'We will kill them': Russia on foreign fighters in Chechnya
Last Updated: Monday, November 15, 2004 | 8:11 AM ET
A top Russian state prosecutor says any Canadians who come to Russia to fight on the side of Chechen terrorists will be killed immediately. Beslam Kholodov, the top prosecutor in Chechnya, claims there are dozens of foreigners who go to Chechnya to fulfill what he calls "specialist" roles, often for money.
Last month, a man believed to be Vancouver resident Rudwan Khalil Abubaker was killed by Russian troops in Chechnya. Russian authorities described him as an explosives expert, who was fighting alongside Chechen insurgents.
Rudwan Khalil Abubaker
Abubaker's family denies the charges.
But because the story of Abubaker has caught the attention of Canadians, Russian authorities want to send a message to any young man contemplating a similar journey, so they allowed the CBC to visit the area where he was killed.
Gen. Ilya Shabalkin pointed out the bodies of two men he said were Turks that were killed recently. He claims both men entered Georgia from Turkey on Sept. 7, then crossed into Chechnya.
Foreign Islamist fighters started coming to Chechnya in the mid 1990s, inspired by their belief that it was their religious duty to protect Muslims in Chechnya from the rampaging Russian army. The number of foreigners fighting on the side of the rebels has been variously estimated at anywhere from a few dozen to 200.
But Gen. Shabalkin maintains the foreigners are more important than their numbers suggest. He says they are the conduit through which large sums of money raised in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Turkey are funneled to the Chechen militants.
"This war has continued for 10 years because of the millions of dollars international terrorist organizations are sending here," he says.
Gen. Shabalkin says the foreigners are sent to do specialists tasks the regular Chechens fighters can't do. He says the two Turks were explosives experts, as Abubaker was alleged to be.
Abubaker's parents in Vancouver aren't convinced the man killed last month in a forest near a remote Chechen village was their son, even though he carried their son's passport and his British Columbia driver's licence.
Chechnya's chief prosecutor, Kholodov, says his investigation into the Abubaker case is still continuing, but the evidence strongly indicates the body belongs to Abubaker.
Kholodov warns any Canadian parents who suspect their son might be contemplating a similar adventure, to stop them. "If they come with the same aim, to be part of an illegal armed group, we will kill them. It is very sad."
The official Russian line is that the foreigners who come to fight for the Chechens don't do it for religious reasons or for Chechen independence. The Russians maintain they are paid mercenaries.
However, General Shabalkin admits that Abubaker, and perhaps Elbahja, may not have been mercenaries or even Islamist fanatics. "Maybe they were simply normal Muslims who had been fed horror stories about the Russian military and were tricked into coming here to protect the human rights of the Chechen people."
Maybe you should be concerned with your neighbors before you blindly blame the CIA.