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Sunday, 18 November, 2001, 18:49 GMT
Britons killed 'by Bin Laden ally'
Darren Hickey and Rudi Petschi
Negotiators were trying to agree a ransom for the men
Osama Bin Laden had links to the Chechen guerrillas thought to be behind the murder of three British telecoms workers, the BBC has learned.

The three men and a colleague from New Zealand were kidnapped and found beheaded in the strife-torn Russian republic in 1998.

The authorities believed the guerrilla gang responsible were led by Muslim fundamentalist warlord Arbi Barayev.

We're waging holy war

Arbi Barayev
Barayev told associates the atrocity was part of a jihad and that he would received $30m from his "Arab friends", BBC Two's Money Programme has learned.

Barayev, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Russian soldiers and a known kidnapper, was reported killed in a raid by Russian forces in June.

In a special report to be broadcast on Wednesday, Russian hostage Abdurakhman Adukhov, who was held with the men, said Barayev was confident he would make more by killing them than by holding out for a ransom.

Rescue attempt

Darren Hickey, 26, Rudi Petschi, 42, 46-year-old Peter Kennedy and New Zealander Stan Shaw, 58, were kidnapped in October 1998 while installing a telephone system in Chechnya.

The bodies of the men were found at the end of that December with speculation rife they had been beheaded as an act of defiance after a failed rescue attempt.

Peter Kennedy
The engineers were installing a phone system
Barayev had been negotiating a ransom with BT and Surrey-based Granger Telecom, the companies which employed the men.

But Mr Adukhov, tracked down by the Money Programme, said Barayev had told him that by killing them, he stood to receive "not $10m, but $30m" from "Arab friends".

Barayev is reported to have said: "We're waging holy war. And we're involved in big politics.

"We ourselves will answer for everything before Allah."

Barayev told Mr Adukhov money from kidnappings would be used to help the fundamentalist Islamic cause across the region.

'International brigade'

Barayev's gang later spared Mr Adukhov and he was released.

The warlord was linked to Bin Laden through an Islamic "international brigade" headed by a man named Hattab, according to an EC-funded body in Chechnya.

The Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development described Hattab as "Osama Bin Laden's representative" in Chechnya.

Bin Laden funded extremist Muslim insurgents in Chechnya with millions and Barayev was described as Hattab's "sworn brother".

The Foreign Office is now investigating the evidence uncovered by the Money Programme.

Kidnapped - a Money Programme special report will be broadcast on Wednesday 21 November at 1930 GMT on BBC Two.

See also:

25 Jun 01 | Europe
Russians kill Chechen warlord
22 Jun 01 | Europe
Five killed in Chechnya bombings
19 Jun 01 | Europe
Car bombs rock Chechnya
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