Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), announced Monday that Shamil Basayev had been killed shortly after midnight in a truck explosion outside a village in Ingushetia.
Timur Aliev (LJ user timur_aliev), editor-in-chief of the print/online weekly Chechen Society (Chechenskoye Obshchestvo), happened to be in Nazran (the capital of Ingushetia until 2000) last night, and below is the translation of his account (RUS) on how he learned about Basayev's death. Although FSB claims that Russia's most wanted man died as the result of a special operation, some people (and bloggers) doubt it.
Has Basayev Been Killed?
I was spending the night in Nazran tonight and heard a powerful explosion around midnight, and some 15 minutes later, a few shots – singular, automatic.
In the morning, it turns out there are blockposts on many roads in Nazran – traffic police and some others, unidentifiable, wearing masks – and IDs are being checked. I ask what's going on – they tell me a car with rebels and explosives blew up in Ekazhevo. And around the same time I start getting phone calls from various journalist acquaintances from Moscow – hasn't Basayev been killed? I call my friends from ITAR-TASS in Ingushetia – what have been heard in this regard? Not known yet, they say, two rebels of the four killed cannot be identified yet. All this I tell to my Moscow colleagues. But to myself I think: I'll stay in Ingushetia till the evening and see how the situation develops.
Then I get a call from our newsroom in Grozny – they say the FSB people stopped by, were checking us in relation to something (irrelevant to this post), and one of them said that Basayev had been killed in Ingushetia. He was identified by a missing leg (without a prosthesis, by the way), and it looks like a DNA analysis showed a match. Though it's not clear how is it possible to do such an analysis in a couple hours.
But since we've already got burned on this topic once [Basayev had been reported dead a few times before], I decided to wait until the release of official confirmation. And here it is – Patrushev reports on a successful operation.
upd. Patrushev is talking about a successful operation, but it appears that the whole operation was about identifying a one-legged corpse. Moreover, it turns out that Basayev has been driving around next to the federal highway, just like that – and if it hadn't been for an accidental truck blast, he would have continued to.
goldyz: They [the Kremlin] are trying to score a few points on the eve of the [G8] summit. IMHO.
timur_aliev: Yes, of course…
realavatar: […] They were reports recently that Basayev was somewhere in the former Soviet republics…
timur_aliev: Most likely, he transplanted his DNA to someone else and left… :)
vozrozdenie: […] How popular was Basayev […] with the Chechens?
timur_aliev: I'd say that with time he was becoming less and less popular. But he definitely did have admirers: radicals always attract young people other radicals…
English-language Russia bloggers are also reacting to the news.
TaliaXianne of Something In The Way She Moves waited for the Chechen sources outside Russia to confirm Basayev's death:
is, allegedly, dead… again.
However, as I just told a friend, ‘maybe I am in denial, but I do not buy it’. But I told myself earlier, when I first heard the rumours, that I would only believe it when Kavkaz and Zakayev said that it was true. And now they both have. […]
[…] Update: Now Kavkaz Center has also confirmed the death, following the view that it was the result of a military accident, and not of a “successful special operation” by Russian or Russian-backed forces. […]
Sean Guillory of Sean's Russia Blog reviews and links to various reports on Basayev's death and its possible causes, notes that this has been “a great week” for Putin – and offers a brief glance at the discussion to come:
Be sure that over the next day or so analysts and commentators will deal with the obvious question: Does Basayev’s death signal the end to the Chechen resistance and the Chechen War?
Vilhelm Konnander cites Nikolai Patrushev on Basayev's plans to disrupt the upcoming G8 Summit:
[…] Basayev was killed while preparing a terrorist attack in Ingusheti capital of Nazran on occasion of the St. Petersburg G8 Summit this week.
He is pessimistic about the effect Basayev's departure is going to have on the future of Chechnya:
Basayev's death will most likely mean little for the conflict. With Moscow-backed Ramzan Kadyrov as leader of Chechnya, criminality as a form of government has been institutionalised. When Kadyrov turns 30 in October, he will most likely succeed puppet president Alkhanov to rule Chechnya without much restraint from Moscow.
Charlie Ganske of Russia Blog recalls Basayev's most horrendous act of terror – the 2004 school siege in Beslan – by posting photos of the victims – and cheers the FSB:
Russia Blog congratulates the Russian security forces for a job well done. We know that Basayev's death is small comfort to the families of his victims, but it is a huge step towards peace and prosperity in the Caucuses and another stinging defeat for the global jihad.