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The Genealogy of Chechen terrorism
Written by Sueddeutsche Zeitung   
Понедельник, 23 Декабрь 2002

In Sueddeutsche Zeitung

“I dream of repeating what my brother did.” Their sons, brothers, and sisters held all of Russia in fear for several days. Why are the relatives of the terrorists who seized hostages in Moscow ready to do it again?

Compassion works like this: the farther people are from each other, the more fleeting the feeling. For this reason Achmed Batayev says: “They call us terrorists. But then how about the Russians — aren’t they terrorists? Grozny was the most beautiful city in the Caucasus until the bombs started falling and the Russian started killing our city like pigs.” What other words should Achmed Batayev use to answer if he feels sorry for the hostages, or at least, the women and children. It never happens that anyone takes responsibility for the crimes of their own brother, but this man says: “My dream is to repeat what my brother did.”

Now Achmed Batayev is sitting on a squalid bed in a squalid room, in an isolated house in a republic neighboring Chechnya. In the evening he slipped in, like a criminal, past the police posts, and now he is telling what kind of a person his brother was. He says: “My brother was a nice fellow.”

A nice fellow?

His brother is 26-year-old Hamzat Batayev from the Chechen village of Urus-Martan, one the thirty Chechen men and women who on October 23rd rushed on stage at the theatrical center on Melnikov Street in Moscow, taking hostage 800 spectators, actors, and technicians at the musical ‘Nord-Ost’, and making a real Hell on earth for several days. And after this one can call him a nice fellow? Achmed Batayev, however, stands by his opinion, and firmly repeats: “I dream of doing what my brother did.”

The faces of the women

Hate remains with the family, and so it is worth finding out who were the Chechens that took hostages. Little is known about them, not even all of their names. Several photographs were published in the papers. Their chief was Movsar Barayev, who gave an interview from the surrounded theater: bearded, in a uniform and armed with a Kalashnikov. He demands the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya, a demand that he knows the Kremlin would agree to. Later, after the assault, there was his body, all covered with blood and with wide-open eyes.

The word ‘terrorism’ is understood to mean a crime, but it does not speak about motives. Everyone has a motive, even a criminal or a terrorist. If you wish to find them out, there are only the relatives left behind. A majority of them left Chechnya after the terror act, out of fear for their lives, and it is not easy to find them. They do not give interviews. They hide, though several gave information to correspondents from Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Frankfurter Rundshau. After the hostage rescue the Russian soldiers came, questioned them, and blew up their homes. Here is literally one conversation by a Russian soldier with the mother of one of the terrorists: “Why did you bring such scum into the world?” Several men were arrested during questioning. The fact that they have never been seen again, and no one knows where they are, speaks volumes.

Other relatives, excluding two or three elderly women, have left Chechnya. Achmed Batayev, who now lives under an assumed name in a neighboring republic, is one of them. The relatives of five other Chechens who took part in the hostage seizure have come with him this night, to this squalid room in an isolated house. They say that they know nothing about the preparation for the taking of hostages and did not suspect a thing when their relatives disappeared several weeks before the terror act. They all say the same things about their sons, their brothers, and their sisters. Here, for example, is Aisa, the sister of Raisa and Fatima Minayeva. These two young women from a Grozny suburb tied explosives around themselves and sat for several days among the frightened hostages. The young woman speaks of her sisters’ crimes thus: “If the taking of hostages had been successful, it would’ve been heroic. After all, they were only demanding peace for their homeland.”

One of their relatives says: “They took explosives in order to put the pressure on. If they had gone there only with rifles, then no one would have believed that they were serious.” It sounds like justification, just as what could have happened later: “They didn’t want to kill the hostages. If the Kremlin didn’t back down, they were ready to let the hostages go after the ultimatum had passed, then blow themselves up.”

To make a long story short, one must strongly doubt everything the relatives of the people who took hostages have to say. They have all lost relatives during the war and they all hate Russia and hate Russian soldiers. Several of them are in the underground. But the fact remains: the terrorists, when the assault began, did not set off their bombs. The fact that the gas had no immediate effect, and several hostages did no lose consciousness until several minutes after the gas was released into the auditorium. There was ample time to blow up the theater, more than enough, but it did not happen.

What else does Aisa say about her family? Her father was killed by Russian soldiers, just as her uncle and several cousins were. Therefore both sisters were widows, and Russian soldiers killed their husbands. Fatima’s husband was an underground commander and died in battle. Raisa’s husband, on the other hand, never took part, according to the sister. He was arrested by soldiers during a search of their home and killed. “We later found his mutilated body.”

The death of a martyr

Two widows, two fates, and the time for vengeance had arrived. Several days before the seizure of hostages, one of the sisters said: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” And thus were the reasons why a 23-year-old accountant and a 26-year-old seamstress from a Grozny suburb went to Moscow, tied explosives around their waists, and threatened to kill 800 innocent people. If one were to use the words of another relative: “Anyone who wants to understand why all this happened should have spent the last ten years living in Chechnya. Otherwise he won’t understand a thing. I can be shot at any moment. My life is less than that of a microbe.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin condemned the Western press for asking about motives, for calling the terrorists anything other than terrorists, and asking if the reason for their desperation was what was happening in their homeland. Not out of justification, but as an explanation. But Putin was not interested in nuances, although it would have been necessary: they show the genealogy of Chechen terrorism. The terrorists who took hostages were the second generation of rebels. The difference between them and their fathers was that they were not simply fighting for independence, but for an Islamic government under Sharia law at the same time. “We want to live as the Koran dictates.”

Many from this second generation are Islamic fundamentalists. They do not fear death, but see it as the fulfillment of their religious ideals. Just like the terrorist Ismail Eskayev from Argun who took hostages in Moscow, three or four times a days a week for years they listened to the prayers for “a true Islam” in the mosques. They received ideological programming from Chechens who had received educations in Arab countries. His brother Ibragim tells it like this: “First off he wanted to die an Islamic martyr, and secondly he was fighting for the freedom of his people.”

The rest that their relatives have to say tells us a lot about the other side, the Russian one. The passports, under which the terrorists traveled to Moscow, were all fake. They were purchased at passport offices in Chechnya that are under the control of the Russian secret services. One passport costs from US$500 to US$1,500. “You can get them no problem in 24 hours. You can pass the secret service’s computer checks with them, and they aren’t in the ‘wanted’ database,” says one who is fighting against the Russians in Grozny, who knows a bit about the seizure of the hostages and those behind it. Using these “clean passports” the terrorists could travel by train or car the entire 1,500 km to Moscow. They could move calmly about the city, and pass through any of its thousands police control checks. Before carrying out their attack they were able to reconnoiter the theatrical center over the course of two weeks. They knew every exit, every stairway, and every window.

Weapons and explosives: there is no exact count, but there was nothing received from the ‘terrorist net’ in the capital, according to the police and secret services. The weapons were purchased in Chechnya, and cheaply. Purchased from Russian soldiers. “A Kalashnikov costs US$350, a hand grenade less than two dollars.” Getting the weapons to Moscow, he said, also was not a big problem. “On a truck, hidden under boxes of fruit and vegetables or under some construction material. There’s no problem with this in Russia.”

Curtain call before the second act

The terrorists also had no problems with training. The eight women were able to make it to neighboring Georgia through the strongly defended Russian border without hindrance. “There in the Pankissky Gorge they were taught how to use explosives and detonators.” The terrorists’ training lasted 3 months. The awful work of a kamikazes cost US$210,000. The passports cost the most, then the weapons, safe houses around Moscow, and bribes that they had to give corrupt administrative officials, policemen, and security service officers. Finally there were the two microbuses in which the terrorists arrived at the theatrical center before the second act.

$210,000 in the cynical value system of terrorism is not expensive for a terror act that forces the world to remember the war in Chechnya in such a shocking way. For $210,000 it was not 800 persons held hostage in the eyes of the world, but President Putin as well. Right before the parliamentary elections, he found himself forced between political demands that the man in the Kremlin could never fulfill, and the risk of an assault that could only end with a great loss of life. And so the terror balance meant that the billions the Kremlin spends every year on the war is countered by $210,000 and three dozen hate-filled people who were ready to sacrifice their own lives.

Among the relatives of the terrorists can one find no shortage of people like Achmed Batayev, who says: “I dream of repeating what my brother did.” Another puts it so: “Next time there won’t be any negotiations. Right off the bat the bombs will go off.” As far as this position goes, even President Putin can guess that the dead terrorists now have many more brothers and sisters than they ever had when alive.


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