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Chechen Commander Tells RFE/RL of New Threat ‘To Take The War To Enemy Territory’

(Prague, Czech Republic–May 10, 2005) A leading Chechen military commander has contacted RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service, to say that Chechen separatists are changing tactics and plan in his words “to take the war to enemy territory.” The commander, Doku Umarov, telephoned RFE/RL North Caucasus Service director Aslan Doukaev on Saturday, May 7.

Umarov, who claimed that he is a regular listener to RFE/RL Chechen-language broadcasts, said that Chechen fighters had until now kept most of their operations inside Chechnya. But now, Umarov said, units are regrouping and redeploying for attacks in what he called “enemy territory.” “We have begun to determine targets,” Umarov said.

The Chechen separatists are decided on this course, according to Umarov, because “the killing and abductions of civilians is on a massive scale, even flagrant.” Umarov said his own 70-year old father, as well as his brother, wife and 7-month old baby were all abducted last week and are now being held captive. Umarov named the kidnappers as pro-Moscow Chechens tied to Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of assassinated Moscow-installed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov.

Umarov was minister for security in the government of self-styled Chechen president Aslan Mashkadov, who opposed a terrorist war against Russia. Mashkadov was killed by Russian troops in early March. Chechen fighters continued to respect Maskhadov’s wishes, but have now thrown off restraints in outrage over the kidnappings, Umarov said. Umarov identifies himself as commander of the southwest front in Chechnya, but said that he receives reports from Chechen fighting units located in all parts of the republic.