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Context of '1997-Early 1999: Islamist Militants Increase Power in Chechnya, Leading to Chaos and In-Fighting'

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A Chechen rebel looks at the government palace in Grozny, Chechnya, in January 1995.A Chechen rebel looks at the government palace in Grozny, Chechnya, in January 1995. [Source: Mikhail Evstafiev]In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Dzhokhar Dudayev won an election in Chechnya, which is a region within Russia and not a republic like Ukraine or Kazakhstan. Nonetheless, Dudayev proclaimed Chechnya independent of Russia. The next year, Chechyna adopted a constitution defining it as an independent, secular state. But Russia did not recognize Chechnya’s independence. In November 1994, Russia attempted to stage a coup in Chechnya, but this effort failed. The next month, on December 11, Russian troops invade Chechnya. This starts the first Chechen war. Up to 100,000 people are killed in the 20-month war that follows. The war will end in August 1996 (see August 1996). [BBC, 3/16/2000; BBC, 3/12/2008]

Entity Tags: Dzhokhar Dudayev

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Shamil Basayev (left) and Ibn Khattab.Shamil Basayev (left) and Ibn Khattab. [Source: Associated Press]A Saudi named Ibn Khattab becomes the central point for a foothold gained by radical Islamists in the conflict in Chechnya. Ibn Khattab had fought in Afghanistan in the late 1980s while still in his teens, and also with Arab units in Bosnia in the early 1990s. [New York Times, 12/9/2001] In addition, he had spent some time in Afghanistan in the early 1990s and met Osama bin Laden, whom he will later call “a good man.” [US Department of State, 2/28/2003] Continuing to follow radical Islamist causes, Khattab led an Arab unit in the civil war in Tajikistan in the early 1990s. In February 1995, he travels with seven other veteran mujaheddin fighters to Chechnya, which had been invaded by Russia two months earlier. At this time, the number of Islamist fighters is quite small, less than 100. But Khattab takes command of this group and the group makes a reputation as fierce fighters. Khattab also befriends Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who later declares him his brother. In March 1994, Basayev had attended a training camp in Afghanistan, then come back later in the year, bringing more Chechen fighters to train as well. [US Department of State, 2/28/2003] Khattab extensively videotapes the activities of his small fighting unit, making numerous videotapes and CDs. This gives them an influence far outweighing their numbers, and the video footage is especially effective in raising money for the Chechen cause from rich donors in the Middle East. While Khattab’s military influence is negligible within the larger effort of the first Chechen war, Khattab’s acceptance into the rebel command structure and his alliance with Basayev will allow him to have a larger political and societal influence when the war ends in late 1996. [Terrorism Monitor, 1/26/2006]

Entity Tags: Shamil Basayev, Osama bin Laden, Ibn Khattab

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Movladi Udugov.Movladi Udugov. [Source: Public domain]According to Nikolai Patrushev, head of Russian intelligence, “In 1996, one of the ideologists of Wahhabism, Movladi Udugov stated that an air attack on the Kremlin was possible and even then we treated that statement seriously.” Udugov is considered the chief public spokesperson for the Chechen rebels. He threatens that the rebels would hijack a civilian airplane and then have a suicide pilot fly it into the Kremlin to protest Russian actions in Chechnya. Fighting between Russia and the rebels is particularly intense in 1996, which is the end of the first Chechen war from 1994 to 1996 (see December 11, 1994 and August 1996). [United Press International, 9/15/2001] The Chechen rebels and al-Qaeda are loosely linked at the time, especially through Chechen leader Ibn Khattab (see 1986-March 19, 2002).

Entity Tags: Nikolai Patrushev, Movladi Udugov

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In August 1996, fighting between Russian forces and Chechen separatists increases as Chechen rebels launch a successful attack on Grozny, which is by far the largest town in Chechnya. Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev had been killed in a Russian missile attack in April 1996, after which he was succeeded by Zemlikhan Yandarbiyev. Shortly after the attack on Grozny, Russian and Chechen leaders agree to a ceasefire. A further agreement on Russian troop withdrawals will be signed in November. In January 1997, Aslan Maskhadov wins presidential elections in Chechnya, and Russia recognizes his government. A formal peace treaty will be signed that May. However, the issue of independence for Chechnya will remain unresolved. [BBC, 3/12/2008] Islamist influence in the first Chechen war is minimal, and the number of foreign militants fighting in the war is small. Dudayev is said to be afraid of accepting money from terrorist sources out of fear this would demonize the rebel movement. But after Dudayev’s death and the end of the war, the Islamists will grow in power in Chechnya. [Washington Post, 4/26/2003]

Entity Tags: Dzhokhar Dudayev, Aslan Maskhadov

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Ibn Khattab, the Saudi mujaheddin fighter who recently became a leader in the rebel movement in Chechnya (see February 1995-1996), establishes some militant training camps in Chechnya after the first Chechen war ends in late 1996 (see August 1996). The camps mostly train Chechens and others from nearby regions in the Caucasus Mountains. But a trickle of Arab fighters continues to arrive and join his forces as well. [Terrorism Monitor, 1/26/2006] Khattab’s main training camp is near the village of Serzhen-Yurt. Arab instructors teach locals how to shoot weapons and lay mines while also teaching the Koran and the fundamentalist Wahhabist theology favored by Khattab. One Chechen will later tell the Washington Post that Islamist militants “went to the market and they paid with dollars. There was no power here; there was disorder everywhere, and their influence was very strong.… The poor Chechen people were already suffering so much and our young guys simply couldn’t think. They were ready to accept any ideas.” [Washington Post, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Ibn Khattab

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In 1996, rebel forces in Chechnya outlasted the Russian army and were able to effectively achieve a de facto independence from Russia (see August 1996). Aslan Maskhadov wins presidential elections in early 1997. But in-fighting amongst the victorious Chechen forces begins, and Maskhadov struggles for control against a number of field commanders and local chieftains. In particular, one powerful Chechen warlord named Shamil Basayev quits Maskhadov’s government and joins up with Ibn Khattab, a Saudi who only recently moved to Chechnya and built up his own forces (see February 1995-1996). [Washington Post, 3/10/2000] Khattab is an Islamist who leads many foreigners fighting in Chechnya as a jihad cause. Basayev, while Chechen, trained in a militant training camp in Pakistan around 1990 and is sympathetic to Khattab’s religious cause. [BBC, 3/20/2000] The Washington Post will later comment: “Islamic extremists figured hardly at all in Chechnya’s first war for independence from Russia, from 1994 to 1996. That was clearly a nationalist movement. But when that war ended with no clear winner, Chechnya lay in ruins, presenting fertile ground for Islamic militants.” [Washington Post, 9/26/2001] Russia tries to bolster the Maskhadov government by sending it arms and funds and even training its troops. Several assassination attempts are made against him and he is saved twice by an armored limousine Russia provides him with. Kidnappings for ransom become the order of the day. Between 1997 and 1999, more than 1,000 people are kidnapped in Chechnya. [Washington Post, 3/10/2000] In June 1998, amid growing lawlessness, Maskhadov imposes a state of emergency. But this does not restore order. Radical Islamists led by Basayev and Khattab are growing more popular. In January 1999, Maskhadov gives in to pressure and declares that Sharia (strict Islamic law) will be phased in over three years. But this is not good enough for the Islamists, who announce the formation of a rival body to govern Chechnya according to Sharia immediately, and call on Maskhadov to relinquish the presidency. [BBC, 3/12/2008]

Entity Tags: Shamil Basayev, Ibn Khattab, Aslan Maskhadov

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Since Chechnya achieved de facto independence from Russia in late 1996, its stability has been slowly unraveling as an Islamist faction led by Shamil Baseyev and Ibn Khattab is undermining the Chechen government led by President Aslan Maskhadov (see 1997-Early 1999). On March 5, 1999, General Gennady Shpigun, the Russian Interior Ministry representative in Chechnya, is kidnapped by masked gunmen just as he is about to board a plane to fly to Moscow from Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. The Russian government is outraged, especially since Maskhadov had guaranteed Shpigun’s safety. Sergei Stepashin, who is Russian interior minister at the time of the kidnapping, will later say that the Russian government begins planning a military assault on Chechnya shortly after. Stephashin wants Russia to conquer the flat northern half of Chechnya and then launch strikes into the mountainous southern half. However, Vladimir Putin, head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s intelligence agency, advocates invading all of Chechnya. By July, Stepashin has been promoted to Russian prime minister, and he says that in a Kremlin Security Council meeting that month: “we all came to the conclusion that there was a huge hole on our border which won’t be closed if we don’t [advance] to the Terek [a river dividing the flat northern part of Chechnya from the mountainous southern part]. It was a purely military decision.” Stepashin is dismissed as prime minister in early August and replaced by Putin (see August 9, 1999). Chechen raids into the neighboring Russian region of Dagestan in August (see August 7-8, 1999) and a series of mysterious bombings in Moscow in September (see September 13, 1999, September 9, 1999, and September 22-24, 1999) provide the excuses for Russia to attack Chechnya later in September (see September 29, 1999). But Stepashin will later say: “We were planning to reach the Terek River in August or September. So this was going to happen, even if there had been no explosions in Moscow. I was working actively on tightening borders with Chechnya, preparing for an active offensive.” [Washington Post, 3/10/2000]

Entity Tags: Gennady Shpigun, Sergei Stepashin, Aslan Maskhadov, Vladimir Putin

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Attack on DagestanAttack on Dagestan [Source: BBC]A group of Chechen rebels led by Shamil Basayev and Ibn Khattab cross into neighboring Russian region of Dagestan and seize two villages near the border with Chechnya. According to most Russian and international news accounts, the militia has about 2,000 fighters. They are Islamic militants aiming to unify Chechnya and Dagestan into a single Islamic state under Sharia (strict Islamic law). The Russian government reacts immediately by sending a large number of troops to drive them back into Chechnya. [BBC, 8/8/1999; New York Times, 8/8/1999; BBC, 8/9/1999; New York Times, 8/13/1999; BBC, 8/16/1999] Basayev and Khattab preceded the attack by building fortified bases in Dagestan. Russian intelligence officer Anton Surikov will later say that Russian officials had indications that something was being planned at the Dagestan border. “It was not being hidden. There was a certain panic here.” A senior Russian official will also say, “The dates [of the assault] were definitely known several days before.” But “the area is hilly and difficult to guard. There are hundreds of different paths, plenty of canyons, mountain paths. There is no border, actually.… That is why it is not possible just to line up soldiers to guard the border.” [Washington Post, 3/10/2000]

Entity Tags: Shamil Basayev, Ibn Khattab

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks, Complete 911 Timeline

Yeltsin and PutinYeltsin and Putin [Source: BBC]Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismisses his prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, and the entire Russian government, naming Vladimir Putin as acting prime minister. Putin is the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the new name of the KGB. [BBC, 8/9/1999] For many observers, Stepashin was dismissed because he had been unable to become a politically viable heir to Yeltsin, who must step down in 2001. Putin, who is unknown to the public, seems to have been hand-picked mainly for his loyalty. [New York Times, 8/10/1999] The Russian news service Park.ru offers this fairly representative analysis: “Only a trusted person from one of the ‘power ministries’ can ensure the safety of Yeltsin’s entourage after his term in office, and the former FSB boss can prove indispensable.” [BBC, 8/9/1999]

Entity Tags: Boris Yeltsin, Russian Federal Security Service, Vladimir Putin, Sergei Stepashin, KGB

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks, Complete 911 Timeline

The Guryanov Street bombing.The Guryanov Street bombing. [Source: NTV/Terror.ru]A powerful explosion levels the central portion of a block-long Moscow apartment building shortly after midnight, killing 94 people. The building is located on Guryanov Street in a working-class suburb, far from the heart of Moscow. Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow, who has a degree in chemistry, identifies the probable explosive as hexagen, also called RDX. He says the attack was probably carried out by Chechen terrorists: “Visual signs suggest that it was a terrorist act similar to the one carried out in Buinaksk” (see September 4, 1999). Interfax reports that an anonymous caller declared that the explosion is “our response to air strikes against peaceful villages in Chechnya and Dagestan.” [New York Times, 9/10/1999; Moscow Times, 9/10/1999; BBC, 8/10/2000] Another Moscow apartment building is bombed on September 13, killing over 100 (see September 13, 1999). Later in the month, explosives will be found in an apartment building in the nearby city of Ryazan. The Russian government will initially declare it a foiled bombing until the suspects arrested turn out to be FSB agents. The government will then claim it was merely a training exercise (see September 22-24, 1999). This will lead some to suspect that all three apartment bomb incidents this month were false flag attacks by the FSB (see March 6, 2002, December 30, 2003 and January 2004).

Entity Tags: Yuri M. Luzhkov

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks, Complete 911 Timeline

The Kashirskoye Street bombing.The Kashirskoye Street bombing. [Source: AP/Terror99.ru]A powerful early-morning blast levels an apartment building on Kashirskoye Street, Moscow, killing 118 people. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov blame Chechen terrorists. [New York Times, 9/13/1999; BBC, 9/13/1999] Another Moscow apartment building was bombed on September 9, killing nearly 100 (see September 9, 1999). Later in the month, explosives will be found in an apartment building in the nearby city of Ryazan. The Russian government will initially declare it a foiled bombing until the suspects arrested turn out to be FSB agents. The government will then claim it was merely a training exercise (see September 22-24, 1999). This will lead some to suspect that all three apartment bomb incidents this month were false flag attacks by the FSB (see March 6, 2002, December 30, 2003 and January 2004).

Entity Tags: Yuri M. Luzhkov, Russian Federal Security Service, Vladimir Putin

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks, Complete 911 Timeline

Ryazan bomb detonator.Ryazan bomb detonator. [Source: Cryptome.org]On the evening of September 22, 1999, several residents of an apartment block in Ryazan, a city about a hundred miles south of Moscow, observe three strangers at the entrance of their building. The two young men and a woman are carrying large sacks into the basement. The residents notice that the car’s plate has been partially covered with paper, although they can still see a Moscow license plate number underneath. They decide to call the local police. After several bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow earlier in the month (see September 9, 1999 and September 13, 1999), their vigilance is understandable. When the police arrive, around 9:00 p.m., they uncover what appears to be huge bomb: three sacks of sugar filled with a granular powder, connected to a detonator and a timing device set for 5:30 a.m. The bomb squad uses a gas testing device to confirm that it is explosive material: it appears to be hexagen, the military explosive that is believed to have been used to blow up two Moscow blocks. The residents are evacuated. Then the bomb carted away and turned over to the FSB. (In an apparent oversight, the FSB fails to collect the detonator, which is photographed by the local police.) The following morning, September 23, the government announces that a terrorist attack has been averted. They praise the vigilance of the local people and the Ryazan police. Police comb the city and find the suspects’ car. A telephone operator for long-distance calls reports that she overheard a suspicious conversation: the caller said there were too many police to leave town undetected and was told, “Split up and each of you make your own way out.” To the police’s astonishment, the number called belongs to the FSB. Later this day, the massive manhunt succeeds: the suspects are arrested. But the police are again stunned when the suspects present FSB credentials. On Moscow’s orders, they are quietly released. On September 24, the government reverses itself and now says the bomb was a dummy and the whole operation an exercise to test local vigilance. The official announcement is met with disbelief and anger. Ryazan residents, thousands of whom have had to spend the previous night outdoors, are outraged; local authorities protest that they were not informed. However, the suspicion of a government provocation is not widely expressed and press coverage fades after a few days. It is only several months later that an investigation by the independent weekly Novaya Gazeta re-ignites the controversy (see February 20, 2000 and Fall 1999). The government’s explanations will fail to convince skeptics (see March 23, 2000). The Ryazan incident later becomes the main reason for suspecting the government of having orchestrated previous bombings. The controversy is then widely reported in the international press. [BBC, 9/24/1999; Moscow Times, 9/24/1999; CNN, 9/24/1999; Baltimore Sun, 1/14/2000; Los Angeles Times, 1/15/2000; Moscow Times, 1/18/2000; Independent, 1/27/2000; Observer, 3/12/2000; Newsweek, 4/3/2000; Insight, 4/17/2000; National Review Online, 4/30/2002; Le Monde (Paris), 11/17/2002; Satter, 2003; Moscow Times, 9/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Russian Federal Security Service, Novaya Gazeta

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks, Complete 911 Timeline

By September 29, 1999, Russian ground forces begin invading Chechnya. Chechnya has been a de facto independent country since the end of the first Chechen war in 1996, but violence has been escalating. In early August, some Chechen fighters attacked the neighboring Russian region of Dagestan (see August 7-8, 1999). In late August, the Russian military began bombing parts of Chechnya (see August 25-September 22, 1999), and by late September that turned into a heavy aerial bombardment. [CNN, 9/29/1999] By October 5, Russia claims that its forces control about one-third of Chechnya. But this is only the flat terrain north of the capital of Grozny. [CNN, 10/5/1999] The battle for Grozny will take months and securing the mountainous terrain in the southern third of Chechnya will take years.

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks, Complete 911 Timeline

According to a later US State Department report, in October 1999, representatives of the allied Chechen warlords Shamil Basayev and Ibn Khattab travel to Kandahar, Afghanistan, to meet with Osama bin Laden. Both warlords already have some al-Qaeda ties (see February 1995-1996). Full scale war between Chechen and Russian forces has just resumed (see September 29, 1999). Bin Laden agrees to provide substantial military and financial assistance. He makes arrangements to send several hundred fighters to Chechnya to fight against Russian troops there. Later in 1999, bin Laden sends substantial amounts of money to Basayev and Khattab for training, supplies, and salaries. At the same time, some Chechen fighters attend Afghanistan training camps. Some of them stay and join al-Qaeda’s elite 055 Brigade fighting the Northern Alliance. In October 2001, with the US about to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan, Ibn Khattab will send more fighters to Afghanistan. [US Department of State, 2/28/2003]

Entity Tags: Shamil Basayev, Ibn Khattab, 055 Brigade, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Shamil Basayev.Shamil Basayev. [Source: Agence France Presse / Getty Images]Russian government forces kill rebel Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev. The Russians had reportedly been tracking him, and blew up the truck he was traveling in while he was on an operation just outside of Chechnya. His supporters quickly acknowledge his death, but claim he died in an accident. A New York Times article about his death calls him “Russia’s most wanted man” and the “elusive terrorist leader of the most vicious separatist faction in Chechnya.” He is further described as “an airplane hijacker, a hostage taker, a guerrilla commander, and a war-scarred spokesman for terror who tried to justify mass killings of civilians, even school children, for political ends and revenge.” Basayev was from Chechnya, but he linked up with foreign Islamists such as Ibn Khattab at an early stage in Chechnya’s war against Russia (see February 1995-1996), and he led the Islamist faction of Chechen rebels until his death. Basayev’s death comes just weeks after the killing of Abdul Khalim Saidullayev, the rebel president of Chechnya, dealing the rebel movement a devastating double blow. [New York Times, 7/10/2006; New York Times, 7/11/2006]

Entity Tags: Abdul Khalim Saidullayev, Shamil Basayev

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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