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New Basayev interview on Channel 4 (Britain) -Times

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  • Norbert Strade
    The Times February 03, 2005 We re going to do it again, says man behind Beslan bloodbath By Nick Sturdee Russia s most wanted man has broken cover for the
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2005
      The Times

      February 03, 2005

      We're going to do it again, says man behind Beslan bloodbath
      By Nick Sturdee

      Russia's most wanted man has broken cover for the first time since siege

      THE Chechen rebel leader who masterminded the Beslan school siege last
      autumn plans more such operations, despite his apparent remorse over the
      deaths of more than 330 people — half of them children — in the North
      Ossetia attack.

      In his first interview since that bloodbath, Shamil Basayev says that he
      is in a state of shock over what happened, but blames the Russians for
      precipitating the bloody end of the siege. Mr Basayev, Russia’s most
      wanted man with a $10 million bounty on his head for numerous attacks,
      said he is willing to stand trial for his actions, but does not renounce
      his war with the Kremlin or attacks on Russian civilians.

      The interview, to be broadcast on Channel 4 News tonight, was obtained
      after months of negotiations through intermediaries. It was filmed by Mr
      Basayev’s entourage at an undisclosed location last month and the video
      given to a journalist in the Middle East.

      Mr Basayev said that he originally planned to seize one or possibly two
      schools simultaneously in either Moscow or St Petersburg, but lack of
      funds forced him to pick North Ossetia, a “Russia garrison in the North
      Caucasus”, and thus the root of all things bad in war-torn Chechnya,
      with the ‘silent consent of (the North Ossetian) population.’

      He says his intention was to offer the Russian leadership no chance of
      achieving a “bloodless resolution” to the siege, forcing it to stop the
      “genocide of the Chechen people”. He says he never thought the Russian
      leadership would be willing to oversee the death of children, but says
      that he was “cruelly mistaken” and that he was “not delighted by what
      happened there”.

      He claims that the collapse of the roof of the school gym was the result
      of flame-throwers used by Russian special forces, not explosives placed
      by the hostage-takers.

      The bearded 40-year-old warlord, believed to be hiding in the mountains
      of southern Chechnya, looks in good health, and speaks at length in
      Russian. He sits in front of a banner proclaiming in Arabic: “There is
      no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet”. He wears a black T-shirt
      with ‘ANTI-TERROR’ written in white Cyrillic letters, and explains that
      he considers the Kremlin, not himself, the terrorists. He reads the
      questions from a laptop computer, and cradles what he describes as a
      six-barrelled grenade launcher, a trophy from a Russian base.

      Mr Basayev denounces what he describes as the “bloody slaughter that is
      raging in our land”, and cites not only the Koran and the prophet Adam
      but also the Chinese sage Zheng He, Winston Churchill and even Charles

      Mr Basayev states that he is “ready to answer before a court for my
      actions, for my every step, because everyone should be equal before
      justice regardless of the authority they hold, and of their position”.

      He describes a meeting with his commander-in-chief and formal leader of
      the Chechen resistance, Aslan Maskhadov, who apparently accused his most
      effective lieutenant of going too far in Beslan.

      Mr Basayev says he told Mr Maskhadov that he is “ready to stand before a
      sharia court, and answer to it in all its severity if it judges I should
      be punished”. He says that such a trial is not possible until the
      Chechen war ends. He is willing to call a ceasefire and open
      negotiations with the Russians, but only after the complete withdrawal
      of Russian forces from Chechnya.

      Mr Basayev states: “We are planning more Beslan-type operations in the
      future because we are forced to do so.”

      Justifying his attacks on civilian targets, he states: “We are at war
      and we look at the reality, and not at whether the population has
      weapons in their hands. We look at the reality of their participation in
      this war.

      “ People who approve of Putin’s policies, people who pay their taxes for
      this war, people who send their soldiers to this war, priests who
      sprinkle holy water on them . . . How can they be innocent? They are
      just without weapons. Russian citizens are accomplices of this war, it
      just may be that they have no weapons in their hands. Peaceful people
      for us are those that don’t pay taxes for this war, people who don’t
      participate, and who speak against this war.”

      Mr Basayev’s interview is likely to deepen President Putin’s
      embarrassment. The second Chechen war has raged since September 1999
      when he was Prime Minister, and his pledge to crush the separatist
      rebels helped win him the presidency in March 2000.

      Since then the hostilities have become a festering wound for the
      Kremlin, and despite strict media controls dissatisfaction within Russia
      has grown. Events such as the Beslan school tragedy have caused a
      profound shock throughout Russian society and have brought the
      unresolved war ever closer to home.

      The rebels, who assassinated Chechnya’s pro-Moscow President Kadyrov
      last May, have attacked not just civilian targets. Mr Basayev claims in
      the interview that they launched 15 large-scale attacks on Russian
      military targets last year, including four attacks involving between 200
      and 300 mujahidin.

      # A rebel website reported yesterday that Basayev had ordered his units
      to stop offensive operatons until February 22 as a gesture of goodwill.
      The report, on www.kavkazcenter.com, could not immediately be confirmed.


      1965: Born in Chechen village of Vedeno

      1991: Joins defence of Boris Yeltsin at White House in Moscow. Hijacks
      aircraft from Russia to Turkey to raise awareness about Chechnya

      1993: Fights with Abkhaz rebels against Georgia

      1994: Bodyguard of Dzhokar Dudayev, Chechen separatist president. Leads
      defence of Grozny against Russia

      1995: Seizes hundreds at Budennovsk hospital, after members of family
      killed in Russian raid

      1996: Leads recapture of Grozny. Defeated in Chechen presidential elections

      1999: Russia offers reward for his capture

      2000: Loses a foot in mine explosion

      2002: Alive three months after Russia announces his death. Claims
      responsibility for Moscow’s theatre siege

      2004: Claims responsibility for killing Chechen President. Accused of
      masterminding Beslan school siege

      The Channel 4 interview with Basayev will be shown at 7pm tonight.

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