A Rebel Winter Offensive after the Breakdown of Secret Diplomacy

Shamil Basayev, Chechen warlord and head of the South Russian terrorist-guerrilla army, has done a deal with the chief of al Qaeda’s Arab Abu Hafs for the military Shura council to approve a winter offensive against the Russian forces in Chechnya.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources report that the assault is due to be launched very shortly, after the undercover talks he held in recent weeks with secret Russian envoys failed to negotiate an end to the Chechen war.

Basayev stipulated that before overt negotiations could begin, Russian forces must totally withdraw from the embattled province. The Russian emissaries agreed to a pull-back as the end-product of negotiations, but not before an accord was signed and implemented.

This controversy could not be bridged.

Addressing his troops this week, Basayev declared that the coming assault would be “the worst hell the Russians had experienced since 2001.” He accused the Russian generals of losing control of their men with the result that Russian troops were indulging in unbridled excesses against the Chechen population to a degree that further fueled the revolt against Moscow.

The rebel leader accused the Russian president Vladimir Putin of talking from both sides of his mouth; while discussing the withdrawal of government troops, the president had ordered a chain of new Russian bases to be built across the province. One example was Khankala near the capital Grozny, where the Kremlin had begun to virtually build a whole new base with a military airfield that was to be the largest in Chechnya.

Basayev assured his men that the Chechen rebel army was more powerful and in better shape for the new offensive than ever before in the last two years. He boasted a war plan consisting not only of attacks on Russian forces in the province, but broad operations in other Muslim regions of the Russian federation.

A notice posted on the Arabic website of the Chechen Holy War on Jan 2, apparently by al Qaeda’s Abu Hafs, offered the faithful attending the hajj some glad tidings. The statement claimed the first signs of their coming victory had appeared to the Chechen mujahedeen, despite the death of one of their leaders, Abu Omar al-Seif.

The notice congratulated the Chechen fighters for luring the Russians into “a diplomatic trap” and inflicting blows that are draining their strength. The jihad is going forward, said the notice, even through some of the fighters are too young and others too old for combat.

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