Medvedev, Chechnya and Hamas

Russian President Reaches Out to Hamas despite Links between Chechen and Palestinian Terror Groups

As indirect peace talks take off between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said this week that Iran-backed Hamas should play a role in the peace process.[1] Medvedev made the announcement May 12, a day after meeting in Damascus with Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal.[2]

Russia’s overtures to Hamas come despite Israel’s support for Russian counterterrorism operations against Chechen separatist groups.[3] Expressing disappointment over Russia’s behavior, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, “Just as Israel unconditionally supported Russia in her struggle against Chechen terror, we expect equal treatment in our struggle against Hamas.”[4]

Chechen terrorists share some of the basic jihadist goals and characteristics of their Palestinian counterparts such as Hamas. For years, Chechnya-based terrorist groups have attacked Russian civilian and military targets, killing thousands. Similarly, Hamas and other Iran-backed Palestinian organizations launched a years-long campaign of bombings and rocket and missile attacks against Israelis. Carrying out suicide bombings against civilians is also a tactic common to both groups.[5]

Russia, along with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, is a member of the Middle East Quartet, the international body involved in brokering a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.[6] Russia is also part of the “P5+1,” the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany negotiating with Iran to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons.[7]

Iran trains, arms and funds Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States, Israel, Canada and Australia.[8] Russia, however, has not labeled Hamas a terrorist organization.[9]

Following is background on ties between Chechen and Palestinian terrorist groups.

  • Iran-backed Hamas has expressed ideological solidarity with Chechen terrorists. For example, Hamas distributed a poster inside a propaganda CD juxtaposing headshots of former Chechen terrorist leaders Ibn al-Khattab and Shamil Basayev alongside those of former Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.[10] Basayev claimed responsibility for the 2004 Beslan school massacre, in which 186 children and about 150 other hostages were killed.[11]

  • Another image of Chechen terrorist leader Al-Khattab, killed by Russian authorities in 2002, appears on a CD that Hamas distributed. The text says of al-Khattab, “Oh hero, who disappeared from the land of jihad, your eyes covered with a tearful veil of dreams. Allah relieved you of [life in] a time when everything is upside down…”[12]

  • A CD titled “The Russian Hell” that Hamas distributed at two West Bank universities and a Hamas-linked orphanage shows footage of fighting in Chechnya and a jihadist sermon.[13] Comments in the CD include a statement that “fire awaits [the Russian soldiers] in the next world, and the Chechens in this world,” and Chechen rebels are called “jihad warriors.”[14]

  • The Israel Defense Forces in 2005 found a brochure supporting Chechen separatism titled “Chechnya: an excellent people and their hopes,” inside a Hamas “Islamic club” in the West Bank. The back of the brochure displays an image of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem above a picture of Chechen fighters, along with text that states, “From Al-Aqsa to Grozny [the capital of Chechnya], darkness disperses and dawn rises.” The brochure’s introduction encourages the Palestinians’ “brothers” in Chechnya to “follow the path of jihad.” The brochure also includes an article by a Hamas-affiliated professor of Islamic law justifying Chechen terrorism.[15]

  • A jihadist Web site mainly focused on Palestinian militancy and likely produced by Hamas – “AqsaTube” – featured a video of the life of former Chechen terrorist leader al-Khattab. A Russian Internet company began hosting the site after it was removed by a French company that had previously hosted it.[16]

  • Hamas’ official Web site posted a fatwa (religious edict) authored by a Chechen-Muslim cleric justifying suicide bombings alongside similar fatwas by Arab-Muslim clerics.[17]

  • The spokesman of the Abu Rish Brigades, a Fatah splinter group that has collaborated with Hamas, said, “Our banner is jihad everywhere, even Chechnya. Our aim is to liberate every piece of land in Palestine, including what is now called Israel.”[18]

  • Asbat al-Ansar, a Lebanon-based terrorist group connected with Palestinian terrorist Munir Maqdah who has said the group is ideologically similar to Hamas,[19] has dispatched fighters to Chechnya. In 2000, two terrorists from the group – one of whom was Palestinian and said he was “sacrificing himself for Chechnya”– attacked the Russian embassy in Beirut using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), killing a Lebanese police officer.[20]

  • At the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000, Chechen terrorist leader Basayev offered to send 150 Chechen mujahedeen (holy warriors) to Palestine to assist with jihadist activities there. He subsequently offered to pay $1,000 to the families of Palestinian “martyrs.” Said Basayev, “The Sharia (Islamic law) requires us to assist those Muslims who are struggling to free the sacred places of Islam—the city of al-Quds [Jerusalem] and the al-Aqsa Mosque. Those belong to all Muslims, regardless of their nation or ethnic group. It is a clear duty of all Muslims to help the Palestinians." Basayev also said the Russian army “had Jews in military ranks both as soldiers and engineers.”[21] “We ask Allah to destroy the heartless Jews and their allies,” Basayev said.[22]

  • Chechen separatists and Palestinian terrorists have at times shared common sources of funding. For example, in 2001 Egyptian authorities arrested a popular Muslim cleric who raised about $1 million distributed to various terrorist groups, including Hamas as well as Chechen fighters. Said a lawyer for another suspect in the case, “The government says this is not just for families or social aid, but was buying weapons for jihad, for Hamas and for Chechnya.”[23]

  • In 2000, then-Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin likened the goals of Chechen separatists to Palestinian terrorists when he addressed a Hamas rally in Gaza in support of Chechen rebel groups. About 200 Hamas activists showed up to the demonstration. At about the same time, Israeli newspapers reported that Hamas had planned to bomb a Jerusalem high-rise apartment in an attempt to emulate a 1999 Chechen attack on a Moscow apartment building.[24]


Footnotes:

[1] Ravid, Barak, “Israel to Russia: Hamas is like the Chechen terrorists,” Haaretz, May 12, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-to-russia-hamas-is-like-the-chechen-terrorists-1.289918

[2] “Medvedev to Hamas: Work quickly for Shalit deal,” Haaretz, May 11, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/medvedev-to-hamas-work-quickly-for-shalit-deal-1.289668

[3] Bourtman, Ilya, “Putin and Russia’s Middle Eastern Policy,” Middle East Review of International Affairs, June 2006, http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2006/issue2/jv10no2a1.html

[4] Ravid, Barak, “Israel to Russia: Hamas is like the Chechen terrorists,” Haaretz, May 12, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-to-russia-hamas-is-like-the-chechen-terrorists-1.289918

[5] “Hamas terrorist attacks,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 22, 2004, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terror+Groups/Hamas+terror+attacks+22-Mar-2004.htm; IDF Spokesperson’s Unit communiqué, Jan. 3, 2009; “Female suicide bombers blamed in Moscow subway attacks,” CNN, March 29, 2010, http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/03/29/russia.subway.explosion/index.html

[6] “Russia rebuffs Israeli rebuke over open relations with Hamas,” Reuters via Haaretz, May 13, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/russia-rebuffs-israeli-rebuke-over-open-relations-with-hamas-1.290241

[7] Sturdee, Simon, “World powers discuss Iran as sanctions pressure grows,” AFP, Sept. 2, 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g0V4v_KwXli-4rmoRMCcWFdszrMA

[8] "Council Decision," Council of the European Union, Dec. 21, 2005; "Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)," U.S. Department of State Web site, Oct. 11, 2005, http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/fs/37191.htm; Wilson, Scott, "Hamas Sweeps Palestinian Elections, Complicating Peace Efforts in Mideast," The Washington Post , Jan. 27, 2006, accessed Jan. 18, 2006,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/26/AR2006012600372.html; Public Security and Emergency Preparedness Canada, National Security, Listed entities, accessed Jan. 18, 2007, http://www.psepc.gc.ca/prg/ns/le/cle-en.asp#hhi18; "Listing of Terrorist Organisations," Australian Government Web site, May 24, 2007, http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/agd/www/nationalsecurity.nsf/AllDocs/95FB057CA3DECF30CA256FAB001F7FBD?OpenDocument

[9] “Terrorist Organization Profile: Hamas,” National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, http://www.start.umd.edu/start/data/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=49, accessed May 14, 2010

[10] “Russian president invites Hamas to Moscow,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Feb. 10, 2006, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/html/final/eng/eng_n/html/hamas_moscow_e.htm

[11] Osborn, Andrew, “Russians claim killing of rebel Basayev, the Beslan butcher,” The Independent (UK), July 11, 2006; “Putin meets angry Beslan mothers,” BBC News, Sept. 2, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4207112.stm

[12] “The Internet and terrorism: a week after AqsaTube was removed from the Internet, it returned in a similar format and with support from a Russian company,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Oct. 22, 2008, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/mt_e005.htm

[13] “Russian president invites Hamas to Moscow,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Feb. 10, 2006, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/html/final/eng/eng_n/html/hamas_moscow_e.htm

[14] Nahmias, Roee, “What Putin doesn’t know about Hamas,” YnetNews, Feb. 10, 2006, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3214119,00.html

[15] “Shamil Basayev, leader of the Chechen separatists and responsible for the Beslan school massacre, was killed by the Russian security forces.His organization is identified with Al-Qaeda and the global jihad. Hamas identifies with and is inspired by Chechen separatist ideology,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, July 19, 2006, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_ch_e.htm

[16] “The Internet and terrorism: a week after AqsaTube was removed from the Internet, it returned in a similar format and with support from a Russian company,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Oct. 22, 2008, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/mt_e005.htm; Thorold, Crispin, “Jihad website AqsaTube goes offline,” BBC News, Oct. 15, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7672162.stm

[17] “Hamas identifies with and supports Chechen and international Islamic terrorism on CDs found in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories. The CDs are distributed by Hamas to Palestinian youth in various educational institutions,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, September 2004, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia//ENGLISH/GLOBAL%20JIHAD/PDF/SEP9_04.PDF

[18] Levitt, Matthew, “Putin’s New Friends: Moscow Hosts Hamas,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, March 19, 2007, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/print.php?template=C06&CID=1038; “Terrorist Organization Profile: Abu al-Rish Brigades,” National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, http://www.start.umd.edu/start/data/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=4664, accessed May 12, 2010

[19] Abedin, Mahan, “Ein Al-Hilweh: A fruitless search for al-Qaeda,” Asia Times Online, Jan. 7, 2010, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LA07Ak02.html

[20] Murphy, Paul J. (2004), The wolves of Islam: Russia and the faces of Chechen terror, Dulles, Va.: Brassey’s Inc., p. 213; Fisk, Robert, “Chechen allies open fire on Russian embassy in Beirut,” The Independent (UK), Jan. 24, 2000, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/chechen-allies-open-fire-on-russian-embassy-in-beirut-727331.html

[21] McGregor, Andrew, “Distant Relations: Hamas and the Mujahideen of Chechnya,” The Jamestown Foundation, http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=3166

[22] Riebling, Mark; Eddy, R.P., “Jihad@Work,” National Review Online, Oct. 24, 2002, http://old.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-riebling102402.asp

[23] Schneider, Howard, “Egypt Steps Up Prosecutions Of Fundraisers for Militants; Now in Military Court, Scholar May Face Death Penalty,” The Washington Post, Nov. 12, 2001, accessed via Lexis-Nexis

[24] Copans, Laurie, “Reports: Palestinian militants mimicked Chechen bombings in planned attack,” AP, Feb. 23, 2000, accessed via Lexis-Nexis; Bhattacharji, Preeti, “Backgrounder: Chechen Terrorism (Russia, Chechnya, Separatist),” Council on Foreign Relations, April 8, 2010, http://www.cfr.org/publication/9181/chechen_terrorism_russia_chechnya_separatist.html?breadcrumb=/publication/by_type/backgrounder

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s