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Was Nord-Ost unplanned?
Written by   
, 24 2003

ImageIn an interview with ‘Rossiyskaya Gazeta’, Moscow Prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukov shared information obtained during the investigation into last fall’s hostage crisis at Dubrovka. According to Avdyukov, one of the suspected Chechen militants on trial in a different case, during questioning said that Shamil Basayev had been planning a large-scale attack, presumably the capture of the Duma (the lower house of the federal parliament).

No other details were included about this sensational information. ‘Moskovskie Novosti’, however, got an opportunity to receive information from the prosecutor’s opposite, so to speak. Sometime ago, Shamil Basayev published a letter in the underground newspaper ‘Ichkeria’, which, in particular, now confirms details from the investigation. Basayev claims that the seizure of 'Nord-Ost' case as a surprise to him, as they had planned an entirely different operation the capture of the Duma and Federal Council. Asproof of his words, he gives measurements of the vestibules of the two buildings. According to Basayev, preparations for the capture of the federal institutions took four months. During this time, three of the four emirs (field commanders) that were trained for the operation were killed, so at the last minute Basayev had to look to Movsar Barayev, with whom he talked for twohours.

Until now it was believed that the hostage-taking at Dubrovka was led by Movsar Barayev, but Shamil Basayev’s letter, as well as data from the investigation, names the “head” of the group as Abu-Bakar (Ruslan Elmurzayev). Moskovskie Novosti’s investigation into the ‘Nord-Ost’ terrorist attack described Abu-Bakar as the head of the group, based on recordings of militants’ conversations in the Chechen language (see “Six of Barayev” in ‘MN’ #16, 2003).

From the letter, it follows that other attacks were planned. Inany case, if we can believe Basayev, he claimed to have sent four women located outside Dubrovka to detonate their explosives, but they returned and reported that the bombs did not work. Basayev himself supposedly asked: why was the original plan changed, after getting ready for it for so long? Whydid the bombs not go off? According to Basayev, five militants were responsible for weapons and ammunition, but four had been killed. Sowhere is the fifthone?

Basayev claims that he wrote a letter to Member of Parliament Sergei Yushenkov, requesting to know if all the gunmen were killed. Apparently by doing this he was trying to figure out the traitor in thegroup.

Could be a traitor have been Abu-Bakar, who, according to some reports, left the theater alive following the assault? TheMoscow prosecutor completely rejects this theory, saying that Abu-Bakar was killed during the assault, his body is identified, and that the investigators have no doubt aboutthis.

Information obtained from the investigation, and from Shamil Basayev, forces us to look anew at the Moscow tragedy. Itis unknown how events would have unfolded in Russia had the militants managed to capture a both houses of parliament simultaneously. Butnow new questions arise: who prevented Basayev from implementing this plan? Itis unlikely that the militants accidentally mixed up these government agencies with Dubrovka, or that experienced weapons runners could have procured poor-quality explosives for the suicide bombers. Whooutsmarted Shamil Basayev thistime?

By Sanobar Shermatova
In ‘Moskovskie Novosti’, October 24th, 2003

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