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Thursday, 30 September, 1999, 14:25 GMT
Khatab: Islamic revolutionary
Khattab's camp
Khatab's Chechen base: He has spent much time training other fighters
By regional analyst Tom de Waal

Unlike many of his Chechen comrades-in-arms the Arab fighter known as Khatab, "Emir Khatab" does not seek publicity.

But for one brief moment it seemed as though he might break his silence. It was last July in the Chechen capital Grozny outside the house of his close ally and fellow fighter Shamil Basayev.

Baseyev and Khattab
Khatab (right) is alled with the Chechen warlord Baseyev (left)
Khatab, who has a dark swarthy face and thick curly black hair down to his shoulders, spoke a few words of English and promised a short interview for the BBC. But a few minutes later he had disappeared.

Khatab is a professional Islamic revolutionary. The few facts known about him are as follows: he comes from the Bedouin region of north-west Saudi Arabia. The region he comes from borders Jordan and it's possible that Khatab spent some time in Jordan, alongside Jordanian Chechens, creating some confusion about his origins.

According to one Russian newspaper journalist who met him, Zamid Ayubov of Trud, Khattab comes from a wealthy family and spent some time at an American university, but then dropped out and moved to Pakistan.

Devastating ambush

There are reports that he is wanted by Interpol in connection with terrorist attacks on Israeli and French citizens. What is known is that he fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan and then moved to Chechnya in February 1995, bringing with him a small group of Arab fighters.

Aslan Maskhadov
President Maskhadov has tried to force Khatab out
It is possible that Khatab's arrival was arranged through the Saudi-Arabian based Islamic Relief Organisation, a militant religious organisation, funded by mosques and rich individuals which channelled funds into Chechnya.

It was Khatab who led the devastating ambush on a Russian armed column high in the mountains near Yaryshmardy in April 1996. Almost 100 soldiers were killed and there were demands in the State Duma for the Russian Defence Minister Pavel Grachev to resign because of it.

A grisly video of the attack was on sale in Grozny market filmed by one of the fighters. It showed Khatab walking down a line of blackened Russian tanks, pointing to dead Russian soldiers and shouting "Allah Akbar!"

International terrorist links

Since the end of the Chechen war Khatab resisted attempts by President Maskhadov's regime to force him to leave the region.

He set himself up in the Vedeno region of south-east Chechnya, where he befriended the local field commander Shamil Basayev and his younger brother Shirvani.

It was this alliance which exported the armed struggle across the border into the Botlikh region of Dagestan. Khatab is married to a Dagestani woman from the Islamic village of Karamakhi.

Khatab is certainly an Islamic radical - although Basayev when asked if his friend was a "Wahabist" responded "No, he is a Khatabist."

But he is not a political figure. He is a hardened fighter, who has spent most of his time in Chechnya training other fighters.

The danger he represents for moderate Chechens and Russians is that his wealth and connections may make his training base in Chechnya a centre for training international terrorists - something which will only deepen Chechnya's international isolation.
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