Chechen leader with Al Qaida ties assassinated in Qatar

Monday, February 16, 2004

ABU DHABI Qatar has been rocked by an assassination of an Islamic insurgency leader linked to Al Qaida.

Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, former president of Chechnya and linked to Al Qaida, was killed in a car bombing in the Qatari capital of Doha. It was the first assassination of an Islamic insurgency operative in the emirate since 1980.

Yandarbiyev, 51, was said to have left a mosque in Doha on Friday when he entered his car. The Toyota Land Cruiser blew up after traveling 300 meters, killing Yandarbiyev and severely injuring the former president's son. The Qatari A-Jazeera satellite channel reported hours after the killing that Yandarbiyev's two bodyguards were also killed.

"We are collecting evidence to reach the perpetrators," Qatar's security chief Mubarak Al Nasser said.

The assassination pointed to Qatar's longtime connection with Al Qaida, an issue quietly raised by the United States over the last two years.

Yandarbiyev has been living in Qatar since 2000 and during the following year he said Osama Bin Laden was a friend of Chechnya.

Qatar has harbored such Al Qaida insurgents as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the operations chief of the organization until he was captured in March 2003. Another senior operative who lived in Qatar was Abdul Rahim Al Naashari, who was Al Qaida's chief of operations in the Gulf region and captured about a year ago.

In 2003, Yandarbiyev, regarded as the ideologue of Chechen insurgents, was placed on the United Nations's list of groups and people with ties to Al Qaida. The listing, the first time a Chechen insurgent was placed on the UN roster, came at the request of Russia.

Western diplomatic sources said Yandarbiyev was believed to have recruited funds from Gulf Cooperation Council states for the Chechnya war against Russia. The sources said Yandarbiyev was aided by Al Qaida sympathizers in the royal families of such countries as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar has resisted Russian efforts for the extradition of Yandarbiyev. Yandarbiyev has been on the Interpol wanted list since 2001.

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