Military Wiki
Abdallah Shamil Abu Idris Al-Bassi
Shamil Basayev during the First Chechen War, December 1995.
Nickname Abdallah Shamil Abu-Idris
Born (1965-01-14)January 14, 1965
Died July 10, 2006(2006-07-10) (aged 41) (Age 41)
Place of birth Dyshne-Vedeno, Chechen–Ingush ASSR, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Place of death Ali-Yurt, Ingushetia, Russian Federation
Allegiance  Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Commands held Islamic Peacekeeping Brigade
Caucasian Front
Supreme Military Majlis-ul Shura of the United Mujahideen Forces of the Caucasus[1]
Congress of the Peoples of Ichkeria and Dagestan[1]
Battles/wars Georgian-Abkhazian conflict
Nagorno-Karabakh War
First Chechen War
Dagestan War
Second Chechen War

Shamil Salmanovich Basayev (Russian: Шамиль Салманович Басаев; 14 January 1965 – 10 July 2006) was a Chechen militant Islamist and a leader of the Chechen rebel movement.

Starting as a field commander in the Transcaucasus, Basayev led guerrilla campaigns against Russian forces for years, as well as launching mass-hostage takings of civilians, with his goal being the withdrawal of Russian soldiers from Chechnya.[2] Beginning in 2003, Basayev used the nom de guerre and title of Emir Abdallah Shamil Abu-Idris. In 1997–1998 he also served as vice-Prime minister of Chechnya in Maskhadov's government.

Basayev was considered by some to be the undisputed leader of the radical wing of the Chechen insurgency. He was responsible for numerous guerrilla attacks on security forces in and around Chechnya [3][4][5] and the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis. ABC News described him as "one of the most-wanted terrorists in the world."[6]

Basayev was killed by an explosion on 10 July 2006. Controversy still surrounds who is responsible for his death, with Russian authorities claiming he was killed in an assassination by the FSB and the Chechen separatists claiming he died in an accidental explosion.

Early life

Shamil Basayev was born in the village of Dyshne-Vedeno, near Vedeno, in south-eastern Chechnya, on 1965[7] to Chechen parents from the Benoy teip. According to Gennady Troshev, he has some distant Russian ancestry.[8] He was named after Imam Shamil, the third imam of Dagestan and Chechnya and the last leader of anti-Russian Avar-Chechen forces in the Caucasian War.

His family is said to have had a long history of involvement in Chechen resistance to Russian rule. His grandfather fought for the abortive attempt to create a breakaway North Caucasian Emirate after the Russian Revolution.[9] The Basayevs, along with most of the rest of the Chechen population, had been deported to Kazakhstan during World War II on the orders of the NKVD leader Lavrenti Beria as a means of cutting off support to the 1940-1944 Chechnya insurgency. They were only allowed to return when the deportation order was lifted by Nikita Khrushchev in 1957.

Basayev, an avid football player, graduated from school in Dyshne-Vedeno in 1982, aged 17, and spent the next two years in the Soviet military serving as a firefighter (Chechens were usually kept away from the combat units[citation needed]). For the next four years, he worked at the Aksaiisky state farm in the Volgograd region of southern Russia before moving to Moscow.

He reportedly attempted to enroll in the law school of the Moscow State University but failed, and instead entered the Moscow Engineering Institute of Land Management in 1987. However, he was expelled for poor grades in 1988. He subsequently worked as a computer salesman in Moscow, in partnership with a local Chechen businessman, Supyan Taramov. Ironically, the two men ended up on opposite sides in the Chechen wars, during which Taramov sponsored a pro-Russian Chechen militia (Sobaka magazine's dossier on Basayev reported that Taramov apparently equipped or "outfitted" this group of pro-Russian Chechens; they were also known as "Shamil Hunters"). In later interviews, Taramov would claim he hired Basayev as a favor for a family friend, and that the latter was an ineffectual worker who would spend whole nights playing video games, sleep during the day, and had an obsession with Che Guevara.[citation needed]

Basayev's early militant activities

When some hardline members of Soviet government attempted to stage a coup d'état in August 1991, Basayev allegedly joined supporters of Russian President Boris Yeltsin on the barricades around the Russian White House in central Moscow, armed with hand grenades.[10]

A few months later, in November 1991, the Chechen nationalist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev unilaterally declared independence from the newly formed Russian Federation. In response, Yeltsin announced a state of emergency and dispatched troops to the border of Chechnya. It was then that Basayev began his long and notorious career as an insurgent — seeking to draw international attention to the crisis. Basayev, Lom-Ali Chachayev, and the group's leader, Said-Ali Satuyev, a former airline pilot suffering from schizophrenia[citation needed], hijacked an Aeroflot Tu-154 plane, en route from Mineralnye Vody in Russia to Ankara on November 9, 1991, and threatened to blow up the aircraft unless the state of emergency was lifted. The hijacking was resolved peacefully in Turkey, with the plane and passengers being allowed to return safely and the hijackers given safe passage back to Chechnya.

Basayev and several hundred other Chechens have been accused of training in Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan or Pakistan.[11] Rohan Gunaratna, has made allegations that Basayev, along other leading militants such as Ibn Al-Khattab and Walid have all had close relations with Osama bin Laden, and they have, in turn, set up terrorist camps in Chechnya.[11] Rohan has still yet failed to put forward any concrete evidence in support of these claims, and has been in the past questioned over his linking multiple persons to Al-Qaeda without having any real expertise in the topic.[12]

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

According to some sources, Basayev moved to Azerbaijan in 1992, where he aided Azerbaijani forces in their unsuccessful war against Armenian fighters in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. He was said to have led a battalion-strength Chechen contingent. According to Azeri Colonel Azer Rustamov, in 1992, "hundreds of Chechen volunteers rendered us invaluable help in these battles led by Shamil Basayev and Salman Raduyev". Basayev was said to be one of the last fighters to leave Shusha (see Capture of Shusha). Basayev later said during his career, he and his battalion had only lost once, and that defeat came in Karabakh in fighting against the "Dashnak battalion". He later said he pulled his mujahideen out of the conflict when the war seemed to be more for nationalism than for jihad. During the conflict, Basayev was first introduced to the pan-Islamic revolutionary Ibn al-Khattab.[13]

Georgian-Abkhaz conflict

Later in 1992, Basayev traveled to Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, to assist the local separatist movement against the Georgian government's attempts to regain control of the region—a conflict in which, ultimately, a minority of 93,000 Abkhaz were successful in ethnically purging a majority of Georgians (numbering some 250,000) from the region. Basayev became the commander-in-chief of the forces of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus (a volunteer unit of pan-Caucasian nationalists, composed mainly of Chechens and other Muslim people from the Caucasus). Their involvement was crucial in the Abkhazian war and in October 1993 the Georgian government suffered a decisive military defeat, after which most of the ethnic Georgian population of the region was driven out by ethnic cleansing.

It was rumored that the volunteers were trained and supplied by some part of the Russian army's GRU military intelligence service. According to The Independent journalist Patrick Cockburn, "cooperation between Mr Basayev and the Russian army is not so surprising as it sounds. "In 1992–93 he is widely believed to have received assistance from the GRU when he and his brother Shirvani fought in Abkhazia, a breakaway part of Georgia." No specific evidence was given.[14]

The Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported that Basayev was an agent of GRU, and another publication by journalist Boris Kagarlitsky said that "It is maintained, for example, that Shamil Basayev and his brother Shirvani are long-standing GRU agents, and that all their activities were agreed, not with the radical Islamists, but with the generals sitting in the military intelligence offices. All the details of the attack by Basayev's detachments were supposedly worked out in the summer of 1999 in a villa in the south of France with the participation of Basayev and the Head of the Presidential administration, Aleksandr Voloshin. Furthermore, it is alleged that the explosive materials used were not supplied from secret bases in Chechnya but from GRU stockpiles near Moscow."[15][16] The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta stated that the Basayev brothers "both recruited as agents by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU) in 1991–92." The Russian newspaper Versiya published the GRU file on Basayev and his brother, which revealed that "both Chechen terrorists were named as regular agents of the military intelligence organization."[17]

Russian special forces joined with the Chechens under Basayev to attack Georgia. A GRU agent, Anton Surikov, had extensive connections with Basayev.[18] Russian military intelligence had ordered Basayev to support the Abkhaz.[19]

Basayev received direct military training from the GRU since the Abkhaz were backed by Russia. Other Chechens also were trained by the GRU in warfare, many of these Chechens who fought for the Russians in Abkhazia against Georgia had fought for Azerbaijan against Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh war.[20]

The Russians allowed Basayev to travel between Russia and Sukhumi to battle the Georgians.[21]

War Crimes

Paul J. Murphy:

Russian military intelligence turned a blind eye to the 1991 terrorist arrest warrant against Basayev to train him and his detachment in Abkhazia, and the Russians even helped direct Basayev's combat operations. Long after the war, Basayev praised the professionalism and courage of his Russian trainers in Abkhazia — praise that led some of his enemies in Grozny, even President Maskhadov, to later call him a "longtime GRU agent"


In 1993, Basayev lead the KNK corps, this unit under Basayev carried out war crimes in Georgia, decapitating Georgian civilians and "some victors even played football with their captives' severed heads." and that "Basayev himself beheaded dozens of Georgian captives, most of them civilians, in the Sukhumi sports stadium."[23]

The GRU had recruited Basayev when they saw him and the Chechens of Moscow stand for and defend Boris Yeltsin from the Communists, with Basayev and his Chechens attacking the Communists. In 1991, Basayev was directed by GRU agents, and he praised the Russian GRU's "professionalism" and "courage", during his war against the Georgians. The Russians ignored Basayev's atrocities and allowed him to commit them without retribution.[24][25]

Former US counterterrorism official Paul J. Murphy wrote that "One hundred Georgian soldiers were herded into the central stadium in Gagra where they were beheaded and their heads used as footballs in a soccer match." Rumour had it that Basayev drank the blood of Georgian troops, and "invented a new form of execution--the "Chechen tongue," in which the victim's tongue is pulled out through a slit throat."[22]

After Abkhazia

Few authoritative accounts of Basayev's life after Abkhazia exist. Some sources claim that after Abkhazia, Basayev moved to Chechnya and became a successful entrepreneur in the Chechen mafia, organizing train-car theft and drug dealing networks. Pro-Chechen[citation needed] sources claim that such allegations about Basayev's criminal activity were disseminated by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) and were untrue. According to Basayev himself, millions of dollars were donated to him by unnamed foreign businessmen from the Chechen diaspora.[26]

Basayev's role in the First Chechen War


The First Chechen War began when Russian forces invaded Chechnya on 11 December 1994, to depose the government of Dzhokhar Dudayev. With the outbreak of war, Dudayev made Basayev one of the front-line commanders. Basayev took an active role in the resistance, successfully commanding his "Abkhaz Battalion." The unit inflicted major losses on Russian forces in the Battle of Grozny, Chechnya's capital, which lasted from December 1994 to February 1995. Basayev's men were among the last rebels to abandon the city.


After capturing Grozny, the momentum changed in favor of the Russian forces, and by April Chechen forces had been pushed into the mountains with most of their equipment destroyed. Basayev's "Abkhaz Battalion" suffered many casualties, particularly during battles around Vedeno in May and their ranks sank to as low as 200 men, critically low on supplies.

At this time, Basayev also suffered a personal tragedy. On 3 June 1995, during a Russian air raid on Basayev's hometown of Dyshne-Vedeno, two bombs landed on the home of Basayev's uncle, and six children, four women, and the uncle were killed. Basayev's wife and child were among the dead, as was his sister Zinaida. Twelve members of Basayev's family were injured in the attack.[27] One of his brothers was also killed in fighting near Vedeno.

In an attempt to force a stop to the Russian advance, some Chechen forces resorted to a series of terrorist attacks directed against civilian targets outside the area that they claimed. Basayev led the most famous such attack, the Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis on 14 June 1995, less than two weeks after he lost his family in the air raids. Shamil's large band seized the Budyonnovsk hospital in southern Russia and the 1,600 people inside for a period of several days. At least 129 civilians died and 415 were wounded during the crisis as the Russian special forces repeatedly attempted to free the hostages by force. Although Basayev failed in his principal demand for the removal of Russian forces from Chechnya, he did successfully negotiate a stop to the Russian advance and an initiation of peace talks with the Russian government, saving the Chechen resistance by giving them time to regroup and recover. Basayev and his fighters then returned to Chechnya under cover of the human shields.

The media coverage surrounding the hostage-taking and his safe retreat propelled the then mostly unknown Basayev into the international spotlight, and made him Chechnya's most famed national hero[citation needed] overnight.

On 23 November, Basayev announced on the Russian NTV television channel, that four cases of radioactive material had been hidden around Moscow. Russian emergency teams roamed the city with Geiger counters, and located several canisters of Caesium, which had been stolen from the Budennovsk hospital by the Chechen militants. The incident has been called "the most important sub-state use of radiological material."[11]


By 1996 Basayev had been promoted to the rank of General and Commander of the Chechen Armed Forces. In July 1996 he was implicated in the death of the rogue Chechen warlord Ruslan Labazanov.[citation needed]

In August 1996, he led a successful operation to retake the Chechen capital Grozny, defeating the Russian garrison of the city.[28] Yeltsin's government finally moved for peace, bringing in former Soviet-Afghan War General Aleksandr Lebed as a negotiator. A peace agreement was concluded between the Chechens and Russians, under which the Chechens acquired de facto independence from Russia.

Interwar period

Basayev stepped down from his military position in December 1996 to run for president in Chechnya's second (and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria's first and only ever internationally-monitored) presidential elections. Basayev came in second place to Aslan Maskhadov, obtaining 23.5% of the votes. Allegedly Basayev found the defeat very painful.

In early 1997 he was appointed vice-Prime Minister of Chechnya by Maskhadov. In January 1998 he became the acting head of the Chechen government for a six-month term, after which he resigned. Basayev's appointment was symbolic because it took place on the eve of the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of his renowned namesake. Basayev subsequently reduced the government's administrative departments and abolished several ministries. However, the collection of taxes and the Chechen National Bank's reserves shrunk, and theft of petroleum products increased seriously.

Maskhadov worked with Basayev until 1998, when Basayev established a network of military officers, who soon became rival warlords. As Chechnya collapsed into chaos, Basayev's reputation began to plummet as he and others were accused of corruption and involvement in kidnapping; his alliance with Arab jihadi Ibn al-Khattab also alienated many of the Chechens. By early 1998 Basayev emerged as the main political opponent of the Chechen president, who in his opinion was "pushing the republic back to the Russian Federation." On March 31, 1998, Basayev called for the termination of talks with Russia; on July 7, 1998, he sent a letter of resignation from the post of the Chechen Prime Minister.

During these years he wrote Book of a Mujahiddeen, an Islamic guerilla manual.

Invasion of Dagestan

In December 1997, after Movladi Udugov's Islamic Nation party had called for Chechnya to annex territories in neighbouring Dagestan, Basayev promised to "liberate" neighbouring Dagestan from its status as "a Russian colony."[29]

According to Alexander Litvinenko's book Death of a Dissident, Kremlin-critic Boris Berezovsky said that he had a conversation with the Chechen Islamist leader Movladi Udugov in 1999, six months before the beginning of fighting in Dagestan.[30] A transcript of the phone conversation between Berezovsky and Udugov was leaked to one of Moscow tabloids on 10 September 1999.[31] Udugov proposed to start the Dagestan war to provoke the Russian response, topple the Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov and establish new Islamic republic of Basayev-Udugov that would be friendly to Russia. Berezovsky asserted that he refused the offer, but "Udugov and Basayev conspired with Stepashin and Putin to provoke a war to topple Maskhadov ... but the agreement was for the Russian army to stop at the Terek River. However, Putin double-crossed the Chechens and started an all-out war."[30] However, Litvinenko and Berezovsky provided little evidence for their claims. Researcher Henry Plater-Zyberk has described Litvinenko as "a one man disinformation bureau" who was hungry for attention and provided little, if any, evidence for his claims.[32]

It was also alleged that Alexander Voloshin, a key figure in the Yeltsin administration, paid Basayev to stage the Dagestan incursion,[33] and that Basayev was working for the Russian GRU at the time.[34][35][36] According to the BBC, conspiracy theories are part of the staple diet of Moscow politics.[37]

In August 1999, Basayev and Khattab led a 1,400-strong army of Islamist fighters in unsuccessful attempt to aid Dagestani Wahhabists to take over the neighboring Republic of Dagestan and establish a new Chechen-Dagestan Islamic republic. By the end of the month, Russian forces had managed to repel the invasion.

In early September, a series of bombings of Russian apartment blocks took place, killing 293 people. The attacks were blamed on terrorists with Chechen links. Basayev, Ibn Al-Khattab and Achemez Gochiyaev were named by Russia as key suspects. Gochiyaev's group was trained at Chechen rebel bases in the towns of Serzhen-Yurt and Urus-Martan, where the explosives were prepared. The group's "technical instructors" were two Arab field commanders, Abu Umar and Abu Djafar, and Al-Khattab was the bombings' brainchild.[38] Two members of Gochiyayev's group that carried out the attacks, Adam Dekkushev and Yusuf Crymshamhalov, have been sentenced to life term each in a special-regime colony.[39] According to FSB, Basayev and Al-Khattab masterminded the attacks.[40] Al-Khattab has been killed, but Gochiyaev remains a fugitive.

Although Basayev and Khattab denied responsibility, the Russian government blamed the Chechen government for allowing Basayev to use Chechnya as a base. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov denied any involvement in the attacks, and offered a crackdown on the renegade warlords, which Russia refused. Commenting on the attacks, Shamil Basayev said: "The latest blast in Moscow is not our work, but the work of the Dagestanis. Russia has been openly terrorizing Dagestan, it encircled three villages in the centre of Dagestan, did not allow women and children to leave."[37] Al-Khattab, who is reportedly close with Basayev, said the attacks were a response to what the Russians had done in Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi, two Dagestani villages where followers of the Wahhabi sect were living until the Russian army bombed them out.[41] A group called the Liberation army of Dagestan claimed responsibility for the apartment bombings.[41][42][43][44]

The new Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, famously promised a harsh crackdown on "Chechen terrorists": "We'll get them anywhere. If we find terrorists in the shithouse, then we'll waste them in the shithouse. That's all there is to it." By the end of September the Second Chechen War was underway.

Second Chechen War

Michael Radu of the Foreign Policy Research Institute said "Basayev managed to radically change the world’s perception of the Chechen cause, from that of a small nation resisting victimization by Russian imperialism into another outpost of the global jihad. In the process, he also significantly modified the very nature of Islam in Chechnya and Northern Caucasus, from a traditional mix of syncretism and Sufism into one strongly influenced by Wahhabism and Salafism—especially among the youth. With Wahhabism came expansionism."[45]


Basayev stayed in Grozny for the duration of the siege of the city. His threats of "kamikaze" attacks in Russia were widely dismissed as a bluff.


During the rebel withdrawal from Grozny in January 2000 Basayev lost a foot after stepping on a land mine while leading his men through a minefield. The operation to amputate his foot and part of his leg was videotaped by Adam Tepsurgayev and later televised by Russia's NTV network and Reuters, showing his foot being removed by Khassan Baiev[46] using a local anaesthetic while Basayev watched impassively.

Despite this injury, Basayev eluded Russian capture together with other rebels by hiding in forests and mountains. He welcomed assistance from foreign fighters from Afghanistan and other Islamic countries, encouraging them to join the Chechen cause. He also ordered the execution of nine Russian OMON prisoners on April 4, 2000; the men were killed because the Russians had refused to swap them for Yuri Budanov, an arrested army officer accused of raping and killing an 18-year-old Chechen girl.[47]

On August 27, Basayev challenged Vladimir Putin to a personal duel, saying "The choice of weapon we leave to you. I am not the best sportsman and you are not invalid. So do agree. It will be more useful and more economical to both our peoples, and for the rest of mankind." There was no official response from Putin.

In December, Basayev married his third wife. Among his wedding presents were reportedly three Russian POWs.[48]


According to the US State Department, Basayev trained in Al-Qaida's terrorist camps in Afghanistan in 2001. The US also alleges that Basayev and Khattab sent Chechens to serve in Al-Qaeda's "055" brigade, fighting alongside the Taleban against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.[49]

On June 2, 2001, it was reported General Gennady Troshev, then-commander-in-chief of Russian forces in Chechnya, had offered a bounty of one million dollars to anyone who would bring him the head of Basayev.

In August, Basayev commanded a large-scale raid on the Vedensky District. A deputy commander of Russian forces in Chechnya claimed Basayev was wounded in a firefight.[50]


In January 2002, Basayev's father, Salman, was reputedly killed by Russian forces.[51] This has not been independently confirmed. Shamil's younger brother, Shirvani, was reported killed by the Russians in 2000, but is, according to numerous accounts, actually living in exile in Turkey where he is involved in coordination of the activities of the diaspora.[citation needed]

In May, the Russian side declared Basayev "dead".[52] The Russian military had also made several claims about Basayev's alleged death in the past.

Around November 2, 2002, Basayev claimed on a rebel website that he was responsible for the Moscow theater hostage crisis (although the siege was led by Movsar Barayev) in which 50 Chechen rebels held about 800 people hostage; Russian forces later stormed the building using gas, killing the rebels and more than 100 hostages. Basayev also tendered his resignation from all posts in Maskhadov's government apart from the reconnaissance and sabotage battalion. He defended the operation but asked Maskhadov for forgiveness for not informing him of it.[citation needed] The answer to who was behind the hostage taking, however, is a not so clear – some dissidents claim, including Alexander Litvinenko, claim that the FSB was behind the Moscow theater incident.

On December 27, 2002, Chechen suicide bombers rammed vehicles into the republic's government headquarters in Grozny, bringing down the four-story building and killing about 80 people. Basayev claimed responsibility, published the video of the attack, and said he personally triggered the bombs by remote control.[53]


On May 12, 2003, suicide bombers rammed a truck loaded with explosives into a Russian government compound in Znamenskoye, northern Chechnya, killing 59 people. Two days later a woman got within six feet of Akhmad Kadyrov, the head of the Moscow-appointed Chechen administration, and blew herself up killing herself and 14 people; Kadyrov was unhurt. Basayev claimed responsibility for both attacks; Maskhadov denounced them.

From June until August 2003 Basayev lived in the town of Baksan in nearby Kabardino-Balkaria. Eventually, a skirmish took place between the rebels and policemen from Baksan, who came to check what turned out to be Basayev's safehouse. Basayev escaped, killing a local police official.

On August 8, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell designated Shamil Basayev a threat to U.S. security and citizens.

In late 2003, Basayev claimed responsibility for terrorist bombings in both Moscow and Yessentuki in Stavropol Krai. He said both attacks were carried out by the group operating under his command.[54]


Victims of the Beslan school attack

On May 9, 2004, the pro-Russian Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov was killed in Grozny in a bomb attack for which Basayev later claimed responsibility. That explosion killed at least six people and wounded nearly 60, including the top Russian military commander in Chechnya, who lost his leg; Basayev called it a "small but important victory".

Basayev was accused of commanding the June 21 raid on Nazran in the Russian republic of Ingushetia. In fact, he was shown in a video made of the raid, in which he led a large group of militants. Around 90 people died in this attack, mostly local servicemen and officials of the Russian security forces including the republic's acting Interior Minister. The Ministry building was burned down.

In September 2004 Basayev claimed responsibility for the Beslan school siege in which over 350 people, most of them children, were killed and hundreds more injured.[55] The Russian government put up a bounty of 300m rubles ($10m) for information leading to his capture.[56] Basayev himself did not participate in the seizure of the school, but claimed to have organized and financed the attack, boasting that the whole operation cost only 8,000 euros. On September 17, 2004, Basayev issued a statement claiming responsibility for the school siege, saying his Riyadus-Salihiin "Martyr Battalion" had carried out this and other attacks. In his message, Basayev described the Beslan massacre as a "terrible tragedy" and blamed it on Russian President Vladimir Putin.[57][58]

Basayev also claimed responsibility for the attacks against civilians during the previous week, in which a metro station in Moscow was bombed (killing 10 people), and two airliners were blown up by suicide bombers (killing 89 people).[55] Basayev dubbed these attacks "Operation Boomerang". He also said that during the Beslan crisis he offered Putin "independence in exchange for security".[59]


On February 3, 2005, UK's Channel 4 announced that it would air Basayev's interview. In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the broadcast could aid terrorists in achieving their goals and demanded that the Government of the United Kingdom call off the broadcast. The British Foreign Office replied that it could not intervene in the affairs of a private TV channel and the interview was aired as scheduled.[60] The same day, Russian media reported that Shamil Basayev had been killed;[61] it was the sixth such report about Basayev's demise since 1999.[61] In May 2005, Basayev reportedly claimed responsibility for the power outage in Moscow.[62] The BBC reported that the claim for responsibility was made on a web site connected to Basayev, but conflicted with official reports that sabotage was not involved.

Even though Basayev had a $10 million bounty on his head, he gave an interview to Russian journalist Andrei Babitsky in which he described himself as "a bad guy, a bandit, a terrorist ... but what would you call them?", referring to his enemies. Basayev stated each Russian had to feel war's impact before the Chechen war would stop. Basayev asked "Officially, over 40,000 of our children have been killed and tens of thousands mutilated. Is anyone saying anything about that? ... responsibility is with the whole Russian nation, which through its silent approval gives a 'yes'."[63] This interview was broadcast on U.S. television network ABC's Nightline program, to the protest of the Russian government; on August 2, 2005, Moscow banned journalists of the ABC network from working in Russia.[64]

On August 23, 2005, Basayev rejoined the Chechen separatist government, taking the post of first deputy chairman.[65] Later this year Basayev claimed responsibility for a raid on Nalchik, the capital of the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. The raid occurred on October 13, 2005; Basayev said that he and his "main units" were only in the city for two hours and then left. There were reports that he had died during the raid, but this was contradicted when the separatist website, Kavkaz Center, posted a letter from him.[citation needed]


In March 2006, Prime Minister of Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, claimed that upwards of 3,000 police officers were hunting for Basayev in the southern mountains.[66] On June 15, 2006, Basayev repeated his claim of responsibility for the bombing that killed Akhmad Kadyrov, saying he had paid $50,000 to those who carried out the assassination. He also said he had put a $25,000 bounty on the head of Ramzan, mocking the young Kadyrov in offering the smaller bounty.

On June 27, 2006, Shamil Basayev was made Ichkeria's Vice-President. On July 10, 2006, in his last statement at 1.06 pm Moscow time, Kavkaz Center quoted him as thanking the Mujahideen Shura Council for executing the three captured Russian diplomats in Iraq and calling it "a worthy answer to the murder by Russian terrorists from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation of the Chechen diplomat, ex-president of CRI, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev".


In July 2006, Basayev was killed near the border of North Ossetia in the village of Ali-Yurt, Ingushetia, a republic bordering Chechnya.[67]

According to the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor of Ingushetia, a group of three cars and two KAMAZ trucks (one pulling the other by a rope) gathered at the spot of an unfinished estate on the outskirts of the village in the early morning hours of 10 July.[68] According to a handful of witnesses, men in black uniforms came in and out from the wooded area adjacent to the estate that runs to the border of North Ossetia; the men were carrying boxes, shifting them from one vehicle to another, when a massive explosion resulted.[68]

It is believed that the partially completed estate, which contained empty new buildings, was being used as an insurgent reception and distribution point for large quantities of weapons purchased from abroad.[68] It is also believed that the most “anticipated” part of the incoming shipment was located in the KAMAZ trucks, but because one of them broke down the weaponry had to quickly be transferred into the cars.[68]

Basayev is assumed to have been the main recipient of the arms, and thus in charge of distributing them. With the back tailgate of one of the trucks open, Basayev allegedly asked that a mine be placed on the ground for inspection, at which point it exploded.[68] A South Ossetian forensic specialist who examined Basayev’s remains stated that, “The man…died of mine-blast injuries. The explosive device was quite powerful…and the victim was in close proximity to the epicenter. Most likely, the bomb lay on the ground, and the victim was bending over it.”[68]

According to explosives experts, Basayev was most likely a victim of careless handling of the mine, but it is also not out of the question that the FSB could have been involved - as they would claim in the aftermath of the detonation.[68] This could have happened if the shipment of weapons was seized and the smugglers detained; in forcing the captured smugglers to cooperate, an ordinary-looking anti-personnel mine rigged with an extra-sensitive fuse or radio-controlled detonator could have been inserted amongst the cargo.[68] The device almost certainly would have caused suspicion when discovered in the shipment, which might explain why Basayev stopped to inspect it, at that point triggering the explosion.[68] It was also not ruled out that an unknown FSB operative set off the blast by remote control, but in the event that this was indeed the case, it almost assuredly would not have been a “targeted” killing, as identifying Basayev in the dark – even with the aid of night-vision goggles – would have been exceedingly difficult.[68] Thus, experts have concluded that if it was a remote-controlled blast, it was intended to eliminate the weapons shipment and whoever the recipients were, rather than specifically Basayev.[68]

Basayev’s upper-torso was recovered at the epicenter of the blast, while smaller pieces of his remains were scattered over the distance of a mile.[68] Included among the smaller pieces was Basayev’s prosthetic lower right leg, which would lead FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev to confidently assert that Basayev was dead even before positive idenitification.[68]

Russian officials stated that the explosion was the result of a special targeted killing operation. According to the official version of Basayev's death, the FSB, following him with a drone, spotted his car approach a truck laden with explosives that the FSB had prepared, and by remote control triggered a detonator that the FSB had hidden in the explosives.[67][69][70]

Interfax, quoting Ingush Deputy Prime Minister Bashir Aushev, reported that the explosion was a result of a truck bomb detonated next to the convoy by Russian agents.[71] According to Russian Newsweek edition,[72] Basayev's death was a result of an FSB operation, whose primary aim was to prevent a planned terrorist attack in the days before the G8 summit in St Petersburg. The Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said: "He is a notorious terrorist, and we have very clearly and publicly announced what is going to happen to notorious terrorists who commit heinous crimes of the type Mr. Basayev has been involved in."[73]

On 29 December 2006, forensic experts positively identified Basayev's remains.[74] On 6 October 2007, Basayev was promoted to the rank of Generalissimo post mortem by Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov.[75]

Personal life

Basayev had four wives, a Chechen woman who was killed in the 1990s, an Abkhaz woman he met while fighting as a mercenary leader against Georgia, and a Cossack he was said to have married on Valentine’s Day, 2005.[76] A fourth secret wife, Elina Ersenoyeva, was apparently forced to marry Basayev, and subsequently hid the identity of her husband from her friends and family.[76] Following revelations about the marriage, Elina was abducted, allegedly by the Kadyrovtsy (pro-Kremlin Chechen forces). She has never been found.[76][77]

Book of a Mujahideen

Basayev wrote a book after the First Chechen War, Book of a Mujahideen. According to the introduction, in March 2003 Basayev obtained a copy of The Manual of the Warrior of Light by Paulo Coelho. He wanted to draw benefits to the Mujahideen from this book and decided to "rewrite most of it, remove some excesses and strengthen all of it with verses (ayats), hadiths and stories from the lives of the disciples." Some sections are specifically about ambush tactics, etc.


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