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Arbi Barayev

Арби Алаутдинович Бараев

File:Arbi Barayev.jpg
Personal details
Born (1974-05-27)May 27, 1974[1]
Alkhan-Kala, Chechen–Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, USSR[2]
Died June 22, 2001(2001-06-22) (aged 27)[3]
Alkhan-Kala, Chechnya[4]
Religion Islam
Military service
Nickname(s) The Terminator
Commands Special Purpose Islamic Regiment[5]

Sharia Regiment[6]

Battles/wars First Chechen War

Second Chechen War

Arbi Alautdinovich Barayev (Chechen language: Арби Алаутдинович Бараев) (Russian: Бараев, Арби Алаутдинович), nicknamed "The Terminator", was a renegade Chechen warlord often accused of clandestine links with the Russian special services. In 1996 he became the founder and first leader of the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment, which was regarded as one of the main hostage-taking, kidnapping, and oil-smuggling groups operating in Chechnya during the lawless interwar period that followed the 1994–1996 conflict with Russia.[5]

Barayev's actions contributed significantly to the rise of the Chechen criminal state in the late 1990s, helping to drive out foreign journalists and humanitarian workers while undermining the presidency of Aslan Maskhadov. He reportedly boasted of personally killing over 160 people and is said to be responsible for the deaths of over 50 people from his home village of Alkhan-Kala, including family members. Arbi was an uncle of Movsar Barayev, a key figure in the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis.


Early life

A martial arts fan in his youth,[1] Barayev became a Soviet police officer in 1990 at the age of just 16. In 1991, after the Chechen declaration of independence, he became a personal bodyguard to his uncle, Vakha Arsanov, the future vice president. He also protected Vice President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, with whom Barayev formed a close personal relationship, and Sultan Geliskhanov, director of Chechnya's State Security Department.[7] Barayev and his men fought in the First Chechen War of 1994–1996 for the Chechen separatist side. It was then when they committed their first act of kidnapping, abducting for ransom a group of 29 Russian engineers from a power plant near the Chechen capital Grozny.


During the inter-war period, Barayev and his associates became infamous for their alleged part in a wave of lawlessness which swept the devastated republic,[8] including brutal killings and kidnappings as well as suspected involvement in two failed attempts to assassinate the Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov[9] and the successful assassinations of the Chechen interior minister Nasrudi Bazhiyev and Shadid Bargishev, head of the newly formed anti-abduction service. Barayev and his group, based around the town of Urus-Martan, were linked to a series of high-profile crimes including the notorious murder of six foreign Red Cross employees shot dead in the hospital of Novye Atagi in September 1996, as well as the kidnappings of Yelena Masyuk, a Russian NTV journalist and personal friend of Maskhadov, and Valenti Vlasov, Boris Yeltsin's envoy to Chechnya. Other high-profile hostages allegedly kidnapped by Barayev included the ORT journalists Roman Pereveztsyev and Vladislav Tibelius, an Italian journalist Mauro Galligani, British children-aid workers Camilla Carr and Jon James (during a failed operation to rescue them, the Chechen anti-kidnap unit commandos engaged in a deadly clash with "unknown terrorists", unofficially Salman Raduyev's men; they were eventually ransomed by Boris Berezovsky) and others.

In 1997, Maskhadov signed a decree putting Barayev's Special Purpose Islamic Regiment armed group under the command of the Chechen interior ministry. Barayev, who also held the post of deputy commander of the National Guards, however refused to obey the order. When six of his men were detained in Ingushetia, Barayev attacked an Ingush police post and took hostages; one of them was killed and the rest were prisoner-swapped. Two more of his men were captured in Chechnya and made to confess to kidnappings on the state TV. His militia and some Islamist allies from Shariah Security forces fought with the Chechen government forces in a large-scale gun battle in the city of Gudermes in the summer of 1998. Between 50 and around 80 people were killed in the mutiny.[10] The Islamic Regiment was not disarmed,[11] but Barayev was stripped of his rank of Brigade General and declared as the "enemy of Ichkeria and the Chechen people". In December 1998, Barayev proclaimed the Supreme Council of Islamic Jamaats, dug trenches around Urus-Martan and threatened to attack the targets across and outside of Chechnya if Maskhadov tried to fight them.[12]

A commonly accusation against Barayev regarded the late 1998 abduction and beheading of four foreign mobile phone engineers.[10] It was claimed that the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) outbid the employers of kidnapped Briton engineers to get them decapitated by Barayev and his gang rather than be released; supposedly, the video and photographic materials of their executions fed the FSB anti-western propaganda efforts at beginning of Second Chechen War.[9] A former Russian hostage Abdurakhman Adukhov told the BBC that Barayev told him it was actually Osama bin Laden who paid him $30m for the atrocity, outbidding the ransom offer of $10m.[13] Barayev himself denied that his group kidnapped and killed the foreigners.[12]


In March 2000, during the early phase of the Second Chechen War, Barayev reportedly betrayed the Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelayev to the Russian military forces,[9] resulting in the massacre of Gelayev's forces in the Battle of Komsomolskoye. According to another version, Barayev and his men merely bribed their way out of Komsomolskoye while leaving Gelayev and his people to their fate.[14] The incident led to the declaration of revenge on the part of Gelayev, whose fighters then blew up several houses belonging to Barayev in his home village of Alkhan-Kala near Grozny, killed a number of his men, and even attempted to assassinate Barayev in Ingushetia. According to federal authorities, more than 40 Chechens died as a result of these clashes.[15] Chechen surgeon Khassan Baiev, who amputated a portion of the leg of Shamil Basayev after his injury on a mine field, also had operated on Salman Raduyev and Arbi Barayev himself; however, Barayev promised to kill him because he would also help the wounded Russian soldiers. Baiev described Barayev as "a born killer, and his men were desperados with blood vendettas proclaimed against them for murder. They joined Barayev for protection against the avengers in an endless cycle of violence. ... He owned a stable of expensive foreign cars, had several wives, and moved around with an escort of twenty to thirty guards. Everyone assumed that he was in the pay of Russian intelligence. Relatives of Arbi Barayev publicly denounced him for his crimes, saying that the family announced in the courtyard of the mosque that if anyone killed him, they would relinquish all claims. There would be no blood revenge."[16] Facing death threats from Barayev as well as from the federal side, Baiev was eventually forced to flee Chechnya abroad.

Following the Russian occupation of most of Chechnya, Barayev freely lived in Alkhan-Kala and frequently passed through Russian checkpoints without any problems using identity papers of an FSB officer. He was also not included in the lists of people wanted "for participation in illegal armed groups".[15] Once arrested, he was said to be instantly released by the demand of Beslan Gantamirov, then the leading figure in the pro-Moscow government.[17] In May 2000, the Russian military intelligence GRU officer leaked papers about Barayev's affiliation with FSB to a Chechen journalist.[9] In April 2001, Barayev's men allegedly ambushed and killed Viktor Popkov, a Russian dissident working in Chechnya as an aid worker and human rights activist since 1995, in the close vicinity of a military roadblock.[18] According to the U.S. Department of State, Barayev sent a group of his fighters to train in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan in the spring of the same year.[19]


On June 22, 2001, Barayev was reported killed during a raid by the Russian military special forces on Alkhan-Kala. According to a Russian military spokesman, 17 Chechens and at least one soldier were killed in the operation. The Russian media had reported his death several previous times, but every time he re-emerged unscathed; however, this time, the Kavkaz Center announced that "special Islamic commander Arbi Barayev has become a martyr."

According to another version of Barayev's death, the GRU decided to get rid of him after the suspicious death of FSB chief Vice-Admiral German Ugryumov, who allegedly provided cover (krysha) for Barayev. In a well-prepared five-day operation, GRU agents recruited from Chechens in a blood feud with Arbayev searched for him in Alkhan-Kala and then stormed a local FSB base where he ran for cover, killing an FSB agent in the process. Barayev has been allegedly captured alive and then tortured to death.[9][17]

His body was given to his immediate family for a funeral[8] (in contrast, when Maskhadov was killed in 2005, he was buried by the Russians in an unmarked secret grave[20]), he was however barred from being buried in his home village by the local people. In October 2002, his widow Zura Barayeva was killed while taking part in the Moscow hostage crisis. The attack was led by Arbi's 22-year old nephew and successor Movsar, who also died during the incident. The remnants of Barayev's group were reportedly integrated into the mainstream rebel forces following the theatre seizure.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "ARBİ BARAYEV". WaYNaKH Online. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. "Russians Killl Chechen Warlord". BBC News. 25 June 2001. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "In the Spotlight: The Special Purpose Islamic Regiment". Center for Defense Information. 2 May 2003. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  6. Tishkov, Valery. Chechnya: Life in a War-Torn Society. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-23888-6. 
  7. Paul J. Murphy, The Wolves of Islam: Russia and the Faces of Chechen Terror, p.68
  8. 8.0 8.1 Russians kill Chechen warlord, BBC News, 25 June 2001
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 The Security Organs of the Russian Federation. A Brief History 1991–2004 by Jonathan Littell, Psan Publishing House 2006.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Chechen president orders kidnap crackdown, BBC News, December 13, 1998
  11. Moscow Tragedy: More Questions Than Answers
  12. 12.0 12.1 Chechnya Rebel Kidnapping and Beheading
  13. Britons killed 'by Bin Laden ally', BBC News, 18 November 2001
  14. The Jamestown Foundation
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Russian anti-terrorist operation", Moskovskiye Novosti, August 8, 2000
  16. Khassan Baiev, Ruth Daniloff. The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire. Walker & Company. 2004. ISBN 0-8027-1404-8.
  17. 17.0 17.1 The Background of Chechen Independence Movement VI: From the Dubrovka Theatre to "Black Widows"
  18. Appeal to the UN Commission for Human Rights, Memorial, 27.03.2002
  19. Chechen Terrorist Organizations: Statement of the Case – U.S. Department of State
  20. Maskhadov body furore escalates, BBC News, 14 March 2005

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