2000? If so, then what victory was achieved there?
But this "victory" in Chechnya became the foundation not only for Putin's first election campaign, but for the renaissance of imperial ideology, militarization and the readiness to achieve future victories.
The entire current political system in Russia is based on the assumption that in Chechnya, after long years of struggle, numerous erred decisions and countless victims, victory is finally secure. Too much stands on that idea, on that foundation, to simply admit now that it is untrue.
And yet that is exactly the conclusion that the investigation into the murder of Boris Nemtsov will demonstrate if the authorities conduct it honestly, impartially and without fear of recrimination.
That is the type of investigation desired by tens, if not hundreds of thousands of military personnel, police, prosecutors, FSB agents and military intelligence officers who fought and now work in Chechnya for the restoration of constitutional order, and not for the creation of an odious and expensive regime that is quasi-colonial in every sense of the word.
They understand how things actually stand, and are deeply and personally offended by it. But their complaint will never be heard by a society that believes it achieved victory in Chechnya.
In a sense, it is not Chechnya that has adopted Russia's constitutional order, but Russia that has assimilated much of what has become customary in Chechnya over the last 10 years.
Ivan Sukhov is a journalist who has covered conflicts in Russia and the CIS for the past 15 years.
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Chechen leader meets with journalists of Grozny TV and Radio Company

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18 March 2015 - 4:45pm
Chechen Leader Ramzan Kadyrov has met with journalists of the Grozny TV and Radio Company and discussed plans and prospects of the company’s development. Kadyrov noted positive progress on the television and radio, and professional improvements, the Chechen government reports.
Adlan Bachayev, the director of the company, commenting on the critical letter sent to Kadyrov, clarified that the budget of the company has been cut by 15%, salaries were lowered, some of the personnel were fired, vacations were not paid.
The Chechen leader called the developments unacceptable and emphasized that the crises should not effect the company’s staff.
Kadyrov gave Prime Minister Abubakar Edelgeriyev an order to take measures to rectify the indicated flaws in the company. He thanked the journalists for their hard work.

The bizarre Instagram of Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov

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  • Ramzan Kadyrov is burly former warlord accused of being 'medieval tyrant'
  • Came to power after vicious armed struggle with other Chechen strongmen
  • Implicated in torture and dozens of assassinations, including Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, gunned down in Moscow last month 
  • But poses as gentle animal-loving giant on wildly popular Instagram page
  • Posts shots of him cuddling tigers, fluffy kittens, baby birds and lambs
  • Schmoozes film stars Liz Hurley and Gerard Depardieu in Chechen capital
  • Cruises round Grozny in Rolls Royce and lauds patron Vladimir Putin
  • Has posted more than 4,800 times and has an incredible 905,000 followers 
Published: 11:00 EST, 18 March 2015 Updated: 12:59 EST, 18 March 2015
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He's the internet-savvy modern leader who cuddles up to kittens and hobnobs with film stars on his wildly popular Instagram page.
But Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov is also a former warlord accused of running the Russian republic 'like a medieval tyrant'.  
The 38-year-old came to power in 2007 after a vicious armed struggle with a number of other Chechen strongmen and a political battle with the man he succeeded as leader, Alu Alkhanov.
Claims that Kadyrov keeps a 'murder list' of 300 names of people to be liquidated surfaced in 2008.  
Yet the brutal reality of how Kadyrov maintains his grip on power has been glossed over by his social media skills and voracious appetite for posting on Instagram.
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Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov with actress Liz Hurley and a kitten. The Austin Powers star was in Grozny to shoot thriller Turquoise when the snap was taken in May 2013
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Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov with actress Liz Hurley and a kitten. The Austin Powers star was in Grozny to shoot thriller Turquoise when the snap was taken in May 2013
Kadyrov in medieval garb. He has posted on his Instagram account kadyrov_95 more than 4,800 times and has an incredible 905,000 followers
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Kadyrov in medieval garb. He has posted on his Instagram account kadyrov_95 more than 4,800 times and has an incredible 905,000 followers
The former Chechen warlord lies down for a snooze with a pet tiger. Kadyrov is a fan of the big cats
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The former Chechen warlord lies down for a snooze with a pet tiger. Kadyrov is a fan of the big cats
The father-of-eight has uploaded more than 4,800 posts and has around 905,000 followers to his kadyrov_95 account on the photo-sharing site.
He has shown a particular fondness for snaps of himself with cute fluffy kittens, baby birds, lambs and even tigers.
In May 2013 he posted snaps of himself with Liz Hurley and a white kitten on Instagram after meeting the actress when she arrived in Chechnya to film thriller Turquoise with French actor Gerard Depardieu.
The pair were seen apparently bonding over the tiny animal having been introduced by Kadyrov's friend Depardieu.
In another shot the Chechen strongman leans across the Austin Powers star and runs his finger over the smartphone she is holding as the two appear perfectly at ease with each other.
Depardieu met the Chechen leader at his birthday celebrations two years previously and later controversially accepted Russian citizenship after quitting France to avoid a planned 75 per cent tax on millionaires. 
Left to right: Hurley, Gerard Depardieu and Kadyrov go walkabout in Grozny, where the actors were filming
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Left to right: Hurley, Gerard Depardieu and Kadyrov go walkabout in Grozny, where the actors were filming
The strongman's love of kittens is clear for all to see, while he and Hurley seemed to hit it off during her visit
Kadryrov, Hurley and Depardieu. The actor controversially accepted Russian citizenship after quitting France
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Kadryrov, Hurley and Depardieu. The actor controversially accepted Russian citizenship after quitting France
Chechnya's president (right) and some of his cronies take to the streets of Grozny in a Rolls Royce
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Chechnya's president (right) and some of his cronies take to the streets of Grozny in a Rolls Royce
The two are seen laughing and joking out and about with Hurley in the Chechen capital Grozny. 
Kadyrov's fondness for the high life is revealed as the devout Muslim and some of his cronies are seen cruising through the streets of Grozny in a Rolls Royce.
Things get weirder as he shows a fondness for medieval costume in another shot and poses with yet more fluffy cats perching on his shoulder and reclining in his arms.  
The burly enforcer has a go at playing the world's biggest softy as he lovingly cups a baby chick in his enormous hands. 
And the shots of him with a tiger are probably the most bizarre of all, as he pillows his head on the young big cat on top of an ornate rug and has it on his lap with a lead around its neck as he sits between two associates.   
And yet this is the man whose widely feared 'Kadyrovtsy' militia several thousand-strong, are accused by human rights groups of involvement in kidnappings, assassinations and torture throughout their patron's rise to power.
They were formed during the first Chechen war for independence between 1994 and 1995 when Kadyrov's father, Chechnya's Grand Mufti or highest Islamic official, declared jihad against Russia.
The former warlord (centre) and another bizarre snap of him with a tiger which even has lead round its neck
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The former warlord (centre) and another bizarre snap of him with a tiger which even has lead round its neck
His may have his own 'Kadyrovtsy' militia  but the Chechen leader is happy to pose with yet more kittens
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His may have his own 'Kadyrovtsy' militia  but the Chechen leader is happy to pose with yet more kittens
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His may have his own 'Kadyrovtsy' militia but the Chechen leader is happy to pose with yet more kittens
Kadyrov cuddles up to a lamb on a Chechen farm. He rules the once restive Russian republic with an iron fist
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Kadyrov cuddles up to a lamb on a Chechen farm. He rules the once restive Russian republic with an iron fist
Chechnya's president with a baby chick. He also posted this kitten on his wildly popular Instagram account
But the Kadyrov clan switched their allegiance to Moscow at the beginning of the second Chechen war in 1999, since when continued insurgents against the Kremlin have been ruthlessly dealt with by the militia.  
The paramilitary clashed with forces loyal to fellow warlord Sulmin Yamadayev in March 2008 and a year later Kadyrov's rival was dead, assassinated in Dubai in a hit reputedly ordered by one of Kadyrov's cousins.
The son of assassinated former Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov also prevailed in his fight with paramilitary leader Said-Magomed Kakiyev, while Kadyrov successfully angled for Russian President Vladimir Putin to dismiss Alkhanov and appoint him leader instead.
Since then it is widely accepted that Putin has given Kadyrov carte blanche to run Chechnya as his own personal fiefdom, provided he keeps the separatist forces which temporarily ripped the republic from the Kremlin's grasp in the 1990s are kept in check.
Aside from Yamadayev a string of other Kadryov opponents have wound up dead in locations stretching from Moscow to Istanbul and Vienna, though the man himself has always denied involvement in any of their killings.
Kadyrov hugs a man in a bear suit in front of the neon backdrop of the Chechen capital Grozny's skyline
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Kadyrov hugs a man in a bear suit in front of the neon backdrop of the Chechen capital Grozny's skyline
The former warlord posted this viral video of a panda rolling down a snow covered hill on his Instagram page
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The former warlord posted this viral video of a panda rolling down a snow covered hill on his Instagram page
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The former warlord posted this viral video of a panda rolling down a snow covered hill on his Instagram page
This short film of pandas on a slide at the Chengdu Panda Base in China was another posted by Kadyrov 
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This short film of pandas on a slide at the Chengdu Panda Base in China was another posted by Kadyrov 
he video has more than 9million times on Youtube
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It likely picked up some of those thanks to Kadyrov
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The video has more than 9million times on Youtube, and likely picked up some of those thanks to Kadyrov
Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in the capital in October 2006 while she was reportedly working on a story about torture and human rights abuses in Chechnya. Some observers laid the blame for the killing at Kadyrov's door.
A month later Movladi Baisarov, a former commander of the Chechen presidential security services turned Kadyrov opponent, was also shot dead in Moscow.
He had branded Kadyrov 'a medieval tyrant', adding: 'If someone tells the truth about what is going on, it's like signing one's own death warrant.
'Ramzan is a law unto himself. He can do anything he likes. He can take any woman and do whatever he pleases with her. 
'Ramzan acts with total impunity. I know of many people executed on his express orders and I know exactly where they were buried.'
And In a remarkable statement posted on Instagram, Kadyrov praised one of the men charged with the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow as a 'fearless and brave' 'patriot of Russia' who was 'ready to give his life for the Motherland'.

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Rebuilding American Foreign Policy | The National Interest

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Anyone who reads President Obama’s new “National Security Strategy,” might come away believing that six years ago American embarked on a successful course of world leadership. They might believe we’d succeeded, as a superpower must, in reducing the danger we and our allies face and by spreading stability around the world.
The truth is precisely the opposite. America’s foreign and defense policies are weak and in disarray. The world has grown far more unstable in the past six years as a result of the president’s failure to lead, his policies and his consistent practice of restraining America’s influence around the world.
To recover from these mistakes, we need a forward-looking foreign policy, based on American values, that recognizes we can be neither isolationist nor reliant on other nations’ respect for the “rules-based international order” advocated by Obama but ignored by most of the world.
For nearly four centuries, “world order” has meant nations mutual respect for national sovereignty. This, however, has often been threatened. In the 20th Century, the bloodiest in history, it was challenged from beginning to end by dictators and despots. America, in two world wars and since, has sought to defend its freedoms, values, and culture. With the help of our allies, we have done so to the great benefit of mankind.
Our new century is already posing threats as great as those we faced in the last one. “World order” evolves constantly and is today threatened by revolutionary powers such as Iran, by terrorist ideology, by nations seeking to impose their rule over free peoples and more.
To successfully preserve freedom and prosperity for our children, we first have to regain confidence in our values, our culture and ourselves. Liberal politicians and pundits are eager to proclaim the decline of the United States and the West. There is some truth in that because many are timid in their defense of our culture and our values and often seek to undermine them. We suffer from an Obama-induced malaise that has diminished Americans’ confidence in ourselves and our Constitutional system of government.
We can and must recover from that malaise but that can only happen if our next president is willing and able to lead us in the right direction by creating the proper domestic and foreign policies and by correcting the many mistakes that have been made over the past decade.
We must not shy away from defining the world we seek in the 21st Century, and reaffirming the value of American leadership to achieve that vision. I believe that American safety and security depends on the successful defense of Western values. They are universal human values to which all civilized peoples aspire. We must defend ours, and our allies’, with pride, confidence and strength.
We need a new and active foreign policy to shape events and the course of history. This requires full engagement of all of the elements of American power: diplomacy, economic power, military force and the great power of our ideals.  
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America has the right, and the duty, to defend and advance those ideals. Our freedoms and culture make us exceptional among nations, giving us the legitimacy to challenge ideologies that attack ours, and the cultures that oppose our values. America is, as both Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan said, the "last best hope” of mankind.
The desire for advancement is emerging worldwide among all peoples, and only western values can deliver on those aspirations. The values defined in the American Declaration of Independence are universal and still shine a bright beacon of hope for the entire world.
The geopolitical outcome we seek must be defined by the freedoms and stability that enable us and our allies to prosper in peace. That outcome does not tolerate any ideology or power that threatens those freedoms and that prosperity. We have to make judgments based on that goal and turn all our diplomatic, economic and – at times— military power in support of those judgments.
We must take our initiatives beyond our homeland because in the modern world of rapid transportation and instant communication, threats can arise all too quickly.
To recover our ability to defend our freedom and that of our allies, we need to restore America’s influence over important world events. Isolationism will only leave the field open to our adversaries and will inevitably lead to war. Equally wrong is the neoconservative theory that seeks to impose democracy where it isn’t wanted and leads us to squander our resources and power. There needs to be a middle ground that enables America to shape world affairs and control our own destiny.
To achieve the geopolitical outcome we seek, there are three principles our foreign policy should follow.
First, our foreign policy should be closely interwoven with our national defense and economic policies. Properly formulated, each would complement the others.
Second, U.S. foreign policy has to be constructed around strategies and initiatives undertaken only after careful deliberation of the foreseeable consequences, four or five moves up the chess board. We have to anticipate how our adversaries and allies will respond to each initiative. Because Obama has pursued his initiatives in willful disregard of facts on the ground and the clearly foreseeable consequences, we have lost much of our credibility among nations and with it the ability to influence important events.
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Russia's New Military Doctrine: Should the West Be Worried?

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As one of his final acts of 2014, on December 26, President Vladimir Putin signed Russia’s new military doctrine. In principle, the doctrine, an official statement on national defense, is regularly updated and made public. Its previous iteration had been in place since February 2010. In the run-up to the publication of the text, there were gloomy predictions. One suggested that the United States and its NATO allies would be formally designated Russia’s likely adversaries. Another one, based on the remarks of a senior serving general, expected Russia to adopt the notion of preventive nuclear strike. Neither of these provisions found its way into the published document. The doctrine does, however, faithfully reflect the sea change that occurred in Russia’s foreign policy and security and defense postures in 2014.
Essentially, for Commander-in-Chief Putin and for his generals, admirals and security officials, war in 2014 ceased to be a risk and turned into grim reality. Russia has had to use its military forces inUkraine, arguably the most important neighbor it has in Europe.  The conflict over Ukraine, in Moscow’s view, reflects the fundamental reality of an “intensification of global competition” and the “rivalry of value orientations and models of development.” Against the background of economic and political instability—crises and popular movements—the global balance is changing in favor of emerging power centers. In this new environment, the doctrine highlights information warfare and outside interference in Russia’s domestic politics as risks of increased importance.
The list of main external risks has not changed much, but the nuances are important. As in the past, at the top of the table are NATO-related issues: its enhanced capabilities, global reach and enlargement, which brings alliance infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders. After the risk of NATO comes the risk of destabilization of countries and regions, which can be taken to mean Libya, Syria and Ukraine, and foreign force deployments close to Russia, which presumably refers to additional NATO aircraft in the Baltic States, ballistic-missile defense (BMD) assets in Romania and naval ships in the Black Sea. The top portion of the list of risks contains references to U.S. strategic ballistic-missile defense, its Global Strike concept and strategic non-nuclear systems.
The latter two risks have attracted a lot of attention in Moscow recently, which put them on par, along with strategic BMD, as key risks to Russia’s deterrence capability, the apple of the eye of Russia’s entire defense posture. The danger is, of course, that Russian officials may exaggerate the risks and overreact—as they did once under Mikhail Gorbachev, when they fell under the spell of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), with its “brilliant pebbles” and such. As a result, much of Gorbachev’s disarmament agenda was based on the need to avert something that was not coming.
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Some standard notions in the doctrine have acquired new urgency. Threats to territorial integrity and foreign claims to parts of Russia have always been there, but, with the acquisition of Crimea, Moscow must seriously consider the need to protect the peninsula against Kiev’s irredentism. Consequently, Russia has, since last summer, been turning Crimea into an area of major military deployments.
Notably, other risks, which do not directly impact on Russia, have moved down on the list. Among these risks are: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, missiles and missile technologies, global terrorism (potentially with the use of radioactive and toxic materials), arms and drug trafficking, armed domestic conflicts along ethnic and confessional lines and the activities of armed radicals and private military companies—a provision covering both the Islamic State and the successors to Blackwater.
The concept of what constitutes a military risk has been broadened to include the use of information and communication technologies—which may mean anything from Twitter/Facebook flash mobs, as during the Arab Spring, to cyber attacks—to achieve military-political goals. Another risk added to the doctrine is the toppling of legitimate governments and subsequent imposition of regimes inimical to Russian interests—a clear reference to Kiev’s Maidan and the overthrow of President Yanukovych.
This reference is also linked to the list of domestic military risks. First on that list are violent attempts at changing the constitutional system. During the winter of 2011-2012, the Russian authorities watched the growth of the protest movement in Moscow and across the country with increasing concern. Vladimir Putin then accused the protesters of colluding with the U.S. government. In May 2012, on the eve of Putin’s presidential inauguration, the Russian authorities reacted strongly against the protesters scuffling with police in central Moscow, and then worked effectively to degrade and stifle the radical opposition. However, the Kiev Maidan, which began in late November 2013, soon gave them an example of the successful overthrow of an entrenched regime.
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BBC News - Tunis attack: Gunmen kill tourists in museum raid

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18 March 2015 Last updated at 13:00 ET
Footage shows hostages escaping, as the BBC's Naveena Kottoor reports
Nineteen people, including 17 foreign tourists, have been killed after gunmen targeted a museum in the Tunisian capital, the prime minister says.
Italian, Spanish, Polish and German citizens were among those killed, as well as a Tunisian and a police officer, PM Habib Essid said.
Media reports suggest the death toll could be as high as 22.
Security forces killed two gunmen and were searching for accomplices, the prime minister said.
The attack happened at the Bardo Museum in central Tunis.
At the time of the attack deputies in the neighbouring parliamentary building were discussing anti-terrorism legislation. Parliament was evacuated following the attack.
At least 22 tourists and two Tunisians were injured in the attack, Mr Essid said.
Italian, Polish, Spanish, South African, French and Japanese tourists were among the injured,Mosaique FM radio reported.
Mr Essid said: "It is a critical moment in our history, and a defining moment for our future."
"We have not established the identity of the two terrorists... Reports are not final, these two terrorists could have been assisted by two or three other operatives."
Security operations were "still underway", with forces "continuing to comb the area to find out the remaining operatives, if any", he said.
Tourists and visitors from the Bardo museum are evacuated in Tunis, 18 March 2015Visitors were evacuated from the museum
Members of the Tunisian security services take up positions after gunmen reportedly took hostages near the country's parliament, outside the National Bardo Museum, Tunis, Tunisia, 18 March 2015Security was tight outside the museum
The remaining hostages held at the museum had been freed, Reuters news agency reported, citing an unnamed government official.
Local television footage showed tourists fleeing to safety, escorted by security forces.
A museum employee told Reuters the two attackers "opened fire on the tourists as they were getting off the buses before fleeing into the museum".
'Tanks rolling in'
Eyewitness Yasmine Ryan told the BBC there had been "a growing crowd" of at least 500 people outside the museum following the attack.
She said she saw "helicopters flying overhead" and "tanks rolling in" as the security situation unfolded.
The attack is a huge blow for Tunisia's tourism industry and its government, which only emerged at the end of a long political transition several months ago, the BBC's Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher reports.
Islamist militants have tried to derail the democratic transition, which, although fragile, remains the most positive result of the Arab Spring in the Middle East, our correspondent adds.
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The Bardo National Museum
  • Tunisia's largest museum, built in a 15th Century palace
  • Contains 8,000 works, including one of the world's largest collections of Roman Mosaics
  • Some items in the collection are over 40,000 years old
  • A new wing was added in 2009, doubling its size
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EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini offered her condolences (in French) to the victims' families,
"The EU is determined to mobilise all the tools it has to fully support Tunisia in the fight against terrorism," she added.
A victim is evacuated by rescue workers outside the Bardo musuem in Tunis, 18 March 2015The injured were evacuated by rescue workers
Tourists watch mosaics at Bardo museum in Tunis, 17 May 2012The museum is a major attraction in Tunisia
The Bardo museum, renowned for its collection of antiquities, is a major attraction in Tunis.
Tourism is a key sector of Tunisia's economy, with large numbers of Europeans visiting the country's resorts.
In 2002, 19 people, including 11 German tourists, were killed in a bomb blast at a synagogue in the resort of Djerba. Al-Qaeda said it had carried out that attack.
Concerns about security in Tunisia have increased in recent months as neighbouring Libya has become increasingly unstable.
A large number of Tunisians have also left to fight in Syria and Iraq, triggering worries that returning militants could carry out attacks at home.
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