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Over ten Al Qaeda functionaries active in Chechnya - FSB official

MOSCOW. Oct 6 (Interfax) - More than ten Al Qaeda representatives, who are functionaries at quite a high level, are operating in Chechnya, Alexander Potapov, deputy chief of the Russian Federal Security Service's (FSB) branch for Chechnya, told Interfax on Wednesday.

"Our information suggests that they are medium-ranking members of Al Qaeda. Of the overall number of mercenaries, more than ten people are direct members of the Al Qaeda international terrorist network," Potapov said.

"Osama bin Laden will never make people he does not trust fully his close associates. Otherwise, he would have been killed long ago by his own people for the $25 million promised by the United States," he said.

At present, Al Qaeda's main representative in Chechnya is Arab mercenary Abu Khavs, who has replaced Abu al-Walid killed by federal forces in April 2004. Another Arab mercenary, Abu Zeit, is responsible for coordinating subversive operations in Ingushetia and the neighboring Urus-Martan and Achkhoi-Martan districts in Chechnya, he said.

"On the whole, an analysis of incoming reports suggests that there can be more than 150 mercenaries, who are citizens of about 40 countries, in Chechnya. Most of them are Arabs, Turks, citizens of Western countries and the CIS," Potapov said.