Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs

Definition: the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. (Computer Definition)
An act of terrorism is usually directed against the public; otherwise, if directed against military, it may be counted as an act of war.

The Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs (RSRSBCM) is a terrorist, separatist organization based in Chechnya, Russia. The RSRSBCM is most definitely a terrorist organisation because it uses violence and intimidation against the public for ideological and political purposes. The RSRSBCM’s major operations have included the Beslan School in 2004 and the Gronzy bus bombings in 2002.
The group was founded in 2002 with intent of terrorising the Russian occupants of Chechnya and gaining independence for the state from Russia. Russia established direct control of the state in May 2000 as a result of a full-scale offensive during the Second Chechen War. The leader or amir of the group, Shamil Basayev, was killed in 2006, though their last major operation was the Beslan School Massacre in 2004. The Chechen Martyrs are largely inactive now due to the annihilation that they received after the Beslan Massacre. Thirty-one of the thirty two terrorists that were present at Beslan were killed when the Russian military stormed the school, since the Chechen Martyrs only had about two hundred to three hundred hard-core members, this was a major dent in there size. As of 2009, the bulk of the Chechen resistance was destroyed and, on the 16th of April, the Russian government ceased the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya.
Shamil Basayev - 1999

What are their goals?
The main aim of The Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs is to secure total and unconditional independence of the state Chechnya from Russia rule. This has been the RSRSBCM’s primary goal since it was established and, according to the RSRSBCM, every terrorist operation that they have carried out has been in pursuit of this goal. This goal, and the formation of the RSRSBCM, is the result of a long history between Russia and Chechnya. After the fall of the USSR in 1991, the autonomous republic of Chechnya-Ingush split into the Republic of Ingushetia and Republic of Chechnya. The Republic of Chechnya changed its name to the Chechen Republic of Ickheria and sought independence from Russia. This resulted in the First Chechen War, from which Chechnya gained unofficial independence in 1996.
This independence was not to last and in 1999, Russia launched an offensive against the separatist area of Chechnya, re-instating Russian control. However, this control was unstable and greatly opposed by the Chechen separatists. The fighting between Russian military and Chechen separatists continued until April 2009, when Russia officially ended their “counter-terrorism operation” in Chechnya. The RSRSBCM was one of many terrorist organizations born out of these conflicts.
Chechnya (in red) on a map of the Russian Federation

What methods do they use to achieve their goals?
The RSRSBCM have always operated as an undercover group that uses guerrilla warfare to achieve their goals. It seems their favoured method to get the message of their cause known, and to have their demands met, is hostage taking. Over the four years from their formation in 2002 to the death of their leader, Shamil Basayev, in 2006, the RSRSBCM were involved in two major hostage crises, one at a school and the other, a theatre. Before their official formation, future members and Basayev were also involved in another major hostage crisis at a hospital. Between these three hostage situations alone, a total of over 587 people were killed and at least a further 1883 injured.
It was widely believed that Basayev and the RSRSBCM had al-Qa’eda connections and received funding from Osama Bin Laden. However, Basayev refuted these beliefs when he said, “I have not met Bin Laden. I received no money from him, but I would not have declined the offer.”
The RSRSBCM also use suicide bombing and plane hijacking as other instruments to achieve their goals. These methods are advantageous to their cause because they can be carried out on a small scale but with widespread consequences. Governments are also less inclined to “sacrifice” the lives of civilians than those of military personnel. This means that governments are more likely to try and meet the demands set by terrorists if the terrorists are known to harm or kill civilians.

What major terrorist operations have they been involved in?
The most internationally noticed operation carried out by the RSRSBCM was the Beslan School Massacre 2004. Thirty-two armed militants took over 1000 people (including more than 777 children) hostage at School Number One (SNO) in Beslan on the 1st of September 2004, and held them in the school gymnasium. The gym was then rigged with improvised explosives and tripwires. The terrorists demanded an end to the Second Chechen War and a withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya.
The terrorists executed many of the hostages. One man was killed after repeating the instruction of “speak Russian” to everyone else in the gym, in Ossetic. The terrorists also picked out 15-20 of the strongest males (fathers, teachers and school employees) who they thought could be a threat and executed them with a bomb and bullets. It is also claimed that during this bomb blast, two of the hostage takers were also killed, because they disagreed with the taking of child-hostages. The remaining hostages were then forced to move the bodies and wipe the blood off the floor.
While negotiations were held, they prove predominately ineffective, as the terrorists did not allow in medical supplies, food and water or for the bodies of the dead to be removed. However, on the second day the terrorists did allow twenty-six of the hostages (children and nursing women) to leave as well as presenting to the negotiator a video, which they had made in the school, and a note with the demands of Basayev.

“From Allah's slave Shamil Basayev to President Putin.
Vladimir Putin, it wasn't you who started this war. But you can finish it if you have enough courage and determination of de Gaulle. We offer you a sensible peace based on mutual benefit by the principle—independence in exchange for security. In case of troops withdrawal and acknowledgement of independence of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, we are obliged not to make any political, military, or economic treaties with anyone against Russia, not to accommodate foreign military bases on our territory even temporarily, not to support and not to finance groups or organizations carrying out a military struggle against RF, to be present in the united ruble zone, to enter CIS. Besides, we can sign a treaty even though a neutral state status is more acceptable to us. We can also guarantee a renunciation of armed struggle against RF by all Muslims of Russia for at least 10 to 15 years under condition of freedom of faith. We are not related to the apartment bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, but we can take responsibility for this in an acceptable way.
The Chechen people is leading a nation-liberating struggle for its freedom and independence, for its self-protection rather than for destruction or humiliation of Russia. We offer you peace, but the choice is yours.

Allahu Akbar
30 August”

The crisis continued for three days until Russia military stormed the school. On the 3rd of September, two bomb explosions were heard in the gymnasium and at approximately 1:05pm, a fire started in the roof of the gym. The flames of the fire, and the collapsing of the roof as a result of it, killed approximately 160 hostages. The cause of said fire, and subsequent storming of the school by Russian forces, is a matter of some debate with almost 10 different accounts, all verified by various hostages, witnesses, hostage-takers and police. However, it is known that Russian forces stormed the school shortly after the explosions and it is believed that thirty-one of the thirty-two terrorists were killed and one, taken prisoner.

Footage of the Beslan School Masacre, a video made by the terrorists themselves.

Basayev's speech, in regard to the Beslan operation, may be fond at this link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3665136.stm

The RSRSBCM was also responsible for the 2002 Truck Bombings in Gronzy. On the 27th of December several Chechen suicide bombers drove trucks into the government headquarters in the Chechen capital, Gronzy. The trucks were loaded with an equivalent of one ton of dynamite and completely destroyed the four-story, government building. 83 people were killed and more than 200 were injured. Basayev claimed responsibility for the attack saying that he personally detonated the bombs via remote control.
The third major attack that the RSRSBCM has carried out was the Moscow Theatre Hostage Crisis in 2002. On the 23rd of October 2002, 40-50 terrorists, led by Movsar Barayev, took 850 people hostage in a theatre, demanding the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya and thus, the end of the Second Chechen War. The siege went for two and a half days until Russian Special Forces stormed the building. The Russian military started by pumping an unknown chemical agent into the theatre’s ventilation system, to subdue the assailants, then they began the physical assault. At least 33 terrorists and 129 hostages were killed, though it is thought that all but one of the hostages died as a result of gas poisoning.The following is from a videotaped statement of the gunmen during the siege at the theatre.
Every nation has the right to their fate. Russia has taken away this right from the Chechens and today we want to reclaim these rights, which Allah has given us, in the same way he has given it to other nations. Allah has given us the right of freedom and the right to choose our destiny. And the Russian occupiers have flooded our land with our children's blood. And we have longed for a just solution. People are unaware of the innocent who are dying in Chechnya: the sheikhs, the women, the children and the weak ones. And therefore, we have chosen this approach. This approach is for the freedom of the Chechen people and there is no difference in where we die, and therefore we have decided to die here, in Moscow. And we will take with us the lives of hundreds of sinners. If we die, others will come and follow us—our brothers and sisters who are willing to sacrifice their lives, in Allah's way, to liberate their nation. Our nationalists have died but people have said that they, the nationalists, are terrorists and criminals. But the truth is Russia is the true criminal.”
In regard to the theatre crisis Basayev also stated that, “People without any demands, who will not be taking anyone hostage, will come next time.”

Photo showing several of the responsible terrorists during the Moscow Theatre Siege, on the far right is Movsar Barayez who led the attack

The RSRSBCM were also directly and indirectly involved in the following.
• August 2004 – suicide bombers destroyed two airliners leaving Moscow, 89 died.
• August 2004 – suicide bomber killed 10 outside Moscow metro.

Perhaps Basayev’s most damaging attack before the formation of the RSRSBCM was the hospital siege in Budyonnovsk in 1995. Basayev led a group of 80-150 separatists into the town of Budyonnovsk and at approximately noon on the 14th of June, they stormed the police station, city hall and government offices. Several hours later, when Russian reinforcements arrived, the terrorists retreated to a different district and captured a hospital there with between 1500 – 1800 hostages. In this case, the terrorists’ demands were an end to the First Chechen War and the beginning of direct negotiations with Chechen Separatist leaders. A ceasefire was agreed after an attempt to storm the hospital by Russian forces resulted in the deaths of many hostages, and 227 hostages were released. The Human Rights Advisor to the then President, Sergey Kovalyov described the scene:
"In half an hour the hospital was burning, and it was not until the next morning that we found out what happened there as a result of this shooting. I saw with my own eyes pieces of human flesh stuck to the walls and the ceiling and burned corpses..."

Hostages being released from the Budyonnovsk hospital

These attacks on civilians are the reason that the RSRSBCM is a terrorist group. The RSRSBCM cannot simply be called a military organisation fighting for their cause; for this would mean that their attacks were acts of war. As soon as an intentional attack is made against civilians, for the purpose of ideological or political achievement, the perpetrators can be classed as terrorists.

Where do they fit in today’s world?
The Chechen fight for independence has faded to the point of almost total non-existence. While there are still those with separatist views and sympathy for the separatist cause, the RSRSBCM has not been involved in a terrorist attack since the Beslan operation. Perhaps this is the result of the severe losses that they received after the Russian forces stormed the school, or maybe it is because the separatists realised that their attempts were destined to fail. Either way the current official status of Chechnya is a republic that is part of the Russian Federation. Though there does still exist an exiled separatist government, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, which is mainly based in parts of Western Europe and some Arab nations, the government is recognised to have any form of authority except by itself. Basayev, the RSRSBCM’s leader, was killed on the 10th of July 2006 and on the 16th of April, 2009, the Russian government declared an end to their “counter-terrorism operation” in Chechnya.

Basayev quotes: his explanation of actions taken by the RSRSBCM:
"Officially, over 40,000 of our children have been killed and tens of thousands mutilated. Is anyone saying anything about that? ... responsibility is with the whole Russian nation, which through its silent approval gives a 'yes'."

"The Chechen nation is involved in the national liberation struggle for its freedom and independence and for its preservation."

"Russia is the last empire: it is built on blood."

Second Chechen War crimes and terrorism [Internet].
Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Chechen_War_crimes_and_terrorism> [Accessed 13th May 2009]

Second Chechen War [Internet]. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Chechen_War> [Accessed 13th May 2009]

Beslan school hostage crisis [Internet]. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beslan_school_hostage_crisis> [Accessed 13th May 2009]

The Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=1330&from_page=../index.cfm> [Accessed 13th May 2009]

Beslan School Hostage Crisis [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4WOGMlBG_M> [Accessed 13th April 2009]

BESLAN HOSTAGE OPERATION MUJAHIDEEN VIDEO 1 [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b34GCpCS7Ds&feature=related> [Accessed 13th May 2009]

Movsar Barayev [Internet]. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movsar_Barayev> [Accessed 15th May 2009]

Aslan Maskhadov [Internet]. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aslan_Maskhadov> [Accessed 18th May 2009]

Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs [Internet]. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riyadus_Salihiin> [Accessed 18th May 2009]

Behind the Moscow Theater Siege [Internet]. Availabel from: <http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,383909,00.html> [Accessed 20th May 2009]

2002 Grozny truck bombing [Internet]. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Grozny_suicide_bombing> [Accessed 20th May 2009]

Shamil Basayev [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1523549/Shamil-Basayev.html> [Accessed 20th May 2009]

Obituary: Shamil Basayev [Internet]. Available from: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4727935.stm> [Accessed 20th May 2009]

Chechen warlord claims theatre attack [Internet]. Available from: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2388857.stm> [Accessed 20th May 2009]

Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Budyonnovsk_hospital_hostage_crisis> [Accessed 21st May 2009]

Moscow theater hostage crisis [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Moscow_theater_hostage_crisis> [Accessed 21st May 2009]

Beslan school hostage crisis [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Beslan_school_hostage_crisis> [Accessed 21st May 2009]

Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis [Internet]. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budyonnovsk_hospital_hostage_crisis> [Accessed 21st May 2009]

Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.investigativeproject.org/profile/159> [Accessed 22nd May 2009]

The Chechen Separatist Movement [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.cfr.org/publication/11121/#8> [Accessed 22nd May 2009]

Chechnya becomes a part of Russia [Internet]. Available from: <http://www.kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2008/09/23/10186.shtml> [Accessed 24th May 2009]

Chechnya [Internet]. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chechnya> [Accessed 24th May 2009]

Post-Soviet states [Internet]. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-Soviet_states> [Accesses 24th May 2009]

Government in exile [Internet]. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_in_exile> [Accessed 24th May 2009]

Russia 'ends Chechnya operation’ [Internet]. Available from: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8001495.stm> [Accessed 24th May 2009]

Soviet union [Internet]. Available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Union> [Accessed 25th May 2009]