GEORGIA,THE CHECHENS AND AL QAIDA
The Chicago Tribune
, whose foreign reporting seems to have improved markedly since 9/11, is reporting that the Republic of Georgia has rid itself
of al Qaida connected Chechen rebels who had established themselves in the infamous Pankisi Gorge region.
, a ferociously combatative Muslim minority known for their blood feuds and honor code called Adat have been battling Russian control of their home republic since the early 1990's when a former Soviet Red Air Force General Dzhokar Dudayev
siezed control of Chechnya and declared independence from Russia. Dudayev was killed by a Russian missile attack in 1996 and the Chechen rebellion, without Dudayev's leadership, gradually lost it's secular and nationalist character in favor of greater Islamist militancy. Previously the Chechens were not particularly noted for their religious piety and had provided a disproportionate number of NCO's for the Red Army, especially in the elite combat units, where they were much feared for their reputation for violence. Under Stalin, the Chechens were persecuted for anti-Soviet feelings and exiled en masse to Khazakstan. Solzhenitsyn writes admiringly of their defiant attitudes in the Gulag Archipelago.
The Chechens have accepted aid from Islamist militants
including al Qaida and Chechens have been found fighting as far afield as Afghanistan and Bosnia. The significant number of Chechens fighters with Soviet military training may have made the Chechens as valuable to Bin Laden as Bin Laden's assistance was to the Chechen rebels. The danger of the al Qaida-Chechen relationship is primarily ideological - that the spread of Wahhabi extremist militancy among the Chechens, Daghestanis and Azeris could inflame the Trans-Caucasian region into a general jihad emulating the great uprising against Tsarist Russia by the Imam Shamyl in the 19th century, jeopardizing the stability of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and even eastern Turkey.