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Telephone interview with Abu-Sayeed, assistant of Chechen suicide group leader Movsar Barayev
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, 27 2002

From Moscow News

According to suicide-terrorist Maskhadov, he participated in the preparation of the terrorist attack on Dubrovka, and now is readying military operations on Russian territory.

Though the mediation of Maskhadovs representative in Azerbaijan, Ali Asayev, an employee of the newspaper Zerkalo was able to hold an interview with Abu-Sayeed, assistant of Chechen suicide group leader Movsar Barayev. Theconversation was on Friday, at 5:30 p.m., i.e.: just after the interview with Ali Asayev. AliAsayev himself posed the first question.

Ali Asayev: Abu-Sayeed, what it the situation at the present time?

Abu-Sayeed: Right now we are in the auditorium and waiting for the Russian special forces group Alpha to attack.

Zerkalo correspondent: Youre awaiting an assault?

Abu-Sayeed: Yes, therell be an assault either way. Thisassault is what were waiting for. Ifthey start it, well blow up the auditorium. Thats it nothing will be left.

Zerkalo: As we understand it, if there is an assault, you wont even try to resist, but you want to blow up the hall right away?

Abu-Sayeed: Yes, exactly.

Zerkalo: Tell me please, Maskhadov or one of the other commanders, did he know about your plans?

Abu-Sayeed: Of course. Thisis a specifically prepared plan. Andthis plan is the best one tactically. Allsummer long we got ready for it. Andnow weve come here by the will of Allah, Inshallah, well get ours.

Zerkalo: Can you contact Maskhadov or Shamil Basayev right now?

Abu-Sayeed: Yes, of course.

Zerkalo: Do they now what is going on right now?

Abu-Sayeed: They know. Theyknow everything. Theycall and are up to date on the whole situation. Wereported everything to them.

Zerkalo: There is information that Maskhadovs headquarters is preparing to transfer military operations to Russian territory if there are no negotiations on settling the conflict by spring. Isthis part of that?

Abu-Sayeed: Yes, this is only a small part. Westill havent started our operations. Andif this is only a small part, then there are big plans ahead. Butif they dont meet our conditions, then there will be specific movements.

Zerkalo: When this operation was being worked out, was the commander-in-chief, Aslan Maskhadov, was he there, was he informed?

Abu-Sayeed: Yes, they worked out this plan together. Yes, he was informed. Butthe lower mudjahedin, they didnt know where we were going.

Zerkalo: the lower mudjahedin didnt know where they were going, and why?

Abu-Sayeed: When they left, they didnt know. Butlater they said that here is such and such a plan.

Zerkalo: Abu-Sayeed, wed like to know the fate of the 5Azerbaijanis still among the hostages. Youarent getting ready to release them?

Abu-Sayeed: We didnt know this on the first day. Wedidnt know that there were 5Azerbaijanis left. Hadwe known, wed have let them go right away. Wereleased foreigners who told us about it. Andthey had passports on them, proving it. Whoever doesnt have a passport, were not letting go. Theyshould have their passport. Ifso, well check it again, find out, and if its okay well let them go.

Zerkalo: Will you be able to release them before the start of the assault that you figure is coming?

Abu-Sayeed: Thats unknown. Ifthey start the operation, well blow up everything here. Ifthey dont start anything, then we promise that they can leave.

Zerkalo: That means that their fates will hang on how the Russian side acts today?

Abu-Sayeed: Yes, just like that.

Zerkalo: That is, if you have time, than our fellow citizens will be released?

Abu-Sayeed: Yes, yes. Well release them, and then later the Russians will attack. Its all the same to us. Letthem attack. Letthem do what they want. Asingle bullet hits in here, Idont know in general, we arent the only theater in Moscow, and well take the whole city with us.

The rest of the conversation was continued by Ali Asayev, who said the following:

Ali Asayev: Yes, yes. Yourposition is clear to us. Abu-Sayeed, as soon as the journalists leave, Ill call you separately (the conversation continued in the Chechen language).

The last question by Zerkalo to Abu-Sayeed: Dont you think, that if our Azerbaijanis also die, if theres an explosion during the assault, that it could work against you? Doyou understand?

'We have strict nizam'*.

*= Chechen word for order.

Commentary: Moslems in the theater should have brought their passports with them. Theterrorists turned out to be pickier than the police.

(Prior to the interview.) Zerkalo correspondents in Baku later met with Aslan Maskhadovs representative in Azerbaijan, Ali Asayev. Aday before this meeting he declared that there were no Azerbaijan citizens among the hostages. According to him, all Moslems in the auditorium had been released by the mudjahedin. Itturned out, however, that there were still some remaining in the auditorium, and Asayev had to answer a few unpleasant questions.

Ali Asayev: Without any impediments Iwill comment on the situation. Atthe very moment that Icontacted the mudjahedin, they said the following:

It is very annoying when they call us up and say that there are Moslems among the hostages, at the same time that these people dont make themselves known. Ifyou have direct contact with their relatives, have them tell their relatives here to come on up and make themselves known. Andthen with great satisfaction we will lead them out of here. Thats one thing.

Secondly: if they are even here, then we need to do a repeat check. After all, its hard to do a thousand repeat checks, leafing through all these passports. Obviously, if they cant show us a specific passport from one or another country, then all must present Russian passports.

And thirdly: we are concerned about provocations. Ifwe set things up and start to release people, then Allah willing, let representatives of one or another country meet them. Weare afraid to just let them go, after all, they could be taken away somewhere or shot on the spot, and later theyll say that the bandits killed them for trying to escape. There arent any other problems if were talking about Moslems, after all in this case all our steps are pointless, if were going to talk about jihad. Jihad categorically forbids killing Moslems and children.

Zerkalo: According to the Russian media, the Azerbaijani ambassador to Russia and the ambassadors of other foreign countries were in the operational headquarters, and holding talks with the mudjahedin on releasing the hostages.

Ali Asayev: Iwas informed about how they ambassadors were conducting negotiations, because Ispoke with Jakhangir Askerov, the president of the AZAL government enterprise, who has relatives among the hostages. Heis there, in the operational headquarters. Naturally, all the ambassadors contacted the mudjahedin together, but the ambassadors demand that they be allowed into the auditorium. Therefore they will not specifically name their citizens who are inside the hall.

The mudjahedin are unmistakably afraid to satisfy the given demand and explain it thus:

If we let all the ambassadors in at the same time, could someone not easily sneak in with them? Noone can guaranty that it is not a way to provoke an attack. Wedont know who it is that is entering the hall and calling themselves ambassadors, or even what the ambassadors themselves intend to do, or if bugs or camera equipment is being brought in: these days anything is possible. Ifyou can, Ali, come here and take away all those who need to be released. Orselect a dependable person whom we can trust. Weknow that you cant fly here. Ifthere is someone in Moscow, and its not dangerous for him, let him contact us.

So, right now Igave them ambassador Jakhangir Askerovs telephone number. Iasked the boys to call him directly. Inorder to do this, however, there is one little problem: literally a half-hour ago Movsar Barayev went to sleep for practically two days he has been on his feet. Until he wakes up, the mudjahedin can take no steps without his orders: in this is strict nizam (Chechen word for order). Assoon as he wakes up, that is, as soon as his rest is over, we will immediately be contacted and, without fail, we will take these people out, that is what the boys said.

Zerkalo: Our sources know for certain that on October 23rd, while Nord-Ost was being performed, Eldar Gajiyev, a representative of AZAL, was called from Baku (less than a minute after the hostage seizure began). Hesaid: Im sitting here with my wife at the show, but something Icant understand is going on. Afterwards the call interrupted. Whenthey called Eldar Gajiyev back a minute later, a Chechen mudjahedin answered. Theytold him that Gajiyev was a Moslem and should not be detained. Themudjahedin replied: If you are all Moslems, that pray for all Moslems. And he hung up.

Ali Asayev: The problem is that now many only see them as terrorists, distorting all of their words and in this case there is only bitterness. Everyone who contacts them tries to look like a hero. Butthis is not heroism. Therefore Iam appealing to the Russian government; earnestly Iask that they not ignore a single contact, that they not distort anything, and bring it plausibly before the public. Andthemselves too: no need to fool oneself.

Zerkalo: The Russian media stresses that if these Chechens were really champions of Islam, and not terrorists, then they would not be pushing political demands. Howwould you relate to such an assertion?

Ali Asayev: If they had pushed forward their personal demands: money, gold, etc., naturally, it would not be a matter of Islam. But the fact is, that the demands they put forward are politics for the Russian government, but for us. Forus it is a matter of saving people. Later they will not say: Give us Putin or Seleznev or someone else. Theydemand Budanov, Kadyrov. After all, the whole world knows but Budanov has done, but, nonetheless, the court case against them will not happen. Ifthey really were terrorists, then they would not have released a single hostage, and those citizens who went to the theater would not be let go. Ifthey had political demands, then they would have been satisfied with the parliaments offer, and traded all the members of parliament for the hostages in the auditorium.

Zerkalo: But Moslem muftis have been on Russian television and have offered to trade places with the hostages as well.

Ali Asayev: Iassure you, that if this mufti are ready to go there, then let at least one go. Inexchange for him Ill have 10hostages released. ButI dont believe them they are hypocrites. Onceagain this is proof that such a mufti is no Moslem.

Zerkalo: The Russian media also report that the mudjahedin are ignoring requests to bring in food for the hostages, they say that people are hungry in Chechnya, and in Moslems in general consider it useful to fast.

Ali Asayev: If the boys are talking like that, well, certainly it is inhumane. Buteven so, they may be doing this to show the Russian people and their government how the situation is for the Chechen people.

Zerkalo: At this time, how far along are the negotiations?

Ali Asayev: In Moscow right now there are no negotiations whatsoever, since the boys do not recognize any of the intermediaries the members of parliament or the politicians. Andthey complain that the Russians are just trying to waste time. Theyare thinking about cutting off all contact. Onmy own part, Iadvise them against this. Thiswork with the mudjahedin takes up every minute of my time. Sheik Ul-Islam and Allahshukur Pashazade, the countrys security minister, got in touch with me today. Theyare worried about their citizens, and about the overall situation as it is developing. Iam calming them down. Butthe problem is that if the politicians dont get a feel for the lay of things today, than the next event, unfortunately, will be even more tragic. Thenthey will not make contact with anyone

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