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19 Mar, 2010 12:46

ROAR: “Psychological attack” against militants in Chechnya

ROAR: “Psychological attack” against militants in Chechnya

Chechen authorities have announced “big results” achieved during an operation against militants who have reportedly lost their main “psychologist” and terrorist leader Abu Haled.

The southern Russian republic's police forces fought a gang on difficult terrain on March 17, killing six militants believed to have links to Al Qaeda.

One of those eliminated was identified as “a citizen of one of the Middle Eastern countries, Abu Haled of Arab nationality,” Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov said. Law enforcement agencies believe Abu Haled arrived in Chechnya 13 years ago. He was considered one of the leaders of militants in the North Caucasus, who was responsible “for technological and psychological training.”

Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov described Abu Haled as one of representatives of Al Qaeda in the militants' underground and “ideologist and financier of armed groups.” He was also considered one of the masterminds behind major terrorist attacks in southern Russia, alongside two other Arab leaders of militants, Mukhanad and Yasir.

According to a source in law enforcement agencies, Abu Haled was also security chief of warlord Doku Umarov, the most wanted leader of militants in the North Caucasus.

The special operation in Chechnya's Vedensky District is being conducted with the participation of elite squads of the republic's Interior Ministry, Kommersant daily said. Initially, the fighting lasted for several hours, but the main group of the gang comprising about 20 men managed to escape, it said. One policeman was killed and another wounded, the daily wrote.

Another daily, Gazeta, said that the operation may last for a few more days. It is being conducted in mountainous and wooded terrain, “a fairly large territory with difficult relief,” Kadyrov's press secretary Ali Karimov told the paper, explaining the difficulties that officers faced.

“Umarov has lost the head of the militants' counterintelligence,” Gazeta wrote, commenting on the elimination of Abu Haled. He was wanted for a long time, although he had not gained the same “notoriety” in the militants' underground as Khattab, the paper added.

Special forces and police stepped up their efforts recently. On March 2, another operation in Nazranovsky District led to the elimination of the militants' ideologist – Said Buryatsky.

One of the militants killed in the last operation was identified as Ismail Kutsayev from the republic’s Kurchaloevsky District. He fought in a gang headed by Yasir, described by law enforcers as “one of the cruelest warlords who sent suicide bombers to commit terrorist acts to the Chechen capital Grozny in summer last year,” the daily said.

Yasir is known for his mercilessness not only toward policemen, but also to his subordinates, sources in the Chechen police say. However, several people sent by him to commit terrorist acts have changed their minds.

Two young Chechens surrendered to police in Shalinsky District at the end of last year and talked “about Yasir and other Arabs who trained suicide bombers,” Kommersant noted. “President Kadyrov, who personally took part in the interrogation of the would-be shakhids, set a task to law enforcers to eliminate Arabs training militants,” the paper said.

The success of the last operation of the Chechen police was well-timed as the Chechen president has spoken in favor of maintaining the current number of policemen in the republic, the daily stressed.

Meeting with the republic's newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister Magomed Daudov, responsible for the law enforcement agencies, and Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov, Kadyrov also spoke against sending police forces to Chechnya from other regions.

“Chechen policemen know all the bypass routes and every bush in the forests, and therefore they can successfully fight bandits,” the paper quoted him as saying. “And it seems that we have to lay off officers who are well prepared and know the situation,” Kadyrov said, referring the reform currently under way in the Russian Interior Ministry.

Kadyrov has decided to send back police squads from other parts of Russia, Gazeta.ru online newspaper said. “He does not see any results from them,” it added. The president wants to ask the Russian Interior Ministry to “assess the expediency of continuing such practice.”

Earlier, the activities of police forces in Chechnya from other regions were supervised by Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev, who was recently dismissed by President Dmitry Medvedev among other high-ranking police officials.

The Chechen authorities believe that assignments of policemen from other regions are unnecessary because “the counterterrorist operation has been cancelled and armed groups have been destroyed.”

The counterterrorist operation was cancelled in 2009, which led to reducing federal troops in the republic, the opening of the international airport and a custom house, the paper said.

Kadyrov also questions the need to maintain federal checkpoints on the Kavkaz federal highway and roads inside Chechnya. According to him, the republic's law enforcement agencies are able to keep order themselves.

The problem is that police squads that are sent to the republic “do not know the situation, the local population… and actually defend the places where they are based,” it added.

These police squads from other regions are supposed to be less corrupt than local forces, said Aleksandr Cherkasov of the Memorial human rights center. However, they have not been effective, he said, adding that sending such squads could not be considered “effective”.

The Chechen president, in turn, stressed that nobody needs assignments to Chechnya: “Neither law enforcement agencies in other regions, nor federal authorities, nor policemen themselves.”

Sergey Borisov, RT