First anniversary of Shamil Basayev's death
By Umalt Chadayev
CHECHNYA - It is now one year since the notorious guerrilla commander Shamil Basayev was killed on the outskirts of the Ingushetian village of Ekazhevo on July 10 2006 as a result of the explosion of a "Kamaz" truck laden with ammunition and weapons.
The death of Russia’s “terrorist No. 1 " is still wrapped in a cloak of secrecy. The fact that the military and special services did not put Basayev’s body on display – the usual procedure in cases of this kind – has led to many rumours and much speculation. It has been argued that Basayev is still alive, and that he faked his death and merely withdrew from active operations on a temporary basis, in order to recover his broken health. According to another theory, he was killed at a different time and place, and members of the special services then decided to take the credit for eliminating him.
The claim by Russian intelligence that Basayev was eliminated as the result of an elaborate and successful special operation is not a tenable one. If this were so, why did the special services (who prepared and carried out his elimination) not appear on the scene of his death until several hours later? And why was it originally announced that a group of guerrillas had been killed in Ingushetia as the result of an explosion? The fact that Basayev was one them was only discovered much later. At the time, the Chechen resistance acknowledged that one of its leaders had been killed. In its version of what happened, Basayev was the victim of the accidental explosion of a "Kamaz" truck, which was laden with a large quantity of ammunition, rockets and other weapons.
Basayev, whose name has been generally linked to the activity of the Chechen resistance, has been dead for a year, but the war in Chechnya still continues. His personality is assessed in various different ways by Chechens. Some consider him a national hero, who in 1995 managed to bring the war in the republic to at least a temporary halt. Others hold him responsible for the launch of the second military campaign in Chechnya and the negative image of Chechens in the eyes of national and international opinion that was created by the hostage-taking at Nord-Ost and Beslan.
Shamil Basayev was born in 1965 in the mountainous Vedensky district of what was then still the Chechen-Ingush ASSR. After his return from the army he attended the Moscow Agriculture Institute, but was dismissed in his second year for poor academic performance. Basayev's name first became known in Chechnya in the autumn of 1991, when Russia declared a state of emergency in the republic and made an attempt to send in troops. Then, as a sign of protest against Moscow's actions, three Chechens hijacked a Russian passenger aircraft to Turkey. One of those three Chechens was the then still unknown Shamil Basayev.
After the beginning of the war in Abkhazia Basayev, headed the first group of Chechen volunteers, who left for this republic and took part in armed confrontations with the Georgian army. In 1993 Basayev became commander-in-chief of the forces of the Confederation of the Peoples of the Caucasus (KNK) and deputy Abkhazian defence minister. On his return to Chechnya, he was appointed commander of the reconnaissance and sabotage battalion of the ChRI armed forces, which was usually called the "Abkhazian battalion".
With the outbreak of war on the territory of the Chechen republic in 1994, Dzhokhar Dudayev made Shamil one of the front-line commanders. In June 1995 Basayev's unit seized the town of Budennovsk in Stavropol Territory, southern Russia. In exchange for the lives of the hostages Basayev demanded the cessation of military actions in Chechnya and the opening of negotiations between Moscow and the ChRI leadership. Military actions stopped for several months. In August 1996, guerrilla units under the command of Maskhadov, Basayev, Gelayev and a number of other commanders took the city of Grozny, which led to the signing of the so-called Khasavyurt Accords and the ending of the first Chechen war.
In 1997 Shamil Basayev was appointed vice-premier of the ChRI government, and later acting head of the Ichkerian government. In July 1998 he resigned.
After the beginning of the second Chechen war, Basayev was again appointed commander of one of the fronts, and one of the leaders of the defence of Grozny. As he was leaving Grozny, now surrounded by Russian troops, in the winter of 2000 Basayev was blown up by a landmine, and part of his leg was subsequently amputated. Several times the Russian military reported the his death, but on every occasion this information was not confirmed.
In June 2004 guerrilla units claimed by Russian law enforcers to be under the general command of Shamil Basayev carried out attacks on a number of military and police targets in the republic of Ingushetia. He also took responsibility for the seizure of hostages in the North Ossetian town of Beslan in September 2004, and the attack on Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, in October 2005.
Shamil Basayev is a recipient of the highest awards of the ChRI: "K'oman Siy" (honour of the nation) and "K'oman Turpal" (hero of the nation). He bears the title of Ichkerian Divisional General.
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