Police in Chechnya killed rebel leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev during a special operation today, authorities said.
Sadulayev was killed in a special operation conducted by the regional police force in his hometown of Argun, the press service of Moscow-backed Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said. The city is about nine miles east of the provincial capital, Grozny.
The Interfax news agency quoted Muslim Khuchiyev, a minister in the local administration, as saying that police acted on a tip, tracked down Sadulayev and killed him when he offered resistance.
Sadulayev had succeeded Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, who was killed by Russian forces last year. Sadulayev’s killing, if confirmed, would be further evidence that the rebels’ position is weakening in Chechnya even as Islamic-inspired insurgents have spread their influence across the volatile North Caucasus region.
“The terrorists have been virtually beheaded. They have sustained a severe blow, and they are never going to recover from it,” the Interfax news agency quoted Kadyrov as saying.
“We must decisively end international terrorism in the whole of the North Caucasus,” the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted him as saying.
Sadulayev, a fundamentalist field commander, was relatively unknown outside rebel circles. He had served as a judge of the Chechen rebels’ Shariat committee - an extension of the Islamic court established under Maskhadov when he was Chechnya’s elected president in the 1990s.
Chechnya’s separatist movement initially was rooted in nationalist sentiment, but in recent years has taken on a growing Islamic cast. Sadulayev had promoted efforts to spread the rebel movement beyond Chechnya’s borders in the so-called “Caucasus Front” and attack Russian forces across the poverty-stricken and corruption-gripped south.
Ekho Moskvy radio had said Russian prosecutors considered him the main organiser of the 2001 kidnapping of Kenneth Gluck, of New York City, who worked for Doctors Without Borders in southern Russia. Gluck was freed after 25 days.
The radio station also said Maskhadov had called Sadulayev the co-organiser of a 2004 raid on police and security installations in the Russian republic of Ingushetia, which killed some 90 people.