Monthly Archives: November 2010


Reference ID  06MOSCOW9533
Created   2006-08-31 06:06
Released  2010-11-28 18:06
Classification  CONFIDENTIAL
Origin   Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #9533/01 2430639
P 310639Z AUG 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MOSCOW 009533


SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/30/2016



Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Daniel A. Russell. Reason 1.4 ( b, d)


1. (C) Weddings are elaborate in Dagestan, the largest autonomy in the North Caucasus. On August 22 we attended a wedding in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital: Duma member and Dagestan Oil Company chief Gadzhi Makhachev’s son married a classmate. The lavish display and heavy drinking concealed the deadly serious North Caucasus politics of land, ethnicity, clan, and alliance. The guest list spanned the Caucasus power structure — guest starring Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov — and underlined just how personal the region’s politics can be. End Summary.

2. (C) Dagestani weddings are serious business: a forum for showing respect, fealty and alliance among families; the bride and groom themselves are little more than showpieces. Weddings take place in discrete parts over three days. On the first day the groom’s family and the bride’s family simultaneously hold separate receptions. During the receptions the groom leads a delegation to the bride’s reception and escorts her back to his own reception, at which point she formally becomes a member of the groom’s family, forsaking her old family and clan. The next day, the groom’s parents hold another reception, this time for the bride’s family and friends, who can “inspect” the family they have given their daughter to. On the third day, the bride’s family holds a reception for the groom’s parents and family.

Father of the Groom ——————-

3. (C) On August 22, Gadzhi Makhachev married off his 19 year-old son Dalgat to Aida Sharipova. The wedding in Makhachkala, which we attended, was a microcosm of the social and political relations of the North Caucasus, beginning with Gadzhi’s own biography. Gadzhi started off as an Avar clan leader. Enver Kisriyev, the leading scholar of Dagestani society, told us that as Soviet power receded from Dagestan in the late 1980s, the complex society fell back to its pre-Russian structure. The basic structural unit is the monoethnic “jamaat,” in this usage best translated as ”canton” or “commune.” The ethnic groups themselves are a Russian construct: faced with hundreds of jamaats, the 19th century Russian conquerors lumped cantons speaking related dialects together and called them “Avar,” “Dargin,” etc. to reduce the number of “nationalities” in Dagestan to 38. Ever since then, jamaats within each ethnic group have been competing with one another to lead the ethnic group. This competition is especially marked among the Avars, the largest nationality in Dagestan.

4. (C) As Russian power faded, each canton fielded a militia to defend its people both in the mountains and the capital Makhachkala. Gadzhi became the leader from his home canton of Burtunay, in Kazbek Rayon. He later asserted pan-Avar ambitions, founding the Imam Shamil Popular Front — named after the great Avar leader of mountaineer resistance to the Russians — to promote the interests of the Avars and of Burtunay’s role within the ethnic group. Among his exploits was a role in the military defense of Dagestan against the 1999 invasion from Chechnya by Shamil Basayev and al-Khattab, and his political defense of Avar villages under pressure in Chechnya, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

5. (C) Gadzhi has cashed in the social capital he made from nationalism, translating it into financial and political capital — as head of Dagestan’s state oil company and as the single-mandate representative for Makhachkala in Russia’s State Duma. His dealings in the oil business — including close cooperation with U.S. firms — have left him well off enough to afford luxurious houses in Makhachkala, Kaspiysk, Moscow, Paris and San Diego; and a large collection of luxury automobiles, including the Rolls Royce Silver Phantom in which Dalgat fetched Aida from her parents’ reception. (Gadzhi gave us a lift in the Rolls once in Moscow, but the legroom was somewhat constricted by the presence of a Kalashnikov carbine at our feet. Gadzhi has survived numerous assassination attempts, as have most of the still-living leaders of Dagestan. In Dagestan he always travels in an armored BMW with one, sometimes two follow cars full of uniformed armed guards.)

6. (C) Gadzhi has gone beyond his Avar base, pursuing a multi-ethnic cadre policy to develop a network of loyalists. He has sent Dagestani youths, including his sons, to a military type high school near San Diego (we met one graduate, a Jewish boy from Derbent now studying at San Diego state. He has no plans to enter the Russian military).

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Gadzhi’s multi-ethnic reach illustrates what the editor of the Dagestani paper “Chernovik” told us: that in the last few years the development of inter-ethnic business clans has eroded traditional jamaat loyalties.

7. (C) But the Avar symbolism is still strong. Gadzhi’s brother, an artist from St. Petersburg, ordered as a wedding gift a life-sized statue of Imam Shamil. Shamil is the iconic national symbol, despite his stern and inflexible character (portrayed in Tolstoy’s “Hadji-Murat” as the mountaineers’ tyrannical counterpart to the absolutist Tsar). Connection with Shamil makes for nobility among Avars today. Gadzhi often mentions that he is a descendant on his mother’s side of Gair-Bek, one of Shamil’s deputies.

The Day Before ————–

8. (C) Gadzhi’s Kaspiysk summer house is an enormous structure on the shore of the Caspian, essentially a huge circular reception room — much like a large restaurant — attached to a 40-meter high green airport tower on columns, accessible only by elevator, with a couple of bedrooms, a reception room, and a grotto whose glass floor was the roof of a huge fish tank. The heavily guarded compound also boasts a second house, outbuildings, a tennis court, and two piers out into the Caspian, one rigged with block and tackle for launching jet skis. The house filled up with visitors from all over the Caucasus during the afternoon of August 21. The Chair of Ingushetia’s parliament drove in with two colleagues; visitors from Moscow included politicians, businessmen and an Avar football coach. Many of the visitors grew up with Gadzhi in Khasavyurt, including an Ingush Olympic wrestler named Vakha who seemed to be perpetually tipsy. Another group of Gadzhi’s boyhood friends from Khasavyurt was led by a man who looked like Shamil Basayev on his day off — flip-flops, t-shirt, baseball cap, beard — but turned out to be the chief rabbi of Stavropol Kray. He told us he has 12,000 co-religionists in the province, 8,000 of them in its capital, Pyatigorsk. 70 percent are, like him, Persian-speaking Mountain Jews; the rest are a mixture of Europeans, Georgians and Bukharans.

9. (C) Also present was XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. He was reserved at the time, but in a follow-up conversation in Moscow on August 29 (please protect) he complained that Chechnya, lacking experts to develop programs for economic recovery, is simply demanding and disposing of cash from the central government. When we pressed him on disappearances, he admitted some took place, but claimed that often parents alleged their children had been abducted when in fact their sons had run off to join the fighters or — in a case the week before — they had murdered their daughter in an honor killing. We mentioned the abduction of a widow of Basayev, allegedly to gain access to his money. XXXXXX said he had not heard of the case, but knew that Basayev had had no interest in wealth; he may have been a religious fanatic, but he was a “normal” person. The fighters who remain are not a serious military force, in XXXXX view, and many would surrender under the proper terms and immunities. He himself is arranging the immunity of a senior official of the Maskhadov era, whose name he would not reveal.

10. (C) During lunch, Gadzhi took a congratulatory call from Dagestan’s president, Mukhu Aliyev. Gadzhi told Aliyev how honored he would be if Aliyev could drop in at the wedding reception. There was a degree of tension in the conversation, which was between two figures each implicitly claiming the mantle of leadership of the Avars. In the event, Aliyev snubbed Gadzhi and did not show up for the wedding, though the rest of Dagestan’s political leadership did.

11. (C) Though Gadzhi’s house was not the venue for the main wedding reception, he ensured that all his guests were constantly plied with food and drink. The cooks seemed to keep whole sheep and whole cows boiling in a cauldron somewhere day and night, dumping disjointed fragments of the carcass on the tables whenever someone entered the room. Gadzhi’s two chefs kept a wide variety of unusual dishes in circulation (in addition to the omnipresent boiled meat and fatty bouillon). The alcohol consumption before, during and after this Muslim wedding was stupendous. Amidst an alcohol shortage, Gadzhi had flown in from the Urals thousands of bottles of Beluga Export vodka (“Best consumed with caviar”). There was also entertainment, beginning even that day, with the big-name performers appearing both at the wedding hall and at Gadzhi’s summer house. Gadzhi’s main act, a Syrian-born singer named Avraam Russo, could not make it because he was shot a few days before the wedding, but there

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was a “gypsy” troupe from St. Petersburg, a couple of Azeri pop stars, and from Moscow, Benya the Accordion King with his family of singers. A host of local bands, singing in Avar and Dargin, rounded out the entertainment, which was constant and extremely amplified.

10. (C) The main activity of the day was eating and drinking — starting from 4 p.m., about eight hours worth, all told — punctuated, when all were laden with food and sodden with drink, with a bout of jet skiing in the Caspian. After dinner, though, the first band started an informal performance — drums, accordion and clarinet playing the lezginka, the universal dance of the Caucasus. To the uninitiated Westerner, the music sounds like an undifferentiated wall of sound. This was a signal for dancing: one by one, each of the dramatically paunchy men (there were no women present) would enter the arena and exhibit his personal lezginka for the limit of his duration, usually 30 seconds to a minute. Each ethnic group’s lezginka was different — the Dagestani lezginka the most energetic, the Chechen the most aggressive and belligerent, and the Ingush smoother.

Wedding Day 1 ————-

11. (C) An hour before the wedding reception was set to begin the “Marrakech” reception hall was full of guests — men taking the air outside and women already filling a number of the tables inside, older ones with headscarves chaperoning dozens of teenaged girls. A Dagestani parliamentarian explained that weddings are a principal venue for teenagers — and more importantly their parents — to get a look at one another with a view to future matches. Security was tight — police presence on the ground plus police snipers positioned on the roof of an overlooking apartment block. Gadzhi even assigned one of his guards as our personal bodyguard inside the reception. The manager told Gadzhi there were seats for over a thousand guests at a time. At the height of the reception, it was standing room only.

12. (C) At precisely two p.m. the male guests started filing in. They varied from pols and oligarchs of all sorts — the slick to the Jurassic; wizened brown peasants from Burtunay; and Dagestan’s sports and cultural celebrities XXXXXXX presided over a political table in the smaller of the two halls (the music was in the other) along with Vakha the drunken wrestler, the Ingush parliamentarians, a member of the Federation Council who is also a nanophysicist and has lectured in Silicon Valley, and Gadzhi’s cousin Ismail Alibekov, a submariner first rank naval captain now serving at the General Staff in Moscow. The Dagestani milieu appears to be one in which the highly educated and the gun-toting can mix easily — often in the same person.

13. (C) After a couple of hours Dalgat’s convoy returned with Aida, horns honking. Dalgat and Aida got out of the Rolls and were serenaded into the hall, and into the Makhachev family, by a boys’ chorus lining both sides of the red carpet, dressed in costumes aping medieval Dagestani armor with little shields and swords. The couple’s entry was the signal for the emcee to roll into high gear, and after a few toasts the Piter “gypsies” began their performance. (The next day one of Gadzhi’s houseguests sneered, “Some gypsies! The bandleader was certainly Jewish, and the rest of them were blonde.” There was some truth to this, but at least the two dancing girls appeared to be Roma.)

14. (C) As the bands played, the marriageable girls came out to dance the lezginka in what looked like a slowly revolving conga line while the boys sat together at tables staring intently. The boys were all in white shirts and black slacks, while the girls wore a wide variety of multicolored but fashionable cocktail dresses. Every so often someone would shower the dancers with money — there were some thousand ruble notes but the currency of choice was the U.S. hundred dollar bill. The floor was covered with them; young children would scoop the money up to distribute among the dancers.

15. (C) Gadzhi was locked into his role as host. He greeted every guest personally as they entered the hall — failure to do so would cause great insult — and later moved constantly from table to table drinking toasts with everyone. The 120 toasts he estimated he drank would have killed anyone, hardened drinker or not, but Gadzhi had his Afghan waiter Khan following him around to pour his drinks from a special vodka bottle containing water. Still, he was much the worse for wear by evening’s end. At one point we caught up with him dancing with two scantily clad Russian women who looked far from home. One, it turned out was a Moscow poet (later she recited an incomprehensible poem in Gadzhi’s honor) who

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was in town with a film director to write the screenplay for a film immortalizing Gadzhi’s defense of Dagestan against Shamil Basayev. By 6 p.m. most of the houseguests had returned to Gadzhi’s seaside home for more swimming and more jet-skiing-under-the-influence. But by 8 the summer house’s restaurant was full once more, the food and drink were flowing, the name performers were giving acoustic renditions of the songs they had sung at the reception, and some stupendously fat guests were displaying their lezginkas for the benefit of the two visiting Russian women, who had wandered over from the reception.

The Wedding — Day 2: Enter The Man ————————————

16. (C) The next day’s reception at the Marrakech was Gadzhi’s tribute to Aida’s family, after which we all returned to a dinner at Gadzhi’s summer home. Most of the tables were set with the usual dishes plus whole roast sturgeons and sheep. But at 8:00 p.m. the compound was invaded by dozens of heavily armed mujahedin for the grand entrance of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, looking shorter and less muscular than in his photos, and with a somewhat cock-eyed expression on his face. After greetings from Gadzhi, Ramzan and about 20 of his retinue sat around the tables eating and listening to Benya the Accordion King. Gadzhi then announced a fireworks display in honor of the birthday of Ramzan’s late father, Ahmat-Hadji Kadyrov. The fireworks started with a bang that made both Gadzhi and Ramzan flinch. Gadzhi had from the beginning requested that none of his guests, most of whom carried sidearms, fire their weapons in celebration. Throughout the wedding they complied, not even joining in the magnificent fireworks display.

17. (C) After the fireworks, the musicians struck up the lezginka in the courtyard and a group of two girls and three boys — one no more than six years old — performed gymnastic versions of the dance. First Gadzhi joined them and then Ramzan, who danced clumsily with his gold-plated automatic stuck down in the back of his jeans (a houseguest later pointed out that the gold housing eliminated any practical use of the gun, but smirked that Ramzan probably couldn’t fire it anyway). Both Gadzhi and Ramzan showered the dancing children with hundred dollar bills; the dancers probably picked upwards of USD 5000 off the cobblestones. Gadzhi told us later that Ramzan had brought the happy couple “a five kilo lump of gold” as his wedding present. After the dancing and a quick tour of the premises, Ramzan and his army drove off back to Chechnya. We asked why Ramzan did not spend the night in Makhachkala, and were told, “Ramzan never spends the night anywhere.”

18. (C) After Ramzan sped off, the dinner and drinking — especially the latter — continued. An Avar FSB colonel sitting next to us, dead drunk, was highly insulted that we would not allow him to add “cognac” to our wine. “It’s practically the same thing,” he insisted, until a Russian FSB general sitting opposite told him to drop it. We were inclined to cut the Colonel some slack, though: he is head of the unit to combat terrorism in Dagestan, and Gadzhi told us that extremists have sooner or later assassinated everyone who has joined that unit. We were more worried when an Afghan war buddy of the Colonel’s, Rector of the Dagestan University Law School and too drunk to sit, let alone stand, pulled out his automatic and asked if we needed any protection. At this point Gadzhi and his people came over, propped the rector between their shoulders, and let us get out of range.

Postscript: The Practical Uses of a Caucasus Wedding
——————————————— ——–

19. (C) Kadyrov’s attendance was a mark of respect and alliance, the result of Gadzhi’s careful cultivation — dating back to personal friendship with Ramzan’s father. This is a necessary political tool in a region where difficulties can only be resolved by using personal relationships to reach ad hoc informal agreements. An example was readily to hand: on August 22 Chechnya’s parliamentary speaker, Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, gave an interview in which he made specific territorial claims to the Kizlyar, Khasavyurt and Novolak regions of Dagestan. The first two have significant Chechen-Akkin populations, and the last was part of Chechnya until the 1944 deportation, when Stalin forcibly resettled ethnic Laks (a Dagestani nationality) there. Gadzhi said he would have to answer Abdurakhmanov and work closely with Ramzan to reduce the tensions “that fool” had caused. Asked why he took such statements seriously, he told us that in the Caucasus all disputes revolve around land, and such claims can never be

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dismissed. Unresolved land claims are the “threads” the Russian center always kept in play to pull when needed. We asked why these claims are coming out now, and were told it was euphoria, pure and simple. After all they had received, the Chechen leadership’s feet are miles off the ground. (A well-connected Chechen contact later told us he thought that raising nationalistic irredentism was part of Abdurakhmanov’s effort to gain a political base independent from Kadyrov.)

20. (C) The “horizontal of power” represented by Gadzhi’s relationship with Ramzan is the antithesis of the Moscow-imposed “vertical of power.” Gadzhi’s business partner Khalik Gindiyev, head of Rosneft-Kaspoil, complained that Moscow should let local Caucasians rather than Russians — “Magomadovs and Aliyevs, not Ivanovs and Petrovs” — resolve the region’s conflicts. The vertical of power, he said, is inapplicable to the Caucasus, a region that Moscow bureaucrats such as PolPred Kozak would never understand. The Caucasus needs to be given the scope to resolve its own problems. But this was not a plug for democracy. Gadzhi told us democracy would always fail in the Caucasus, where the conception of the state is as an extension of the Caucasus family, in which the father’s word is law. “Where is the room for democracy in that?” he asked. We paraphrased Hayek: if you run a family as you do a state, you destroy the family. Running a state as you do a family destroys the state: ties of kinship and friendship will always trump the rule of law. Gadzhi’s partner agreed, shaking his head sadly. “That’s a matter for generations to come,” he said.



Belgium terror probe nets 11 arrests

By the CNN Wire Staff

November 23, 2010 — Updated 1851 GMT (0251 HKT)

(CNN) — Authorities have arrested 11 people in connection with a suspected terror plot targeting Belgium, officials there said Tuesday.

The suspects were using a jihadist website to plan an attack on an unspecified target, police said.

“Long months of undercover investigation” led to the arrests, the authorities said.

It was “clear to us that the target was Belgian soil, just not clear enough to say where and when,” Belgian public prosecutor Lieve Pellens told CNN.

Seven of the arrests were in Antwerp, Belgium, she said. One was in Aachen, Germany, and the other three were in the Netherlands. Those arrested are Belgian, Dutch, Moroccan and Chechen, authorities said.

A senior European counter-terrorism official told CNN that members of the group arrested in Antwerp, and their associates in Germany and the Netherlands, had discussed targeting Jews in Belgium as well as NATO vehicles in the country. However, officials say no specific targets appear to have been identified.

Authorities tracked discussions between members of the group through wiretaps, the official says, and a second European source confirmed the intercepts of discussions related to NATO. However, NATO’s headquarters in Brussels does not appear to have been a target of the group, the source told CNN.

Authorities are investigating the links between members of the Antwerp group and Sharia4Belgium, a Belgian Islamist organization, a Belgian counter-terrorism official told CNN.

The investigation, which also looked into the financing of what police called a Chechen terror organization, has been going on since late 2009, according to a statement from the Belgian prosecutor’s office.

On Tuesday, 10 of the suspects will face a judge, who will determine whether police can continue to hold them for more questioning, the Belgian officials said.

The arrests wrap up the investigation, Pellens said.

Several other people had already been arrested in Spain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia during the investigation, police said, without saying when the arrests took place or how many people were detained.

The Antwerp investigation began after a U.S. intelligence agency passed on intercept information to its Belgian counterparts, an intelligence source told CNN. But Pellens said Belgian police were alerted to the group’s activity because they used the Ansar al-Mujahideen website.

An unrelated police operation targeting terrorist suspects is under way in Brussels, Belgian counterterrorism sources said.

The sources say police have visited 15 locations in Brussels, Belgium’s capital, as part of a continuing investigation into a terrorist cell linked to Bassam Ayachi, who was charged in 2009 with preparing terrorist attacks.

The intentions of that cell are “dangerous but not imminent,” Pellens said.

Ayachi, a French citizen, was detained in Italy in 2008. He was head of the Belgian Islamic Center (Centre Islamique Belge or CIB), based in Molenbeek in Belgium.

A senior European counterterrorism official also told CNN that one of the people targeted in the Brussels operation had engaged in jihadist activities in Iraq and returned to Belgium two years ago.

CNN’s Paul Cruickshank, Diana Magnay and Alanne Orjoux contributed to this report.

German Sadulaev: I wrote this book to put myself back together

Chechen author German Sadulaev talks to Metro about angering the president of his home country and the real reason he wrote his novel.

Claire Allfree

Metro- 23rd November, 2010

Chechen author German Sadulaev wrote his latest book to deal with the loss of his friends

Chechen author German Sadulaev wrote his latest book to deal with the loss of his friends

As a child living in Shali, not far from Chechnya’s capital Grozny, German Sadulaev would watch each spring for the arrival of the swallows, that unknown day in March or April when the migrating birds would suddenly flood the sky like vast blooms of exploding flowers.

Their arrival, impossible to predict, would mark the first day of summer. ‘It was an event we always looked forward to,’ says Sadulaev. ‘We were always worried they wouldn’t come back. When they came there was always a festival.’

In his visceral new novel about growing up in Chechnya, Sadulaev writes about the swallows as ‘a totem, a sacred bird’. If they nested in your house, it was seen as a sign of good luck. Perhaps your children would marry. Perhaps they would produce a grandchild.

Yet good luck has been in short supply in Chechnya in the last 16 years, ever since the Russian tanks rolled in in 1994 to quell an uprising led by Chechen nationalists seeking independence following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, in what is now known as the First Chechen War. The second began in 1999, officially ended ten years later and cost, many believe, 50,000 lives. 

Today, Sadulaev lives in St Petersburg (he left his homeland in 1989 aged 16) and is a lawyer. But at night he works as a novelist, a job that sometimes lands him in hot water. His novels appear to attract prizes and opprobrium in almost equal measure.

A recent interview he gave to a Russian newspaper about political hypocrisy in Chechnya motivated the Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov to denounce Sadulaev as ‘not human, not Chechen’ and warned his relatives to ‘look after’ him.

Sadulaev, who to be frank looks like a bit of a bruiser with his stocky build and shaved head, appears unperturbed. ‘It’s fun being a writer in Russia,’ he says with a shrug of his shoulders. ‘But we have to go on.’ (The week we speak two Russian political journalists were severely beaten up in Moscow in separate incidents.) Then he adds: ‘I’d like to say I’m not scared of anyone. But it would not be true.’

I Am A Chechen!, the first of Sadulaev’s novels to be translated into English, is an emotionally eviscerating story of devastation told as a series of hallucinatory fragments.

It’s part creative memoir, part imaginative reconstruction of the lives of Sadulaev’s friends who died in the conflict. He resisted publishing it for a long time, believing it ‘too personal’ and ‘too against the official position’ and only wrote it ‘partly to put myself back together’ and partly out of guilt at having survived the conflict when so many of his friends did not.

‘We all feel a certain guilt for the collapse of the Soviet Union because we could have done things differently,’ he says. ‘In any event, writing helps you to survive.’ There is a ceasefire now in Chechnya (‘although there isn’t peace,’ argues Sadulaev) and he goes back to see his family often. ‘Well, until I became persona non grata,’ he half jokes. ‘There’s an atmosphere of hatred there.’

While the book is a scorching lament for Chechnya’s blood-soaked history, it’s also about an ongoing quest for personal identity. Sadulaev admits he feels neither fully Chechen nor fully Russian, and that Russia has failed to unite its many diverse ethnic groups under one umbrella.

‘The country is named Russia but not everyone is Russian,’ he says.

‘There are a lot of misunderstandings between people. At least under communism everyone felt Soviet. It’s exciting for me to be in London and see Muslims, Jews and Hindus living together. They are all British and proud. That’s a good legacy of empire.’

He doesn’t believe Chechnya should be independent and is angry at the political threat posed by the rise of right-wing Islamic militants there. ‘The political culture within society is more important than formal political independence,’ he argues.

‘I’m against all fanatics, all extremism, all the putting of pressure on people of different cultures.’ The book, in the end, is a cry of rage against the iniquity of war. ‘What a way to pay for your cause,’ Sadulaev agrees. ‘All that loss of life.’

I Am A Chechen! is published today by Harvill Secker, priced £12.99.

Read more:

Russian agent says charity tied to terrorism

The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 9:48 PM

EUGENE, Ore. — A former Russian counterterrorism agent testified Tuesday that an Islamic charity that once had its U.S. headquarters in Oregon was financing Islamic fighters battling the Russian Army in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.

However, under cross-examination, Col. Sergey Ignatchenko acknowledged that the names he had of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation officials tied to terrorism did not include defendant Pete Seda, also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty.

“I never knew about him, I never heard about him,” he said.

Ignatchenko, now head of communications for the Russian Federal Security Service, testified via live video feed from former KGB headquarters in Moscow as a prosecution witness in the U.S. District Court sentencing of Seda. His remarks were interpreted by a translator in court.

Ignatchenko testified that his agency had information that Al-Haramain financed a terrorist training camp in Chechnya and was in contact with the leaders of Muslim fighters but did not know the specific source of the funds.

“We didn’t know which country it came from,” he said.

Judge Michael Hogan postponed sentencing, saying he needed a couple weeks to prepare a written response to legal issues, particularly whether to apply the so-called terrorism enhancement that would give Seda the maximum eight years in prison for his convictions for tax fraud and conspiracy.

A former Ashland, Ore., peace activist and tree surgeon, Seda is an Iranian-born, naturalized U.S. citizen and a co-founder of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in the U.S.

He was convicted last month of tax fraud and conspiracy for helping another official of Al-Haramain smuggle $150,000 out of the U.S. to Saudi Arabia in 2000. The tax fraud charge refers to efforts to cover up the trail of the money.

Though Seda has never been charged with terrorism, prosecutors are seeking the maximum sentence of eight years in prison by offering evidence that Seda intended the money to support guerrillas fighting against a country with which the United State was at peace.

Defense lawyers contend he should be freed on probation, having already served enough time in jail awaiting trial and since his conviction. They also argued that Ignatchenko’s testimony was irrelevant because there was never any evidence at trial that Seda knew the money would go to terrorists, and unreliable because Ignatchenko has not produced hard evidence for his claims.

Ignatchenko testified that while he ran counterterrorism activities in Chechnya between 1997 and 2000, his agency found evidence tying Al-Haramain to Islamic fighters in Chechnya. It included pay vouchers taken from the computers of mujahedeen leaders, and a recording of a telephone conversation in which an unnamed Chechan told the head of Al-Haramain about an impending attack on Russian forces.

Under cross-examination, Ignatchenko said the actual tape of that conversation had been destroyed as part of a Russian policy of destroying recordings after five years.

In a personal appeal to the judge, Seda said he has worked all his life to promote peace, understanding and mercy.

“I rejected terrorism all my life and it is not compatible to my belief,” Seda said. “Islam is a religion of justice, peace and forgiveness. Terrorism is and always has been rejected by me and my faith.”

Seda’s wife, Summer Rife, said the picture of her husband painted by prosecutors as a man who espoused peace on one hand and promoted terrorism on the other was completely false.

“Pete does not have a dark side,” she said. “He is not someone that anyone in this room need be afraid of, and he isn’t anyone that we need to be protected from.”

Rebel Hearsay

October 21, 2010
By Tom Balmforth
Russia Profile

At the Crossroads of Intense Propaganda Campaigns and Alleged Espionage, Who Can Be Sure How Deep the Much-Touted Rift in the Insurgency Goes and What It Means? 
The assault on Chechnya’s Parliament by three gunmen on Tuesday is the second high-profile attack aimed at Ramzan Kadyrov in as many months. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, leaving the door open for intense media speculation about the schism in the North Caucasus insurgency. Many agree with Kadyrov that the brazen attack was masterminded by Khusein Gakayev, the leader of an insurgent splinter group. But with so few independent sources of information, all Tuesday’s raid really shows, is that Kadyrov is way wide of the mark when he claims to have brought peace to the republic. 
Three gunmen stormed the Chechen Parliament on Tuesday morning killing six and leaving 17 wounded, in a major challenge to Ramzan Kadyrov’s claim that the restive Russian republic is under control. The first insurgent blew himself up in front of the building just before 9 a.m., as lawmakers were arriving at work. He was followed by two rebels who burst into the foyer spraying bullets from machine guns while shouting “Alahu Akbar.” Visiting lawmakers from Yekaterinburg hid on the top floor of the Parliament while a gunfight ensued between the rebels and security forces before both insurgents blew themselves up.
No group has claimed responsibility. The attack coincided with a visit to Grozny by Interior Minister and General of the Russian Army Rashid Nurgaliyev, who played down the significance of the suicide raid on Grozny’s Parliament. “Chechnya is safe and stable,” Vedomosti quoted Nurgaliyev as saying.
Body parts and hair samples were collected from the bloody battle scene and have been sent for analysis. Yesterday, one of the insurgents was identified as 22-year-old Muslim Chichkanov from Chechnya, the Caucasian Knot reported. The other two remain unidentified.
Shifting sands
The apparent lack of information did not stop Kadyrov from quickly pointing the finger of blame at Chechen rebel fighter Gakayev and Chechen Emissary in London Akhmed Zakayev. Accusing them of coordinating the attack, Kadyrov called the latter an “alcoholic” who would be tracked down and killed in a blood feud vowed by the relatives of the deceased.
In an interview with Echo of Moscow radio Zakayev categorically denied involvement, condemned the attack on the Parliament and also said that he has had no contact with Gakayev. Last week Zakayev formally dissolved the Ichkerian government headed by him in exile, and publically transferred his (virtual) authority to Gakayev, who is now thought to be in charge of a splinter group of what is an increasingly opaque and muddled insurgency.
Gakayev, along with Chechen rebel leaders Aslambek Vadalov and Tarkhan Gaziyev, posted a video on the republic’s rebel Web site,, renouncing their allegiance to Umarov. This comes after Umarov mysteriously stepped down as leader of the pan-Caucasian Islamic insurgency on the grounds of ill health, only to reverse his decision in a new video posted days later. Umarov, they said, was preoccupied with his aim of creating a pan-Caucasian Islamic caliphate and had lost sight of Chechnya’s separatist goals.
Umarov, for his part, claims that his initial resignation was “fabricated,” and blames the supposed schism in the insurgency on Mukhanad, an influential Arab militant in the North Caucasus, who he says has been spreading dissension. The picture that emerges is incoherent and further muddied by the Russian secret services’ vested interests in dividing the insurgency.
Nonetheless, Gakayev’s move has sparked intense media debate about whether his more ethno-national and separatist insurgency will appeal more to young disillusioned Chechens than the radical Islamism advocated by Doku Umarov since 2007. The Russian media squarely blames Tuesday’s raid on Gakayev, who is supposedly trying to impose his authority on the insurgency with a series of high-profile attacks, but some analysts are wary of simply accepting this version, even more so as it is being promoted by Kadyrov and the secret services.
“I just don’t understand these videos,” said Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russia’s secret services and the Caucasus. “We have only explanations provided by the Kommersant [news daily], and as far as I can see they have one source of information…I cannot understand why they have decided that this is another part of the insurgency. What’s the source? It’s the secret services and Kadyrov again.”
Not only is it impossible to pin down the shifting sands of the North Caucasus insurgency with the available sources, but it is also wrong to simply rule out Umarov as the insurgent heavyweight, even in Chechnya, warned Soldatov. When Umarov, who claimed responsibility for the Moscow metro bombings in March, dismissed Gakayev, Gaziyev and Vadalov on September 21, he was still flanked in the video post by influential rebel leaders (“emirs”) Abu Supyan, Khamzat and Islam. “The security services and Kadyrov have an interest in talking up this dispute and talking about Chechens who are not that close to Doku Umarov. To me it’s strange – Doku Umarov is still backed by Supyan and he is a very important guy – he is a Chechen. There are so many questions – but no answers,” said Soldatov.

No clear strategy
Tuesday’s attack really only confirms that the situation in Chechnya is not, as Kadyrov says, “peaceful and stable,” and has worsened since April 2009 when federal security forces officially ended the Russian counterterrorist regime. And Nurgaliyev’s “business as usual” nonchalance after the attack on the Parliament did little to stop the Russian media drawing precisely that conclusion. Yesterday’s Vedomosti editorial charges that Moscow has no “clear strategy” on dealing with the Caucasus beyond throwing money at it and estimates that 800 billion rubles ($26 billion) have been poured into the region in the last eight years.
There has been little success for the North Caucasus Federal District, formed in January this year and headed by Alexander Khloponin, an experienced business manager who it was hoped would lend his expertise to the troubled region. Some argue the lawlessness and the simmering tensions have spread beyond the most restive republics of Ingushetia, Dagestan and Chechnya to new members of the North Caucasus Federal District. A wave of crime and racial attacks have swept over the southern Stavropol Territory, ever since it was included in the new federal district, say Stavropol locals. A week-old online petition has already collected over 10,700 votes in favor of leaving the restive region.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who founded his political career on a platform to defeat separatism and terrorism in the region, announced on September 30 that he will head a new commission to oversee the volatile North Caucasus, RIA Novosti reported. Putin’s backing could improve the climate for investment in the region, but until widespread unemployment, particularly among the younger generations, endemic corruption and widespread human rights abuses are tackled head on, young men will simply continue to “go to the forest” and join the rebels. “Now we are seeing the second generation of insurgent fighters,” said Soldatov.
The Caucasian Knot reports that there have been 12 suicide bombings in the North Caucasus in the last ten months. Tuesday’s attack, which Alexei Malashenko, a Caucasus expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center, described as a “slap in the face for Kadyrov,” is the second recent attack to combine guerrilla fighting with suicide bombings, echoing the August 29 attack on Tsenteroi, Kadyrov’s hometown, which left 19 dead.
Analysts doubt that the clock is ticking for regional head Kadyrov, but for a leader whose popularity in Moscow is based on the island of stability that he was supposed to turn Chechnya into, these high-profile attacks are a direct affront on the republic leader’s credentials.

Profiles: Guantanamo Bay Britons

BBC | 16 November 2010

Who are the UK residents who were held at Guantanamo Bay? BBC News looks at their backgrounds – and what has happened to them since.

Binyam Mohamed

. . . . Omar Deghayes

Omar Deghayes, a Libyan refugee, was held at the US facility at Guantanamo Bay for five years, accused of having trained at terror camps in Afghanistan and having been photographed fighting in Chechnya. . . . .

Read more:

Russia Profile Weekly Experts Panel: Is Moscow Losing the War on Terror in the Caucasus?

Introduced by Vladimir Frolov
Russia Profile
October 29, 2010

Contributors: Vladimir Belaeff, Ethan Burger, Edward Lozansky

Last week three armed terrorists stormed the Chechen Republic’s Parliament in Grozny and blew themselves up, just as members of Parliament were gathering for a regular legislative session. Three people died in the attack, which, ironically, coincided with a visit to Grozny by Russia’s Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, who described the Chechen capital as a safe city. Is the insurgency growing and spreading? What drives the insurgency? Is it radical Islam or nationalist separatism?

Chechen Leader Ramzan Kadyrov rushed to talk down the macabre symbolism of the terrorist attack against a secure government building not far from his residence, saying that there were no more than 50 or 70 active armed fighters left in Chechnya and that they would all have been rounded up a long time ago, had it not been for the military and financial assistance they were receiving from across the border in Georgia.

Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Federal Investigative Committee, recently said that instability in the Caucasus is more like a spreading insurgency that the federal authorities have a hard time fighting. He admitted that Russian federal forces and local Interior Ministry personnel are suffering daily casualties of five to seven men.

Terrorist attacks in the region have been multiplying, while growing in complexity and audacity. Civilian and military casualties are increasing. In late August a terrorist driving a car bomb blew up a Russian military camp in Dagestan. Another car bomb destroyed a busy marketplace in Nalchik in September. Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria have turned into regular battlegrounds where federal special forces conduct daily raids against terrorists, who in turn strike against military and law enforcement targets with increasing frequency.

President Medvedev himself admitted that he views the continuing instability in the North Caucasus as the gravest threat facing Russia. Medvedev has sought to fight this threat by putting the North Caucasus republics within the new federal district and launching a massive development program supervised by the new presidential envoy to the North Caucasus Alexander Khlopinin, the former governor of the Krasnoyarsk Region. So far there has been little to show for it.
Is Moscow losing the war on terror in the Caucasus? Is the insurgency growing and spreading? What drives the insurgency? Is it radical Islam or nationalist separatism? Is it drawing on outside support, particularly from Arab states and Georgia? How effective are the Kremlin’s policies to deal with the insurgency? Is Medvedev’s emphasis on economic reconstruction and social modernization a better response to instability in the regions than Putin’s heavy-handed approach? Is the insurgency a real threat to Russia’s statehood or its political stability? How could it affect Medvedev’s program of modernization? Or the presidential succession in 2012?

Edward Lozansky, President, American University in Moscow and World Russia Forum in Washington, DC:

The question of whether Moscow is losing the war on terror in the Caucasus appears to have been prompted by the rising number of acts of terrorism and the number of fatalities in these acts in the North Caucasus republics, especially in Dagestan and, recently, in Kabardino-Balkaria. Some of these acts, like the recent suicide attack by three jihadists on the Chechen Parliament, were quite spectacular.

The short answer to the above question is that Moscow cannot lose the war on terror in the North Caucasus because that war simply cannot be won by the opposing side. In Chechnya, the mujahedin, the separatists, the Islamists, or whatever else you might call them, once did win a war against the federal center, and what happened? The separatists could not build a proper state and were only able to exist a few short years as a bandit republic, an assemblage of warlords with their private, clan-based armies engaged in various criminal activities such as hostage-taking, slave-trading, production of counterfeit money, and so on. They were aided and abetted by radical Islamists in other Muslim countries and those forces that viewed instability in the Caucasus as a lever to keep Russia in its place, and still they failed.

As in the case of so many other Muslim regions, the main fact about the North Caucasus (in fact, the Caucasus as a whole) is encapsulated in the well-known phrase: it’s the economy, stupid. The resources of these areas simply cannot sustain their rapidly multiplying population. The elites and the peoples of the North Caucasus republics know only too well that they just cannot exist without fat (up to 70 to 80 percent of their budgets) subsidies from the federal center, and without much of their population living on remittances sent by relatives earning money in Russia proper.

So all talk about Moscow winning or losing the war on terror in the North Caucasus republics merely obfuscates the real problem. The federal center and, much more so, the local political establishments, supported by the majority of their people, are facing the North Caucasus section of a global jihad, a worldwide radical Islamist movement intent on destroying Western, Russian and Chinese human civilization – any kind that does not recognize Sharia Law as the one and only Allah-given law for all men.

Like all ideologically driven movements, such as communism, this one is doomed to failure. As the erstwhile victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan showed, it promises mankind nothing but a return to a new Dark Age, darker than any other.
However, that is no reason to underestimate the danger to civilization it poses. The most threatening feature of jihad is precisely its global, international nature, which calls for a joint international response to the threat. And currently there is a big gap in the international response: there is practically no joining of forces between Russia and the West, and the United States in particular, in the fight against jihadists.

Worse than that, until the coming to power of the Barack Obama administration there were loud voices in the United States accusing Russia of neo-imperialism, of suppressing liberation movements in the North Caucasus, notably in Chechnya. We are still witnessing remnants of that Cold War mentality in certain highly visible cases, like the refusal of the United Kingdom (and, most recently, Poland) to extradite Akhmed Zakayev, a prominent Chechen terrorist with an Interpol arrest warrant on his head. The United States does nothing to make its dependent, Georgia, stop the passage of financial aid from Arab countries and directly from Al-Qaeda to the jihadists in the North Caucasus.

The logic of the current situation could not be plainer. Al-Qaeda’s head, Osama bin Laden, has been declared the top enemy of the United States. While Russia made no such declaration, it is fighting on its own territory the same enemy that the United States and its allies are fighting in Afghanistan and the world over. No petty political considerations should stand in the way of Russia and the West joining forces and fighting the common enemy side by side.

As many observers admit, there is a danger that after the November elections, when the Republicans will possibly take over, or at least make substantial gains in Congress, Obama’s administration will be forced to adjust its policy of rapprochement with Russia. Already hotheads in Washington are screaming loudly that it is the right time to revise Washington’s reset policy.

However, I believe that the majority of GOP Members of Congress will dismiss this advice, since they clearly understand that in these difficult times it is, first of all, in America’s interest to have Russia on our side of the barricades.

Ethan S. Burger, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention, Faculty of Law, Innovation Campus, University of Wollongong, Australia:

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord held diplomatic or foreign policy positions under Louis XVI, in a series of French Revolutionary governments under Napoleon, I, Louis VIII, Charles X and Louis-Phillip. He once remarked (in French) that the art of statesmanship is to foresee the inevitable and to expedite its occurrence. Unfortunately, while there is a surplus of pundits and polemicists in Moscow, there is a noticeable deficit of statesmen or even specialists who have a vision of possible alternative futures for the North Caucasus region, which most people would regard as desirable. More than a dozen conflict situations exist, yet there is no consensus among the Russian leadership that the time to rethink existing policy is long overdue.

Russia is bogged down in a cycle of violence and repression. Its current efforts to reassert control over the area accomplishes little other than the conflicts’ intensification. The Russian government is not engaged in a war against terrorism: it is engaged in struggle with a small percentage of the numerous different indigenous populations. One wonders what benefits Russia really gains at the end of the day.

Some Russian specialists on ethnic conflict in Russia believe that perpetual conflict is a natural consequence of Stalin-era policies to divide the Soviet Union’s different national groups to exacerbate tensions. In theory, as a result, the central government and the local governments would have an opportunity to act as the mediator and indispensible guarantor of ethnic peace. This is not the situation today. I fear that if the present trends continue, the outcome will produce a lose-lose situation. It is just a matter of time until the tipping point is reached, the day when that segment of the local population allied to the Russian central government feels that it is necessary to move into the Russian heartland or risk death.

The threat to the Russian state and inhabitants is seized upon by the authorities to justify a national security state, where any form of public opposition is viewed as potentially destabilizing. The commission of war crimes and repression against the local population robs the Russian government of moral authority, so that many of its actions abroad seem hypocritical. The Russian authorities have for years sought to cloak themselves in the war against foreign Islamic extremists and Al-Qaeda, even though they have failed to produce any evidence other than ones that seem tenuous at best.

The Russian government and its proxies are fighting a war against separatists and others in Karachayevo-Cherkassia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan. I can think of no area where the Russian government’s failures have been so costly.

Numerous individuals have noted the similarity between Moscow’s policy toward the North Caucasus and France toward Algeria in the 1950s to 1960s. Zbigniew Brezinski and others have all traced the parallels in the factors contributing to this situation, in what can easily understood in terms of conflict between a metropolitan state and its colony. Unfortunately, Putin’s rise to power was in large part due to his ability to win the support of those who favored a military solution to the Chechen conflict. He lacks Charles de Gaulle’s stature, nuanced understanding of the relationship between domestic and foreign policy, and appreciation that his country must permit its colony to exercise its right to self-determination or risk bleeding itself to death.

The Russian government’s refusal to reconcile itself makes inevitable its departure from the burden of its colonial past, but only after paying a huge price. With the Sochi Olympic Games approaching there is increased pressure for all parties involved to reassess their positions. If those opposing the Russian government’s continued rule in their part of the North Caucasus were to attack athletes or spectators at the Olympic Games, it would rally a public relations and human disaster that would lead to more violence and intransigence. A strike somewhere else in Russia, perhaps made easier because Russian security personnel would be focused in the games, would have less of a global sensationalist impact, but also would harm the separatists’ agenda.

It is easy to be pessimistic over the possibility of finding a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the region. There are so many parties involved and so much blood already spilled. Atrocities have been committed on all sides. I would think the easy course for Russia to take is to withdraw and undertake steps to secure Russia’s international borders and invite the international community to organize plebiscites in those political subdivisions where it appears that a large share of the inhabitants want the Russians to go home, even if some of the ethnic Russians living there can trace their roots back more than 200 years. Indeed it is possible that the transfer from minority to majority rule in South Africa offers the best roadmap for the region – not ideal, but better.

Vladimir Belaeff, Global Society Institute, Inc., San Francisco, CA:

Firstly, one must take issue with the designation “war on terror.” This coinage has been borrowed from U.S. electoral propaganda practices, where the electorate desires and receives simplistic, sound-bite level slogans, designed to evoke conditional voting reflexes – much like the ringing of dinner bells resulted in canine salivation in Doctor Pavlov’s laboratory. Or like the crowd responses to sloganeering so impressively imagined by George Orwell. American political discourse knows the war on poverty, war on drugs, war on crime, war on cancer and now a war on terror, simultaneous with the other wars. Such sloganeering demeans the noble concepts of democracy by reducing a fundamentally complex issue to a simple, idiot-proof capsule. It is a pernicious and underhanded insult to the intellect of voting citizens in any society.

Why is the above observation important? Because simplistic labels imply simple solutions, thus misleading society into an automatic expectation of a straightforward and complete resolution of the problem. The invention of a war against terror generates a social climate that expects a victory and also dignifies the enemy with a status of a soldier. From such inherent contradictions stems the extensive debate about the applicability of the Geneva conventions on warfare and the status of terrorists captured by national defense forces.

Terror is a concept and a process. One does not make war on concepts. And the premise of losing a war on a concept or winning a war on a concept is fundamentally illogical.

Terror is a social phenomenon and it requires societal responses. These responses are usually multiple and complex: the responses are preventive, punitive, corrective and restorative to the victims of terror.

Is Russia losing a war on terror in the Caucasus? How will one know when Russia has lost such a war? The terrorists’ aims are remarkably vague and irrational, if one examines them closer. Will the unlikely achievement of such vague and contradictory goals mean that terror won and Russia lost the war? Conversely, how can one tell conclusively that Russia has won the war on terror?

It is more accurate to propose that Russia is responding to terrorist attacks which may continue for quite some time, and that Russia’s resources and unalterable imperative to respond will in due course succeed. The fight may be quite long in duration: Spain has been responding to ETA terror for decades, and the United Kingdom has dealt with IRA terror for a very long time as well. No one questions or supposes that either Spain or the UK, or Israel, or the United States will lose their respective wars on terror.

Just before the current wave of terrorist attacks, Russian security forces destroyed many terrorist cells and killed scores of terrorists. In effect, it is considered that the current increase in terrorism in the Caucasus is partly due to the need of terrorists to announce to their constituencies, paymasters and targets that they remain a force in the theatre. Because terrorism is asymmetric, a small number of fanatics can cause big damage but with limited lasting effect.

The Russians do have a major valid complaint against Western media. Practically never are the terrorists in the Caucasus correctly designated as such. In the West they are called insurgents or (earlier) freedom fighters. This bias and blatant lying undermine the credibility of Western commentators among Russian citizens. External material support of terrorists is also evident and the two factors combined do not enhance the West’s reputation in Russia.

Russia is not fighting a war on terror in the Caucasus. It is responding to criminal mayhem. There are no alternatives, and ultimately the response will prevail.