Skip to comments.Pro-Chechen group "planned bomb attack on Putin": Azeri minister
Posted on 10/16/2001 11:13:24 PM PDT by Pericles
Tuesday October 16, 11:40 PM
Pro-Chechen group "planned bomb attack on Putin": Azeri minister
BAKU, Oct 16 (AFP) - Suspected Chechen rebels led by an Iraqi national plotted a bomb attack against Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a visit to the Muslim republic of Azerbaijan earlier this year, the Azeri secret service chief revealed Tuesday.
The plot was foiled just days before Putin flew into Azerbaijan on January 8, Namig Abbassov, the Azeri minister for national security said in an interview published by an official newspaper.
It is the second time since Putin was elected in March last year that former Soviet secret services claimed to have foiled an assassination attempt against him.
According to Abbassov, Azeri intelligence received a tip-off that a plot against Putin was in the offing and arrested the Iraqi, also seizing a batch of explosives that had been smuggled into the country.
"Three or four months before the visit, we received information that during Vladimir Putin's visit certain forces in Azerbaijan would carry out a terrorist act against him," Abbassov told the Bakinsky Rabochii paper.
"About 10 days before the visit ... fearing that we would lose sight of the explosives, or that they would be passed on to a group we were not aware of, we arrested that person together with the explosives," he said.
Abbassov said the Iraqi, whom he named as Kyanan Rostam, had been tried for his role in the plot.
Local media reported last month that a Baku court had sentenced Rostam to 10 years in jail for a bomb plot against a visiting politician, but Tuesday's interview was the first time Putin had been named as the target.
Abbassov did not explicitly link the plot against Putin to rebel groups in the predominantly Muslim Russian republic of Chechnya, but earlier media reports said the Iraqi had fought with rebel fighters in Chechnya and the neighbouring republic of Dagestan and had spent time in a military training camp in Afghanistan.
They also said he was assembling the remote-controlled bomb to be used against Putin with help from several Chechen accomplices.
Putin's two-day visit to Azerbaijan passed off without incident and there was no public mention at the time of any assassination plot.
The Russian leader is popular at home for the ruthless way he has dealt with separatist fighters in Chechnya -- he once pledged that rebels would be "rubbed out in the toilet."
But his tough stance has earned him the hatred of many in Chechnya and other parts of the Islamic world.
In September last year security officials in Moscow and Kiev said four Chechens and several Middle Eastern nationals had been arrested in connection with a planned assassination attempt against Putin the previous month.
The group had planned to attack the Russian leader during a summit of the leaders of former Soviet republics in the resort town of Yalta, in southern Ukraine, a member of the Kremlin bodyguard said.
Tuesday's disclosure of the foiled plot in Azerbaijan seemed designed to bolster that country's reputation as being tough on terrorism in the light of the September 11 attacks on US cities.
Azerbaijan's leadership has promised to root out terrorism and offered its airspace to the US military for operations in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, the organisation blamed for the US attacks.
But the United States Congress has identified Azerbaijan as one of 34 states where al-Qaeda has a presence.
An Egyptian national thought to have been a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a group with close ties to al-Qaeda, was arrested in Azerbaijan last week and extradited to Egypt.
Meanwhile in Moscow there have long been suspicions that Azerbaijan, with or without official knowledge, is being used as a safe haven by Chechen separatist groups.
"If someone said today that in one part of the world or another there were no links with bin Laden or (prominent Chechen rebels) Khatab or Shamil Basayev, that would not be a serious statement," Abbassov said Tuesday.
But he added: "We have the overwhelming majority of people pursuing terrorist objectives on Azerbaijan's territory in our sights."
The plot thickens.
Actually, the more I think of it, the more I suspect that is the actual Iraqi link. Provoking a harsh U.S. response is definitely not in Saddam Hussein's interest, while it does serve bin Ladens's Islamist hope of uniting the Muslim world under a single theocratic Caliphate.