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Thread: Role of Foreign Mercenaries in Chechnya

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    Thumbs Up Role of Foreign Mercenaries in Chechnya

    A Russian article about the role of (mostly Arab) fortune seekers in Chechnya, and how they deal with them.

    Small exerpt:
    "(..)In the evening Spetsnaz guys came to the journalists to use their cell phones to call home. We started asking them about the detainees.
    - We worked with the closest house, since it was too early to go any further, - they answered willingly.
    We blew up the house and seized six of them, but we dont know how many they were in all.
    But you only brought three, where are the other three people? we wondered.
    - They accidentally fell from the helicopter, - the guys laughed.(..)"
    The whole article:

    Terrorist Act Contract
    The practice of using kamikaze was imported into Chechnya by Arab mercenaries. In fact, they prepared and financed the latest act of terror in Tushino. Olga Allenova tells us about those who are fighting in Chechnya, how much they get for it and who trains terrorists there.
    There were three Arabs lying on the frozen ground near the trench they had been using for several days to fight off the attacks of federal forces.

    The place was littered with shells, used syringes, some pieces of paper and a brochure in Arabic. The Arabs had waxen faces, bare feet and torn trousers. All their other clothes were lying in a pile nearby. It was the fall of 1999 in the Tersky mountain ridge, which had just been recaptured by the federals.

    - Mercenaries - explained the army officer who was provided as our escort. Theyre lucky to peg out here; if they had fallen into our hands I guess their Muslim God had mercy on them.

    These Arabs came to the Tersky mountain ridge from the nearby Chechen village of Serzhen-Yurt, which had long been the camp of field commander Khattab, the man who opened the way to Chechnya to foreign mercenaries.

    War Made Khattab Rich

    The mercenary business as a phenomenon appeared in the former USSR in the early 1990s, when the country was being torn apart by local conflicts.

    Abkhazia, the Transdniestr region of Moldova, Fergana, Karabakh wherever yet another international war broke out, there appeared people who were ready to sacrifice their life for money. One of the most notorious was the Ukrainian organization UNA-UNSO: in 1992 it sent several units to defend the Ukrainians of Transdniestr; and in July 1993, it sent its Argo expeditionary corps to Abkhazia to fight for Georgia near Sukhumi (the government of Georgia decorated seven UNSO fighters posthumously with the order of Vakhtang Gorgasal); and in 1994, the UNA-UNSO unit Viking arrived in Chechnya. The fighters were welcomed everywhere with open arms: everyone knew the UNSO fighters were good and disciplined soldiers, and there was no grudging them money. Ukrainians made up a special division in Ichkerias regular army and were used as instructors to train Chechen soldiers.

    However, by that time the king of mercenaries had already appeared in Chechnya; moreover, the Jordanian Khattab brought 200 swarthy fighters, who then became the principle military force of the young Ichkeria. These fighters had fought in the Afghan war and were to teach the inexperienced Chechen soldiers the art of war.

    The greatest number of mercenaries came when the second Chechen war began. Large sums of money were sent to the Caucasus to support and popularize Wahhabism, which had taken over Chechnya and the mountains of Dagestan. Several fighter and terrorist (including suicide terrorist) training camps were operating on the territory of Chechnya; all the instructors were foreign mercenaries, chiefly from Arab countries. According to official information, the camps prepared about 40 shakhid women alone. The head of this concern was Khattab himself, who was financed by international terror organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda. It was because of Khattab that the second Chechen war was especially bloody, well organized and protracted. It was then that the Jordanian became a man of means; according to official information he earned about $20 million, and his mates Abubakar and Abu al-Walid, an estimated $5-7 million.

    The Road to Hell

    Photo: GAMMA Mercenaries fighting in the republic are doomed: sooner or later they fall into the hands of federal soldiers and all they can do then is pray to survive until they get to court.
    Becoming a mercenary is a deliberate choice. Usually they are people who are not afraid of risk and are basically ready to die, but only for good money. This kind of job is especially widespread in the Middle East, where the standard of living is not high, families are large and few people have the opportunity to provide for their families and ensure them a worthy future.

    It all starts like this: a recruiter gathers a little group of recruits, who get a specified sum of money and leave it to their families. It is usually about $10002000. When you become a real mujahid, youll get a lot of money, enough to last you for your entire life, promises the recruiter. Then the group of future mujahedin is transported to the base, where they will be molded into fighters. In a number of countries, there are underground mercenary training centers. Nearly all the fighters in Chechnya went through centers like that in Afghanistan, except Khattab and his closest mates, who were educated in the USA. Training lasts a couple of months, and by the end of this period the inexperienced recruits become war dogs. They wield all kinds of weapons, can make a landmine from a spent shell and make and read maps. They have the skills of close fighting, sniper and subversive war. They know how to fight in cities and in the mountains, how to ensnare and smash an army convoy and how to survive in a winter forest.

    If someone shows technical ability, the instructor moves him to a special group specializing in diversionary activities. Subversive specialists are rated highly by commanders, and they are better paid, since the wages of the whole unit often depend on their work. Blasts and attacks on convoys are generally recorded to assure the client that the work has been done and the money has not been paid in vain. Graduates of the diversionary camp are divided into small groups and secretly conveyed to the conflict zone. In the case of Chechnya, mercenaries use the Turkey-Georgia-Chechnya or Azerbaijan-Dagestan-Chechnya routes.

    Mercenaries get weapons, kits and medicines right on the spot. A small first-aid kit must consist of drastic medications: at times they are used to relieve pain of wounds; at other times they are taken to screw up courage before a battle. This ruse is taught in the camp: If you want to kill fear, make an injection. Later on, many fighters can no longer do without them.

    In his first battle, the fighter is still being tested to see whether his hand will falter, whether he will have pity on a wounded enemy, or whether he will run away from the site of the battle or not. Though for those who are scared, awkward and hesitant, the first battle becomes the last: they lose their presence of mind and get in the bullets way. Those who survive are organized into elements and charged with intricate tasks.

    After each successful operation, the commander of a unit gets the money and distributes it among his people, leaving the lions share to himself as a rule. The unit can get $40 000 for an attack on a convoy, out of which the commander takes $20 000, divides another $10 000 among his assistants, while the other fighters get what is left. An ordinary fighter who takes part in a convoy rout gets about $1000 for his work, and the one who mines the road gets only $100.

    After a couple of months, most mercenaries come to realize they will never see the promised money, but then they have nowhere to go, and if they try to escape they will either be shot as traitors or trapped by the federals. However, many fighters in their peaceful life would never earn even a third of all the money they get, which is why the idea of going back home does not occur to them that often.

    Survive in Order to Die

    In winter of 2000, a group of Arab mercenaries left the mountainous Shatoysky district and was heading for the Russia Georgia frontier, when it was ambushed by Spetsnaz (Special Forces) of the FSB. After a pitched battle there remained only six badly wounded mercenaries, of whom only one a Yemenite made it to the military base in Khankala. His name was Abdusalam Zurka; he had a shattered backbone and a torn-off foot. He did not answer any questions, and beating him was useless: the medical officer who examined the captive said he would live no more than a day or two. That is why the FSB officers put off the usual interrogation procedure. In order to show the Arab mercenary to journalists, they took him out of the tent on a stretcher and put him on the ground. He noticed neither the cameramen fussing about him, nor the journalists staring at him as if at a rare animal he was just lying there aloof with his hands folded and looking in the sky. Looking him in the face, it was hard to tell whether he was alive or already on his way to another world.

    Zurka had been commander of a 50-soldier unit and had served under Khattab. In winter of 2000, his group excelled while fighting for Grozny and left the city only after it was abandoned by field commander Basaev, who had been in command of the capitals defense. Together with Basaevs fighters, the Arabs were entrapped by General Shamanov. Zurka lost half of his unit on a minefield and was wounded. But the Yemenite spent most of his time in Chechnya in the vicinity of Serzhen-Yurt, where Khattabs base was located. Zurka was quite close to the Jordanian: he got money directly from Khattab.

    The military learned about these details from the captive Arabs who did not make it to Khankala. They also mentioned the sum that the Yemenite earned in the war about $500 000. Zurka can be considered a classical mercenary who wanted a worthy life, but found a lingering death. This is something all mercenaries are doomed to in local wars.

    Official army soldiers hate mercenaries, and the latter realize they stand little chance of surviving if they fall into their hands. If a Chechen was taken prisoner, his relatives brought money, organized rallies and sometimes arranged an exchange. Nobody stood up for foreign mercenaries, and very often they were taken prisoner because their teammates had left them lying wounded on the battlefield. However, the Chechens always carried their people from the battlefield even after the heaviest fighting. Besides, mercenaries never admitted the cult of death, so widespread in Chechnya; otherwise, they would hardly agree to fight in a foreign country, where people like them were not even buried, but merely piled up in a pit and covered up with a little bit of earth.

    There is no retreat for them either. While a Chechen fighter can change his clothes and go back home, where he is difficult to find, a mercenary who decides to take a two-day break in a village will most likely be caught by special services, since it is far more difficult to explain what a foreigner is doing in the conflict zone.

    Chinese Cooks

    Proving that a foreign detainee (if he is taken without weapons) is a mercenary is virtually impossible. None of the detainees, even under torture, will admit that he has shot at the representatives of official authorities. Moreover, according to Russian laws, a foreign detainee in a combat zone must be released if his guilt is not proved. This especially irritates the military in Chechnya. We know this nit fired at our guys, and we should let him go? This is very much how he soldiers and officers reason. That is why so few foreigners ever came back to their homeland: those who the mass media managed to tell about were lucky so far as their embassies became interested in them. But for some of them, returning home only bodes ill.
    In March 2000, after pitched battles in the Chechen village of Komsomolskoe, FSB officers detained 11 fighters led by Ruslan Gelaev. Among them there were two citizens of China, ethnic Uigurs. Hassan Saidi and Amirzhan Amuti tried to break through the encirclement under the guise of refugees. During interrogations they said they had worked as cooks in Grozny: Hassan Saidi claimed to be a caf owner, and the other Uigur, to be his assistant. When the bombings began in Grozny, they joined the Chechens and went into the mountains and soon found themselves not far from Komsomolskoe. When asked what they were doing in the fighters unit, the detainees answered: We cooked food, we cannot do anything else. Journalists were told the same story of a restaurant business in Grozny, and it sounded very credible.

    Federal officers failed to prove their guilt even after a weeks interrogation, when the Uigurs could hardly move. However, a charge of illegal frontier crossing was still brought against them. It turned out that before Chechnya, Hassan and Amirzhan had lived in Alma-Ata, in a large settlement of the Uigur diaspora, and compatriots recognized them. There they ran a racket of Chinese traders, who worked in the markets of Kazakhstan. There they also joined the underground terrorist organization Liberation of Eastern Turkestan.

    After six months of consultations with the Chinese, the FSB decided to hand the Uigurs over to the Chinese Embassy. For both Hassan Saidi and Amirzhan Amuti, it would have been a blessing to remain in Russia, for in their homeland members of criminal organizations face the death penalty.

    Trial in Shoulder Straps

    Photo: ITAR-TASS A group of mercenaries under command of the Yemenite Abdusalam Zurka was smashed by the federal forces, and the commander with a wounded spine was taken prisoner. He had just two more days to live.
    But many of those with whom the Uigurs shared their bread in the Chechen mountains were not that lucky. In the heat of the battle, it was easy to write them off as casualties. During the assault of Komsomolskoe, either Spetsnaz or GRU or maybe FSB officers brought three bloody Arabs to Khankala, where they took them from the helicopter to a special tent functioning as a SIZO (investigation jail). In the evening Spetsnaz guys came to the journalists to use their cell phones to call home. We started asking them about the detainees.
    - We worked with the closest house, since it was too early to go any further, - they answered willingly.
    We blew up the house and seized six of them, but we dont know how many they were in all.
    But you only brought three, where are the other three people? we wondered.
    - They accidentally fell from the helicopter, - the guys laughed.
    Then I got into a conversation with one of the Spetsnaz men:
    - So far as I remember weve had at least four foreigners with whom we worked directly, - he said. I cant speak for all of Chechnya, since we were engaged only in certain operations: we were told that unfamiliar people had appeared in a certain village, and we were going there. Once during a raid we seized a band of seven people who had come to the village to get some rest and supplies prepared for them. Among them there were two Arabs and a Jordanian. We had them for nearly two months and couldnt get any information out of them. They all tell a memorized story: We came here to help our brothers in faith, since we thought that Russians oppress Islam, but soon came to realize that we had been mistaken, but it was late to go, because of the all-round bombings. We arranged a cross-interrogation, we threatened them and even made promises, but they understand perfectly: once youve confessed youre a mercenary, youll never get out of it. To make a long story short, two foreigners were sent home, where their relatives helped them, and the third one died; something happened to his heart. But the most interesting case happened later, near Urus-Martan where we seized three more two Chechens and a Turk. The Turk insisted that he had come to Chechnya to teach Islam at schools. We collected information and as it turned out, he didnt even know Arabic, so how would he read the Koran? Local residents confirmed that he had taught at school before the war started, though it was a Wahhabi school there was one in Urus-Martan. When the war started, he went with the fighters into the mountains. Its clear he wasnt reading books there. But you just cant prove it. He also spent several months with us, cringed before us, was ready to crawl on his knees, but he never admitted anything. When we asked whether he had held weapons in his hands, he swore he hadnt. Im a scientist, he said. We let him go. Yes, we had to let him go to Urus-Martan. What else could we do with him? We cant pay his way home. He spent several days in Urus-Martan, then disappeared. Where? How do I know? I only know that Gelaevs people came to the town and tried to take him out to Georgia. Must have been a big fish. They couldnt find him though. Somebody killed him most likely.
    What if he really didnt fight? I asked.
    - They all say that. Catch someone and hell tell you hes a construction worker, cook, or even a hostage. Its all very well, only we have information from wireless interceptions. We hear Arab speech, and we know when theyre discussing operations. They dont even hush up money matters: minor act of terror 100 bucks, medium 500-1000 bucks, and a large-scale one like the bombing of a convoy could earn up to 15 grand.

    The End is Just a Beginning

    With the death of the black god of war Khattab, the mercenary business has been deprived of a leader. The Jordanians mates tried to get their hands on this lucrative business, but there was not as much confidence in them, the more so as many commanders refused to submit to them because they had their own designs on the vacant seat. Moreover, the acute situation in Palestine and war in Afghanistan and Iraq made the Arab financiers switch to other territories. The Chechen resistance faded. Today, the Chechen mountains harbor less than ten mercenaries, who simply do not know how to get out of Chechnya blocked by federal forces. They do not fall within the amnesty declared for the fighters.

    The mercenary business is dead, but not so the war unleashed by the mercenaries. The ranks of the resistance movement have been replenished with ideological fighters for the freedom of Ichkeria, and neither starvation, nor cold, nor empty pockets will ever stop them. This has been proved by the latest act of terror in Tushino, where two Chechen women who had been through combat and ideological training by Arab instructors, as the militia stated, blew themselves up in the crowd.


    The Most Notorious Mercenary of Chechnya

    The information on Khabib Abdel Rahman Khattabs life is quite contradictory. He was born in 1963 (by other data in 1965, 1966, or 1970) in Jordan or Saudi Arabia into a wealthy Chechen family.

    In 1987, he graduated from school and entered a college in the USA (some media reported that since 1982 Khattab had been taking part in operations in Afghanistan and served in King Husseins Circassian Guards.) In the 1990s, as the mass media reported, he fought in Afghanistan in (Mujahedin units), in Tajikistan (siding with the Islamic opposition), and Iraq (it is not clear against whom the war was waged). He was wounded several times and lost two of his fingers.

    It was then that he became acquainted with bin Laden and the leading theorist of Islamic extremism, leader of Muslim Brotherhood organization Sayyid Qutb. He allegedly graduated from a military academy in Amman, and became an expert on explosives, all kinds of light weapons, and subversive operations. In 1994 or 1995, he arrived in Chechnya and became one of the field commanders there. He became famous in April 1996 for ambushing a convoy of the 245th Motorized Infantry Regiment near the village of Yarish-Mardy in Argun gorge, when 53 soldiers were killed and 52 wounded.

    In the summer of 1998, he became close friends with Shamil Basaev while organizing an Islamic Imamat in the North Caucasus. He created a number of diversionary schools for future shakhid women. Together with Basaev, he masterminded the invasion of Dagestan in August 1999. In September 1999, according to information from the General Prosecutors Office, he organized bombings in Buinaksk, Volgodonsk and Moscow, and was paid about $700 000 for it. This was followed by acts of terror in Minvody, Essentuky, and Karachay-Cherkessia in March 2001. Khattabs largest operation was a break-through of 1500 Mujahedin from Veden gorge in February-March 2000.


    Number of Mercenaries in Chechnya

    According to information of the investigation department of the North Caucasus military region, Khattab enrolled one large unit of Arab mercenaries, up to 200 people, during the first Chechen war (1994-1996). In addition, the ranks of the armed forces of Ichkeria were reinforced by volunteers from Ukraine and the Baltic states. Moreover, Khattabs unit, called Indians by federal forces, carried on diversionary activities even after the Hasavyurt agreement was signed, and these activities were not limited to Chechnya. In 1997, he organized a convoy bombing in North Ossetia.

    The most intensive influx of mercenaries into Chechnya was registered in 1998-1999 before and during the invasion of Dagestan. Military analysts believe the interest of foreign mercenaries in Chechnya was connected with the ever-growing role of Wahhabi ideology there. By that time, several training camps, where the instructors were all foreigners, were functioning in Chechnya. The overall volunteer leader was Khattab.

    From 1999 to 2000, the number of mercenaries remained unchanged at about 600-700 people. The year 2000 saw a large withdrawal of volunteers from Chechnya due to the successful activities of federal forces and aggravated relations between Khattab and Maskhadov. The escalation in Palestine also played a role, and the main financial flows were redirected there.

    In 2001, the number of mercenaries in Chechnya decreased to 200-250 people.

    The renewed activities of Afghan Talibs caused a still stronger outflow of mercenaries, while the work of special services, which intensified after September 11th, impacted both mercenary financing and their freedom of movement. Starting in 2000, the volunteers main base moved to Pankisi gorge, and clashes with Arabs have been registered mostly in the frontier regions.

    Today, the number of mercenaries operating in the Chechen Republic is insignificant. After Khattab was liquidated, his close fellow-fighter Abu al-Walid took over command of the units and the cash inflow that had supported volunteers in Chechnya virtually stopped. In addition, part of the mercenaries fighting in Chechnya left Russia as the situation around Iraq worsened.


    Suicide Terrorists

    Acts of terror involving kamikaze used to be the calling card of Arab extremists. Suicide missions appeared in Russia with the arrival of Arab instructors and Wahhabi preachers.

    On June 6, 2000, Chechnya suffered the first suicide attack. The attack was carried out by Khava Baraeva, the niece of Arbi Baraev. She broke through to the commandant's office in Alkhan-Yurt in a truck loaded with trotyl. The guards machine-gunned the truck. Two OMON men and the suicide driver died in the explosion.

    On June 11, 2000, a suicide bomber blew up a car at a blockpost in Grozny. Two soldiers were killed, and one was wounded.

    On July 2, 2000, suicide bombers carried out five terrorist acts in Chechnya: two explosions in Gudermes and one each in Novogroznenskoe, Urus-Martan, and Argun. Thirty-three militiamen were killed and 84 wounded.

    On December 19, 2000, Mareta Dudueva tried to force her way in to bomb the building of the local militia department in Grozny but was wounded and could not accomplish her mission.

    On April 9, 2001, an office cleaner was killed in an explosion in the toilet of Government House, and two women were wounded. The deceased was a suicide terrorist.

    On November 29, 2001, a shakhid woman blew up herself and the town major of Urus-Martan, Geidar Gadzhiev.

    On February 5, 2002, 16-year-old Zarema Inarkaeva carried a bomb into the building of the Zavodsky militia station in Grozny. The only casualty was the terrorist herself.

    On October 23, 2003, a group led by Movsar Baraev, including shakhid women, took about 900 people hostage in a theater on Dubrovka Street in Moscow. During the operation, all the terrorists were liquidated and 129 hostages were killed.

    On December 27, 2002, a 15-year-old girl and two men detonated two cars near Government House in Grozny, killing 72 people and wounding 210.

    On May 12, 2003, two women and a man detonated a truck near the administration building in Znamenskoe village of Nadterechny district, killing 60 people and wounding more than 250.

    On May 14, 2003, a woman terrorist blew herself up in a crowd of people at a religious holiday celebration near the village of Iliskhan-Yurt in Gudermes District in Chechnya. As a result, 16 people were killed and over 140 wounded.

    On June 5, 2003, a woman blew herself up in Mozdok near a bus transporting military airdrome staff, killing 20 people and wounding 14.

    On June 20, 2003, a woman and a man detonated a truck filled with explosives near the building of the investigation bureau of the Ministry of the Interior. Thirty-six people were wounded, but only the terrorists were killed.

    On July 5, 2003, two kamikaze women blew themselves up at the Tushino rock festival in Moscow. Thirteen people were killed and 50 wounded.
    Source: Kommersant

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    Uigurs in China

    About the treatment of Uigurs in China :

    Under President Xi Jinping, China has installed a hi-tech police state in the region and detained at least 1 million Uighurs in prisons and camps. Former detainees have described physical and psychological torture in those centers.
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