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Friday, September 10, 2004


A tape that the murderers made in Beslan has been released. An account in the Independent describes it as a minute long pan showing the hostages in the gym, and the bombs strung up on the basketball hoops.

It seems to LI that the disaster of last Friday was fatally bound up with the way the murderers strung the bombs. It was as simple as that. In an overheated school with 1,200 prisoners and dissension among the murderers themselves, there was every chance of accident. The point at issue, in the media, was whether the Security forces responded too hastily to the initial explosions heard in the school. Yet given the circumstances, it is hard to see how the crisis could have proceeded to a peaceful settlement, given the criminal nature of the terrorists, the lies of the government, and the fury of the inhabitants of Beslan. Reports from the survivors claim that when the murderers disagreed among themselves, some were even murdered by the chief.

There are two different interpretations that have immediately latched onto the murder of, according to Gazeta.ru, 600 people. One is the official line, which is spoken by Putin: the terrorists were composed of Arabs as well as Chechens, showing that Al Qaeda was behind the taking of the school. The other is that the murderers were a group composed of the usual ethnic mix of Basaev’s militia. The latter school blames everything on Putin’s policy in Chechnya.

LI believes this, from what we have read so far: when a war is fought that employs the scorched earth tactics that the Russians have employed in Chechnya since 1999, it changes the composition of the resisting force in an almost Darwinian fashion. Moderates are selected out by the very intensity and scope of the fighting. This happened, for instance, in Cambodia in 1970 – the U.S. forces, which attacked with random bombing the communist sanctuaries in Cambodia, aiding the government that had deposed Sihanouk, picked off those groups that were adverse to the hardcore Khmer Rouge. The latter were as hostile to the Vietnamese communists as they were to the Americans. Villages that were bombed provided sources of manpower and rage for the Khmer Rouge, which gained in power only after that incursion, and those bombings, occurred.

Similarly, the destruction of Chechnya has no doubt played into the hands of Basaev and strengthened that network that relies on contacts between diaspora Chechens and terrorist militias like Al Qaeda.

However, the proof that Al Qaeda had a hand in the Beslan crime is only inferential. If the school, as has been reported, was so infiltrated this summer by undercover terrorists that they were able to bury arms under the floor of the school, that is the kind of preparatory work that sounds very much in the Al Qaeda vein. On the other hand, Basaev has learned a lot about murdering over the last decade, and he has been spectacularly successful at it in the last year.

One should also never estimate the purely criminal element involved here. The thieve’s world is a real world, with a top – which has gone on to own most of Russia’s industries – and a bottom, which has joined, for one motive or another, numerous bands.

If readers can get it, read the London Times article by Loretta Napoleoni about the Al Qaeda connection. Two grafs:

“In the early 1990s the Northern Alliance -then funded by the Russians -blocked the advance of the Taleban. To weaken the coalition of warlords from the North, al-Qaeda and its Muslim sponsors decided to force the Russians to fight on a new front by fostering a conflict in the Caucasus: the fight for independence in Chechnya provided the golden opportunity.
The Chechen Islamist guerrilla groups were then weak and poorly funded; bin Laden and his network of sponsors strengthened them militarily and financially. In 1994, some Islamist elements in Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, began nurturing Shamil Basayev, a young Chechen fighter. Trained and indoctrinated in the Amir Muawia camp, near Khost in Afghanistan, Basayev returned to Chechnya to form the first army of Chechen jihad.”

It is a source of continuous amazement, to LI, that America’s alliance with Pakistan causes no comment in the press whatsoever. The evidence continues to mount that if there was one state, pre 9/11, that was devoting its resources to international terrorism, it was the state into which we have poured six billion dollars since 9/11.

As for our other ally: “Veterans of the anti-Soviet jihad soon arrived in Chechnya, among them the Jordanian-born Khattab (a pseudonym), whom Basayev had met and befriended in Pakistan. Khattab was close to bin Laden and his network of financiers and administered the money. In 1995, a Saudi charity funded his journey to Chechnya, together with several training camps, while bin Laden contributed $25million towards the jihad in Chechnya.”

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