Chechen guerrilla leader Aslan Maskhadov killed
By Tomas Vrsovsky
PRAGUE/MOSCOW - Chechen guerrilla leader Aslan Maskhadov has been killed, Russian sources announced today. Although representatives of the resistance have confirmed the news, the circumstances of Maskhadov's death remain unclear.
Maskhadov, who was elected President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in 1997 and in recent years led the resistance, was killed in battle in the village of Tolstoi-Yurt today, stated Ilya Shabalkin, spokesman for the Russian Joint Troops Group in the Northern Caucasus.
"Maskhadov was recognized by local citizens as well as members of the federal forces," said Shabalkin. Pictures of a body resembling that of Maskhadov were shown on Russian television.
“The operation in Tolstoi-Yurt, north of Grozny, was carried out by elite units of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), during which they also arrested several other guerrillas,” Shabalkin added.
However, the Ingush news site Ingushetiya.ru reported that Maskhadov had been killed two days ago by units of the self-styled Moscow-backed Chechen Vice-Premier Ramzan Kadyrov. But fearing revenge from other Chechens, Kadyrov allegedly asked the federal forces to take responsibility for this, the news site stated.
Maskhadov's envoy Akhmed Zakayev commented on the news from his London exile by speaking on the Russian radio station, Ekho Moskvy, saying that the Russian claim was true, but added that the resistance would undoubtedly continue. Later on, the information about Maskhadov's death was confirmed on websites close to the Chechen resistance.
Last month Maskhadov called on the Kremlin to begin peace talks on ending the ongoing conflict in Chechnya; and as a goodwill gesture he ordered his units to suspend all offensive military operations against Russian targets in February. While the Moscow-backed Chechen authorities called it a "propaganda trick," the Kremlin made no response.
(T/E) RELATED ARTICLES:
· Maskhadov's biography (Chechen.org, 8.3. 2005)