Chechen Murders Go Global
The world was shocked in July by the murder of human rights activist Natalya Estemirova in Chechnya. Suspicions immediately focused on the Chechen Kremlin-backed strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, a frequent target of Estemirova's investigations. But Estemirova was just one of several critics of Kadyrov who has been murdered in recent months, and it appears that living abroad is no protection. In January, Kadyrov's former bodyguard, Umar Israilov, was fatally shot in Austria, where he was seeking asylum. Israilov had filed a complaint against Kadyrov in the European Court of Human Rights, accusing him of abductions and torture.
In March, an exiled former resistance fighter named Ali Osayev was murdered in Istanbul. This followed the killings of two other former Chechen rebel commanders in Istanbul in late 2008. All three murders were carried out with a similar weapon, according to police.
Also in March, Sulim Yamadayev, who commanded a rebel faction that competed with Kadyrov's, was murdered in Dubai. His brother Ruslan, once Kadyrov's rival for the Chechen presidency, was murdered in Moscow in September 2008. Interpol issued warrants for seven Russian citizens in connection with Sulim's murder, including a Duma representative from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.
Then there's the shadowy conflict within the North Caucasus region itself, which is anything but frozen. Although Kadyrov's repressive tactics have largely succeeded in pacifying Chechnya and the Kremlin issued a showy mission-accomplished declaration of the end of hostilities there in April, there are increasing fears that the republic's Islamist insurgency is spilling over into the surrounding region, with a wave of car bombings and assassinations in neighboring Ingushetia. The president of that wayward republic was badly wounded in an assassination attempt in June.
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