Basayev, Shamil Salmanovich


Basayev, Shamil Salmanovich
(1965–2006)
   Guerilla commander and terrorist. Born in a village in southeastern Chechnya, Basayev was named after the famed 19th-century military commander Imam Shamil. He was born to parents who, like all other contemporary Chechens, had been deported to Central Asia during World War II; they returned to Chechnya in the late 1950s. After a stint in the army as a firefighter, he spent several years in Moscow, studying and working as a salesman.
   In 1991, Basayev reportedly participated in demonstrations against the plotters of the August Coup. Later that year, he hijacked a Turkishbound Aeroflot plane to publicize the situation in Chechnya, returning to his homeland after the event. From there, he became a full-time insurgent leader, participating in the Georgian Civil War on the side of Abkhazia as a prominent member of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus. When the first Chechen War broke out, he quickly emerged as one of the country’s fiercest warlords, commanding significant numbers of fighters. In 1995, he led a raid on a hospital in Budyonnovsk, Stavropol Krai, that resulted in the deaths of 129 people. The Kremlin’s agreement to cease-fire talks in the negotiations was seen as turning point in the war over Chechnya.
   Following the Russian withdrawal in 1996, Basayev stood for president of the self-declared republic, finishing second after the more moderate Aslan Maskhadov. In the late 1990s, he gravitated toward radical Islamism and joined forces with the Arab-Circassian terrorist Ibn al-Khattab. Hoping to create a caliphate across the North Caucasus, the two led a raid into neighboring Dagestan in 1999, which along with a series of apartment bombings across Russia, precipitated the second Chechen War. For the next five years, Basayev planned and directed a series of terrorist attacks that made him the most feared man in Russia. He claimed to be behind the Nord-Ost theater siege in 2002 and the 2004 assassination of Akhmad Kadyrov, the sitting president of Chechnya. He also took responsibility for the planning of the Beslan crisis in 2004 and a raid on Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkariya, in 2005.
   Russian and Chechen authorities ultimately initiated a massive manhunt for Basayev. On 10 July 2006, he was killed in Ingushetiya; Russian officials claimed his death was the result of an FSB special operation. His remains were positively identified by forensic experts in December 2009.
   See also Soviet-afghan war.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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