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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 00:05 GMT 01:05 UK
Obituary: Chechen rebel Khattab
Khattab's vow has been to drive Russia out of Chechnya
The death of the Chechen rebel commander known as Khattab may be the rebel side's heaviest loss since their leader Dzhokhar Dudayev died in a missile attack in 1996.

Chechen rebel sources have confirmed his death, saying he was killed by a poisoned letter slipped him by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).

Tens of thousands of Muslims perish daily worldwide - not thousands, but millions of Muslims are killed


The FSB has displayed pictures of his body, which they say were intercepted in Chechnya after the warlord's funeral.

His large frame and shaggy mane of beard and hair had become a familiar sight on both rebel websites and in the Russian media, where he was viewed as a symbol of Islamic extremism on a par with Osama Bin Laden.

For the FSB, he was an "international terrorist... an ideologist and organiser of terrorist activity".

For the Chechen rebels, this fighter from the Middle East may in time be remembered mainly for his skill in leading the guerrilla war against Moscow.

But for Khattab himself, the fight in Chechnya was always a struggle against enemies of his vision of Islam - a vision which took him around Afghanistan and the former Soviet Union in pursuit of battle.

Afghanistan to Chechnya

Khattab, whose real name is said to be Omar Ibn al Khattab, is believed to have been born in Jordan to a tribe living near the border with Saudi Arabia.

He spoke of fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan and is believed to have gone on to take part in wars fought in mainly Muslim parts of the former Soviet Union such as Tajikistan and Azerbaijan.

An Islamic militant aims his machine gun at a position in Botlikh region of Dagestan
Moscow says Khattab played a key role in leading an Islamic rebellion in Dagestan
But it was in Chechnya that he made his name to the wider world, moving there in 1995 to fight Moscow's attempts to reclaim the separatist region, first in the 1994-1996 war and then after Russian troops returned in force in 1999.

Moscow says Khattab played a key role that summer in leading a rebellion by Islamic militants in Chechnya's neighbouring region of Dagestan.

He was also said to have founded a training camp for Islamic fighters along the lines of camps in Afghanistan.

"Tens of thousands of Muslims perish daily worldwide - not thousands, but millions of Muslims are killed," Khattab said in a recent website interview.

The Russian Government has accused Khattab of links with Osama Bin Laden's group but the commander said he had not seen him since his years in Afghanistan.

Asked about 11 September, he said the principal reason for it appeared to be US foreign policy.

"In the eyes of the entire world, Israelis are killing Muslims, occupying their lands, don't act even upon resolutions of United Nations, and America helps Israel in it," he said.

See also:

25 Apr 02 | Europe
Russia 'kills' Chechen warlord
15 Nov 01 | Europe
Russia tries Chechen warlord
06 Sep 01 | Europe
Chechnya's decade of disaster
22 Apr 99 | Europe
'Dual attack' killed president
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