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From: "Robert Bruce Ware" <bruce@brick.net>
Subject: West Missed bin Laden's Nuclear Wake-up Call from Chechnya
Date: Sat, 1 Dec 20010

Osama bin Laden paid 30 million dollars (21 million) to ensure that Chechen kidnappers would behead three British telephone engineers and their New Zealand colleague, according to the BBC. The four captives had become pawns in bin Laden's enduring quest to create a rift between the Islamic world and the West. No less ominously, their decapitation was part of bin Laden's desperate efforts to acquire nuclear weapons from the former Soviet reserves.

The victims' severed heads were found in a sack beside a road in Chechnya in December 1998. The British company that employed the engineers had been secretly negotiating with the terrorist gang that was funded by al-Qaeda, only to be outbid by bin Laden himself in the eleventh hour. Just a few days after Darren Hickey, 27, Peter Kennedy, 46, Rudolph Petschi, 42, and Stanley Shaw, 58, were assured of their imminent freedom, bin Laden agreed to pay the Chechen captors more than $30 million for their execution. The payoff included a bonus to insure that the Chechens would redouble their efforts to purchase or pilfer nuclear material from former Soviet specialists.

It appears that bin Laden knew that the kidnappers were dealing with the victims' employer, Granger Telecom. The company has never revealed details of its negotiations with the kidnappers, but the Chechens claimed that the company offered them 7 million. A fellow hostage, Adurakhman Adukhov, a government official from neighboring Dagestan, was told by the kidnappers how bin Laden had won the grisly competition.

Mr. Adukhov recently told a Russian magazine and the BBC's Money Program what the kidnappers told him of their connection with al-Qaeda. He described how the captives were denied food, once bin Laden had submitted his bid: "The kidnappers took the view why bother wasting food on them when they are about to die."

The leader of the gang was the notorious Chechen warlord, Arbi Barayev, who liked to boast of his links with bin Laden and the Taleban, and who sent fighters to al-Qaeda training camps. Adukhov asked Barayev why the men had to die when they had been told they would be freed. Barayev, who had the murders filmed as proof of their commission, said: "Now we'll get $30 million, not $10 million. We are helping the Taleban. Our brothers from the East wanted it to be done." Barayev said his "Arab friends" wanted to cause a rift between Islam and the West.

Imagine Osama's disappointment at the time: $30 million gone and barely any Western concern. But if the West wasnt especially bothered by the brutal decapitation of Britons, perhaps bin Laden took comfort from the fact that there was equally little attention to his efforts to obtain nuclear weapons by way of the Chechens.

Three years later, the incident poses three questions: 1) Did bin Laden have better luck with the acquisition of Soviet nukes than he did with the attention of the Western media? 2) Why weren't we paying attention? Why did it take three years for someone to ask Adukhov? 3) Might lives have been spared if we paid attention then; might lives be spared if we pay attention now? There is yet no answer to the first question, but that is in part because we weren't asking it three years ago. So why werent we asking then?

For years the West paid little attention to bin Laden's operations in Chechnya. This was despite regular claims from Moscow that al-Qaeda was connected to Chechen militants, and confirmation of this claim from the militants themselves. Until 9/11 most of the scholars and almost all of the media in the West were basking complacently in the past. In their eyes, Russia was a comfortable and convenient adversary, so any adversary of Russia's was automatically an object of empathy. Chechen militants were fighting Russia, so, without much further scrutiny, it was obvious that they were freedom fighters.

Few in the West paid much attention when those fighters kidnapped thousands of people in the region in order to finance their operations. When they videotaped the torture of their victims in order to extract exorbitant ransoms, nobody noticed but the victims' families. Most people still don't realize that for years prior to 1999 there was an open slave market in Grozny.

So 9/11 came and went before anyone bothered about Mr. Adukhov, and before anyone noticed that the situation in the Caucasus went seriously wrong a long time ago. Perhaps the West will wake up in time to inquire whether bin Laden got the rest of what he paid for.

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