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Chechen Terrorist Organizations: Statement of the Case
U.S. Department of State
February 28, 2003

Statement of the Case

The United States Government has reason to believe that the following entities have participated in the perpetration of terrorist acts and are associated with al-Qa'ida, Usama bin Laden, and the Taliban:

  • The Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs (a.k.a. Riyadus?Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion, a.k.a. Riyadhuas-Saliheen, a.k.a. the Sabotage and Military Surveillance Group of the Riyadh al-Salihin Martyrs, a.k.a. Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Shahids (Martyrs));
  • The Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (a.k.a. the Islamic Special Purpose Regiment, a.k.a. the al-Jihad-Fisi-Sabililah Special Islamic Regiment, a.k.a. Islamic Regiment of Special Meaning); and
  • The Islamic International Brigade (a.k.a. the Islamic Peacekeeping Brigade, a.k.a. the Islamic Peacekeeping Army, a.k.a. the International Brigade, a.k.a. Peacekeeping Battalion, a.k.a. International Battalion, a.k.a. Islamic Peacekeeping International Brigade).

    Background: Dubrovka Theater Seizure

    On the evening of October 23, 2002, members of the Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs (Riyadus-Salikhin), the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR) and others operated jointly to seize over 800 hostages at Moscow's Podshipnikov Zavod [Dubrovka] Theater. The attackers demanded that Russian forces pull out of Chechnya. They further threatened that unless the Russian government met their demands they would kill the hostages. They said they were prepared to kill themselves and the hostages by blowing up the theater. One hundred twenty-nine hostages died during the rescue mounted by the Government of the Russian Federation.

    Shamil Basayev, the leader of Riyadus-Salikhin and then Amir of the International Islamic Brigade (IIB), subsequently publicly attributed the seizure to the Riyadus-Salikhin, which he headed then and still heads. Basayev's public attribution confirmed a videotape broadcast on al-Jazirah during the Dubrovka Theater incident showing one of the perpetrators identifying himself as a member of the "Sabotage and Military Surveillance Group of the Riyadh al-Salikhin Martyrs." In the same statement in which he attributed the Dubrovka Theater seizure to the Riyadus-Salikhin, Basayev resigned from all other positions he then held, including as Amir of the IIB, and declared that he would henceforth act only as Amir of the Riyadus-Salikhin.

    The IIB, which was founded by Basayev and led by him and the late Saudi national Ibn al-Khattab and includes Chechen as well as Arab, and other Middle Eastern fighters, participated in the Dubrovka Theater seizure through Basayev's leadership, also has committed a number of other terrorist acts. After al-Khattab's death, Basayev and Abu al?Walid have been key leaders of the IIB.

    A website affiliated with Chechen separatist groups - the Kavkaz Tsentr News Agency - also identified one of the leaders of the hostage takers in the Dubrovka Theater to be Movsar Barayev, the then?commander of the SPIR and also a commander of the Riyadus-Salikhin. (Movsar Barayev died in the Dubrovka Theater incident.) The SPIR, which had been headed by Movsar Barayev and his uncle, the late Arbi Barayev, provided leadership and personnel to the Riyadus-Salikhin for its takeover of the Dubrovka Theater. In fact, the Dubrovka Theater incident was originally attributed solely to the SPIR, since Movsar Barayev was the first publicly identified leader of that operation.

    Additional Information

    As the above discussion suggests, the IIB and SPIR and their leadership are closely linked, and have cooperated from the period between the two Chechen wars (1997-99) until the present. While its existence was unknown prior to the Dubrovka Theater incident, the Riyadus-Salikhin has drawn its members and leaders from the other two entities. In addition to the participation of each of the three Chechen terrorist entities in the October 23 terrorist attack on the Dubrovka Theater, these three entities have been linked to other terrorist attacks, or have threatened terrorist attacks, against both civilians and government interests.

    -- Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs

    On November 20, 2002, Shamil Basayev, as leader of the Riyadus-Salikhin, publicly warned the member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the European Union (EU), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that they were now considered targets for future attacks. Basayev wrote that:

    [w]e address you in order not to let you say in the future that we had not warned you about the inevitable outcome . . . Your stance is a hypocritical one based on a policy of double standards, and it is clearly a proRussian stance . . . [A]ll military, industrial, and strategic facilities on the Russian territory, to whoever they belong, are a legitimate military target for us.

    -- The Special Purpose Islamic Regiment

    On June 16, 2001, Arbi Barayev, the then commander of the SPIR, reported that his fighters had executed the head of the "occupation administration" (i.e., appointed local mayor loyal to Moscow) in the village of Gekhi. Barayev said that the mayor had been killed in his own house, together with a Russian officer who was with him. The mayor's wife also was killed.

    In July 2001, the then SPIR commander Movsar Barayev claimed that a "special purpose group" of the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment had executed Alkhan-Kala resident Dzhapar Khazuyev as a "proven" traitor.

    Since the Dubrovka Theater hostage taking, the Kavkaz Tsentr News Agency has reported that the SPIR took part in several actions in December 2002 under the command of Khamzat, its new leader, formerly Barayev's deputy.

    Links to al-Qa'ida, Usama bin Laden, and the Taliban

    Numerous ties link the leaders of these three entities with al-Qa'ida, Usama bin Laden, and the Taliban:

    -- In October 1999, emissaries of Basayev and Khattab traveled to bin Laden's home base in the Afghan province of Kandahar, where bin Laden agreed to provide substantial military assistance and financial aid, including making arrangements to send to Chechnya several hundred fighters to fight against Russian troops and stage acts of terrorism, according to press reports. Later that year, bin Laden sent substantial amounts of money to Basayev, Arbi Barayev and Khattab, which was to be used exclusively for training gunmen, recruiting mercenaries, and buying ammunition. Before his death in December 2002, Abu al-Walid's deputy, Abu Tariq, who was also involved in channeling funds from foreign sources to Chechen extremists, had received several million dollars from international terrorist organizations, including al-Qa'ida, according to published reports.

    -- Ties between the leaders of these entities and al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan are also extensive and can be traced back at least to the early 1990s.

    -- A1-Khattab (then leader of the IIB) publicly admitted that he spent the period from 1989 to 1994 in Afghanistan and that he had met bin Laden, whom he considered to be "a good man." In March 1994, Basayev arrived in Afghanistan and toured mujahidin training camps in Khost province. He returned to Afghanistan with the first group of Chechen militants in May 1994.

    -- Basayev underwent training in Afghanistan and had close connections with al-Qa'ida. Several hundred Chechens eventually trained in al-Qa'ida camps in Afghanistan.

    -- With al-Qa'ida's financial support, al-Khattab also mobilized mujahidin from Ingushetia, Ossetia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan to fight the Russians in Chechnya and Dagestan. By August 1995, substantial numbers of insurgents who had fought against the Russian troops in Chechnya were "Afghan Arabs" (Arabs who had combat experience in Afghanistan against Soviet troops), according to published reports.

    -- The support was often reciprocated. A1-Qa'ida's select "055 Brigade," which fought against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, included a number of Chechens, many of whom were likely followers of Basayev, Barayev and Khattab. Then SPIR commander Arbi Barayev sent at least one group of his fighters to train in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan in the spring of 2001. In October 2001, al-Khattab sent additional fighters to Afghanistan and promised to pay the volunteers' families a substantial monthly stipend or a large lump-sum payment in the event of their death.

    -- In a May 20, 2002 report, Cairo's A1-Qanat, the web site of a privately owned international company with ties to Egypt's al-Azhar Mosque and University, cited Kuwaiti sources "close to the Islamists" as saying that Islamist organizations in Kuwait had held a meeting to discuss a request made by the al-Qalida organization to support Abu al?Walid, who had succeeded Ibn al-Khattab in the leadership of the IIB, as the new Arab Chechen leader. (At the time, A1-Walid and Basayev were leaders of the IIB and Basayev continues to act as leader of the Riyadus-Salikhin.) The sources explained that "the Qa'ida organization requested in its letter that $2 million be urgently allocated for the support of Abu al-Walid and that despite the apprehensions of the conferees, they decided to hold another meeting to discuss the question of securing this sum of money."

    The evidence clearly links the leadership of these three terrorist entities to each other and to al-Qa'ida, Usama bin Laden and the Taliban. Accordingly, we believe that based on these intricate and longstanding organizational and personal linkages that the IIB, the SPIR and the Riyadus-Salikhin are clearly associated with al-Qa'ida, Usama bin Laden, and the Taliban.

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