Update: This post refers to Shamil Basayev’s interview with Channel 4 news in February 2005. If you are coming to this post looking for news of Shamil Basayev’s ABC interview, check out my brief report here.
"In order to stop the genocide, we will stop at nothing."
These were the chilling words of Shamil Basayev in an interview broadcast less than an hour ago (but recorded in mid-January) on Channel 4 in England.
I’ve just sat through the Channel 4 broadcast, which showed edited excerpts from an hour-long interview. My first impressions are that, despite rumours of ill health, he looks in relatively good shape, although as he was seated this is hard to tell for sure. His mental health though, I’m not so sure. What, really, can you make of a man who talks impassively of the deaths of hundreds of children while sitting cradling a grenade launcher and wearing a shirt prominently displaying the logo "anti-terror"?
The basics of what he said were:
- Russia is to blame for the deaths of children in Beslan – troops firing flamethrowers caused the roof to collapse, he alleges. He was so naive as to be "shocked" by the outcome.
- All Russians are fair game in his war.
- His definition of "peaceful" people are those who do not pay taxes to pay for the war against Chechnya. I’m not sure who told him that Russian children pay taxes.
- He is planning more Beslan-style operations.
The interview may well have been timed to co-incide with yesterday’s unilateral announcement of a ceasefire by Chechen rebel President Aslan Maskhadov, an announcement which was quickly followed by an order from Basayev to his "troops" to observe Maskhadov’s ceasefire.
Finally, just before I click the post button, Channel 4 News has just reported that Russian State tv is broadcasting the news that Basayev has been killed. Probably they are just reporting the rumours emanating from Abkhazia today, but perhaps they have confirmation. Anyone out there in Russia know what they are saying?
Update: What are the blogs saying about it?
- Outside the Beltway worries that his comments may give Putin another excuse to rollback democracy.
- InTheBullpen points out that "children do not support a government, they just live under it".
- John Robb reckons that terroirists in Chechnya are innovative enough to follow al-Qaeda’s new thinking on global guerilla system disruption.
- Jihad Watch has a lively debate going on in the comments section. So does The Jawa Report.
- Chechnyawar says that Russia should not have called for Channel 4 not to screen the interview.
- Blind Mind’s Eye expresses the conflict that many feel – torn between disgust for terrorism, and revulsion for Russia’s heavy handed tactics in Chechnya.
- Flogging the Simian has a good, brief, roundup of the whole Chechnya situation, and the differences between Basayev and Maskhadov.
I’ll update this post with more reactions as they come in.