(Hurriyet) - Russian security forces killed in Chechnya a Saudi militant who was the top envoy of al-Qaeda in the Northern Caucasus and responsible for deadly attacks, the national anti-terror committee said Friday.
MOSCOW – Agence France-Presse
The militant - known by the nom-de-guerre of Moganned - was one of three rebels killed in a clash with Russian security forces around the village of Serzhen-Yurt in Chechnya on Thursday afternoon, it said.
"One of the eliminated bandits has been identified as the main emissary of the international terrorist organisation al-Qaeda in the Northern Caucasus, a citizen of Saudi Arabia by the name of Moganned," the committee said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.
It said that alongside Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov - Russia's most wanted man who security forces have repeatedly failed to kill over the last years - Moganned was a leading figure among rebels in the region.
After waging two wars against separatists in Chechnya after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin is now battling an Islamist-tinged insurgency that has also spread to the neighboring regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia.
The committee said that according to intelligence from detained militants Moganned had fallen out with Umarov and become a rival to the elusive Chechen in the rebel underground. "Almost all acts of terror using suicide bombers in the last years were prepared with his involvement," it said.
Moscow over the last year has been rocked by an airport bombing that killed 37 in January 2011 and a twin suicide bombing that killed 40 on the Moscow metro in March 2010. Both of these attacks have however been claimed by Umarov and Russian officials have also pointed to his involvement. But over the last weeks they have come under increasing pressure to explain their failure to eliminate Umarov.
The Russian authorities have repeatedly indicated that Umarov was killed in the Caucasus, only to be forced into embarrassing backtracking when it emerged that the militant had escaped. Russia hoped it killed Umarov in an air strike in Ingushetia last month but officials later admitted it appeared he had slipped away again.
A man purporting to be Umarov then telephoned the North Caucasus service of Radio Free Europe, saying that he was "absolutely healthy" and threatened further attacks. The statement also claimed links between Magonned and Georgia, with whom Russia fought a war in 2008 and still retains tense relations. It said he had been hoping this summer to receive a batch of new fighters from over the border with Georgia and with their help win overall control of the insurgency in the Caucasus.
Russian news agencies said Magonned had been in the Northern Caucasus since 1999 when he arrived to reinforce a group based in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge led by the notorious Arab militant Khattab, whom Russian forces killed in 2002.