Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov killed

Wed 9 Mar 2005

The Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov was killed on 8 March in a battle with Russian special forces north of Grozny. The 53-year-old was believed to have been hiding in a bunker under a building when it came under attack from the FSB. The head of the Russian security service FSB, the successor to the Soviet KGB, Nikolai Patrushev, was shown on national television informing President Vladimir Putin of the death of Maskhadov, who led Chechen forces to victory over Russia in the 1990s before being elected president of the mountainous Caucasus region. Russia’s NTV network also broadcast footage of the body of a man it identified as Maskhadov. Chechen police confirmed that he had been killed.

Maskhadov’s apparent death marks a major success for the Russian President, who has built his power largely on a tough line against the Chechen rebels. But Chechen rebels said that the fight against Russian rule would go on. "The resistance will continue, no doubt about it," Akhmed Zakayev, a longtime ally and spokesman of Maskhadov, said in London.

Moscow blames Maskhadov for a string of deadly attacks in Russia, including a rebel attack on a school in the south Russian town of Beslan in which at least 326 hostages - half of them children - died. But Maskhadov himself denied any involvement in those attacks and condemned the Beslan siege as an "outrage" and "blasphemy". Chechen officials instead blamed his extremist rival in the resistance, Shamil Basayev. Maskhadov put Mr Basayev in charge of Chechen military operations in August 2002, but has since been seen as unable to control him.

Recently, Maskhadov had called for talks with Moscow on the Chechens’ demands for independence, but the Kremlin insisted that it would not negotiate with terrorists.