Russia detains top Caucasus rebel leader: official

9th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Wednesday detained a top militant described as the leader of rebels in its restive region of Ingushetia and blamed for a string of attacks in the Caucasus, the security service said.

The bearded Islamist -- known by his nom-de-guerre of Magas -- has already been brought to Moscow to face charges and his arrest marks a rare capture of a top militant, who are usually killed in shootouts.

"Today, the federal security services carried out a special operation during which one of the leaders of the North Caucasus rebel underground was arrested," said the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Alexander Bortnikov.

"His name is Taziyev or as he is known by his nom-de-guerre, Magas," he told President Dmitry Medvedev in a televised meeting.

Magas was linked to several major militant strikes in the Northern Caucasus, including an assassination attempt that severely wounded Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov in June 2009, Bortnikov said.

The FSB said in a statement, cited by Russian news agencies, that Taziyev was one of the leaders of the main Caucasus militant group called The Caucasus Emirate.

It said he stood accused of "organising and participating in an armed rebellion with the goal of overthrowing the Russian regime."

The militant, whose full name is Ali Taziyev, was one of the masterminds of a 2004 attack on Ingushetia that killed around 70 people and wounded another 100, according to police.

Madina Khadziyeva, a spokeswoman for Ingushetia's interior ministry, said Taziyev was a local policeman in late 1990s until he suddenly disappeared from view.

"He disappeared under unclear circumstances, was kidnapped," she told AFP. "Since then, he had been considered missing."

Khadziyeva said Taziyev was born in 1974, without specifying his age. "He used to live in Nazran (Ingushetia's biggest city) and was an ordinary guy," she added.

Bortnikov said he had been on the authorities' wanted list since 2004.

As well as the attack on Yevkurov, he was blamed for blowing up passenger buses in the Stavropol region near Ingushetia and kidnappings of relatives of Yevkurov's predecessor Murat Zyazikov.

Russian television broadcast footage showing the bearded militant being detained by the country's security services, his head pushed in the dirt and then taken by plane to Moscow accompanied by a masked federal agent.

The FSB confirmed he had been brought to Moscow to face charges and television pictures showed the handcuffed militant being taken to his prison cell.

"This is a good result for the operation," said Medvedev, who has called violence in the North Caucasus Russia's single most serious domestic problem. "Please pass my congratulations to the forces who took part in it and propose awards for them if you feel it right," he said.

Yevkurov himself told RIA Novosti that "Taziyev is not a leader but a rabid dog, who murders his own people. His arrest means one dog less."

The pro-Kremlin authorities in Ingushetia, like other mainly Muslim regions of Russia's Northern Caucasus, have been seeking to quell an Islamist insurgency over the past years that has claimed scores of lives.

The roots of the conflict go back to the wars fought in neighbouring Chechnya in the past decade.

In March Russian forces said they had killed another top rebel, Alexander Tikhomirov, who was a close associate of Chechen separatist chief Doku Umarov.

© 2010 AFP

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