Beslan Siege Was Work of al Qaeda Cell from… Kabardino-Balkaria
terrorists who ravaged the school and community of Beslan came
from a direction startling enough to jolt Russian president Vladimir
Putin into taking a hard look at the Islamic terror now rampant
outside Chechnya – in at least two additional Caucasian republics.
32 hostage takers were not Chechens but members of al Qaeda cells,
Arabs and natives, known locally as “Wahhabis” (after
the austere state religion of Saudi Arabia), from a place whose
name is even less recognizable than were the battle arenas of
Afghanistan and the Balkans: Nalchik, capital of Kabardino-Balkaria,
northwest of North Ossetia.
reach Beslan, they first transited Ingushetia, which forms a wedge
between North Ossetia and Chechnya. There, the terrorist gang
was joined by a handful of Ingushe terrorists, along with their
Chechen commander, Magomet Yevloev, nicknamed “Magas”.
However, Magas did not mastermind the operation. His controller
was a Wahhabi, who has not been identified, but whose voice was
heard intoning Koranic verses on the videotape broadcast later.
too came under the orders of the two new chiefs of al Qaeda’s
Saudi contingent in Chechnya, who are also known only by their
noms de guerre of Abu Hafs and Abu Hajr.
and Kabardino-Balkaria have thus moved into center stage as the
coming main arenas of the global war on terror. The disclosure
by Russian intelligence of the true authors of the Beslen outrage
forced the Russian ruler to embark on urgent preparations for
a three-front Caucasian war in a region prone historically from
Byzantine times to outbreaks of ethnic, religious and clan violence.
to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive military and intelligence
sources, Putin wasted not a moment. He immediately signed a presidential
decree ordering the Russian army to mass enough strength to place
Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria under military siege preparatory
to going in to re-assert Kremlin control of the two republics
and drive the Islamic terrorists out. He has determined to repair
the damage exposed by the Beslan terror outrage before it spreads.
The first Russian units are beginning to take up positions around
the borders of the two republics.
challenge ahead of the Kremlin is daunting. Military experts doubt
whether the Russian army has the manpower resources to shoulder
a fresh campaign on top of its commitments to the Chechen war.
It is hard to see where Moscow will find the funds for opening
two new fronts in the northern Caucasus. However, interestingly
enough, Putin’s reaction to Beslan was identical to that
of President George W. Bush immediately after the September 11
al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, to hit out at the
terrorists and destroy them in their lairs.
Russian ruler’s compulsion is even greater given that those
lairs are inside his own country.
has gone to great lengths to pin the Beslen school siege on Chechen
separatists. However, according to our sources, this outrage was
al Qaeda’s free and clear. Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov
were not directly involved. Any Chechen involvement was incidental,
by way of contacts with
Saudi terrorists maintained by Chechen cells in Ingushetia or
minimal logistical assistance.
existence of Wahhabi terrorist cells in quiet, scenic Kabardino-Balkaria
has claimed little attention from the chroniclers of Islamic terror,
even though of late Nalchik has been seeing the sort of street
battles familiar to Riyadh. The last shootout between police and
wanted “Wahhabis” took place on September 6. One terrorist
was killed, the rest escaped.
day before, Kabardino-Balkaria’s President Valery Kokov
met reporters to voice a hope that, “The hearts of these
proud people will not harden, and that the tragedy in Beslan will
not cause destabilization of the situation in the North Caucasus.”
He stressed that his law enforcement agencies knew the names of
about 50 Kabardino-Balkarians, who were members of “Chechen
armed rebel groups,” adding “We know who they are
and will not allow this handful of people to demoralize a republic
of nearly one million. We have everything under control.”
added that the families of “radical individuals”,
clerics and public organizations were involved in terror prevention
measures in the republic in addition to law enforcement agencies.
Kabardino-Balkaria president’s words made little impact
on the world media, any more than this remote Caucasian republic
rated any mention during the three-day school siege that riveted
the world. But great anxiety is plainly betrayed by his words.
The way he assures his neighbors in North Ossetia that his own
law enforcement agencies can deal with miscreants, whose names
they know, sounds suspiciously like a plea not to come in search
of revenge but leave it to him to mete out due punishment. Furthermore,
the assertion, “We have everything under control”
reads as an attempt to ward off outside Russian military intervention.
Kokov was too late. By the time he spoke, Putin’s military
preparations were already in train.
did an al Qaeda Wahhabi cell come to be planted in Kabardino-Balkaria?
republic attracted Osama bin Laden’s organization for three
Most of its inhabitants belong to the Circassian ethnic family
and as Muslims are susceptible to Islamic influence. The unrecorded
chapter of the Chechen intelligence war of the 1990s relates how
the Circassian community of Jordan, which is the security buttress
of the Hashemite throne, was used by US, British and French intelligence
as a pipeline into the Chechen breakaway movement for close surveillance
of its conflict with Russia. Al Qaeda, which tracks and meets
every American intelligence move connected with the global war
on terror, countered by going into the remote and relatively affluent
Kabardino-Balkaria to quietly acquire its own Circassian asset.
Since the mid-1990s, therefore al Qaeda has been working discreetly
to carve out a niche in the once idyllic Caucasian republic. The
town of Beslan was the first to suffer the dire consequences of
Al Qaeda further developed its presence in the republic in 2002
when American bases went up in Georgia with a view to offsetting
the US military foothold on the region.
To buy operational independence from Chechen chiefs like Maskhadov,
whom al Qaeda does not entirely trust. A base in Kabardino-Balkaria
also complemented and provided strategic depth for the small Saudi
presence in the lawless Pankissi Gorge on the Georgian-Chechen
Caucasian sources note that these ramifications of the bloody
and brutal school siege will need to be carefully weighed not
only by Putin and his army chiefs but also in Washington. A Russian
military operation will need to be swift and resolute to succeed
in regaining control of the two recalcitrant regions and driving
the Islamic terrorists out, under whatever name they go. The Russian
army will have to marshal every ounce of its strength – air force,
artillery, tank and firepower. If Kremlin military planners hold
back on firepower and personnel here as they do in Chechnya, Ingushetia
and Kabardino-Balkaria will slide into the mold set by Pakistan’s
Waziristan and other lawless regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan,
where the Taliban and al Qaeda are the de facto rulers. Putin
will have his work cut out to hold together the southwestern region
of the Russian Federation.