Aftermath of a suicide bombing in Khasavyurt, Dagestan, in October 2010, in which a policeman was killed and seven injured
Several reports in the Russian media indicate that the suspected terrorists arrested in Prague on April 6 were linked to al-Qaeda and part of a network for financing the Islamic insurgency in Russia’s North Caucasus region. The sources from the Russian special services cited also said that a Czech-registered human rights organization was instrumental in setting up the financial network.
The Czech daily Právo last week cited a report published by the Russian news server lifenews.ru that quoted sources in the Russian special services revealing fresh details about the arrests of eight people — six in Prague, two in Germany — suspected of providing financial and other support to the Islamist insurgency in Russia’s North Caucasus region.
“Two of the men were natives of the Republic of Dagestan, and one from Chechnya. They were the middle link in a financial chain that led to the accounts of representatives of al-Qaeda in the North Caucasus,” Lifenews.ru reported, citing a source in the Russian special services.
Lifenews.ru’s sources said the suspects arrested in Prague had distributed the money to cells of Jamaat Shariat, an organization founded in 2000 as part of the Caucasus Emirate declared by Chechen Islamist leader Doku Umarov in 2005, which seeks to establish an Islamic state under Sharia law encompassing the North Caucuses region.
In each cell there were one or more experienced instructors from Egypt, Palestine or Turkey, the report said. Jamaat Shariat, also known as the Dagestan Front, regularly targets police, security forces and Muslim clerics who cooperate with the authorities.
People in Need
Practically all the leading Czech media, including Czech Television (ČT) and the Czech Press Agency (ČTK) cited the article in Právo, which itself was based solely upon the report by Lifenews.ru — which is essentially a tabloid publication. However, Russia’s bestselling and pro-government daily Komsomolskaya Pravda also carried a similar report the same day.
Both reports by the Russian publications cited sources in special services as saying that those arrested had worked under the cover of a Czech NGO that had invited them to the Czech Republic. “It transpired that the criminals acted under the cover of one of the north Caucasian human rights organizations, whose founders were Czech citizens,” Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.
Czech Position contacted the author of the Komsomolskaya Pravda report, who confirmed that the human rights organization in question is People in Need (Člověk v tísní). Founded in 1992, the Czech NGO was active in Chechnya from 2000 until 2005, when it was expelled after Russian security services reported that weapons and false documents for the Chechen insurgency had been found in a center for women funded by the charity.
“As is well known, foreign human rights activists arrived in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia several years ago. Recently, their permanent presence in the region was reduced drastically, but a staff of local human rights activists remained and ‘supervisors’ continued to pay visits from Prague,” Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote.
Lifenews.ru carried an analogous claim: “[The suspects] operated under the cover of one of the North Caucasian human rights organizations whose founders were Czech citizens.”
Islamist leaders’ ‘liquidation’ a breakthrough
Both reports quoted security services source as saying that anti-terrorist operatives had long been trying to locate the source of funding for Jamaat Shariat and other Islamist groups in the region. The breakthrough came when Jamaat Shariat leader Isparil Validzhanov was killed by special forces in Dagestan (on April 18) and when the leader of the Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Kazbek Tashuyev — who adopted the name Emir Abdul Dzhabbar — was “liquidated” in a special operation in the region (on April 29).
Bodies of Jamaat Shariat militants, including leader Israpil Validzhanov, shown to journalists in Dagestan this April
Czech Position asked the journalists who wrote the reports whether their sources had provided details of evidence found proving the alleged involvement of the Czech charity People in Need (PiN) in the channels of finance for the rebels.
“They said they had found evidence indicating the involvement of the [human rights] organization,” the author of the Lifenews.ru report said. “They did not mention specific documentary evidence.”
Both reporters refused to provide Czech Position with the contact details for their source(s) in the security services, which judging by the similarity of the reports, may be the same. Czech Position attempted to contact a spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB), but redirected calls were not answered.
PiN denies all allegations
PiN director Šimon Pánek told Czech Position that the NGO didn’t reopen a mission in Chechnya following the de facto expulsion in 2005, though the organization did provide support for local Chechen NGOs for several years after its departure. When still present in Chechnya, PiN cooperated with the Czech authorities on asylum issues. The Russian judiciary had effectively exonerated PiN of all the allegations raised against it in the mid 2000s, the NGO says.
“After 2000, we were one of the sources of expert information about the situation in Chechnya for asylum procedures in the Czech Republic, and we cooperated with the Interior Minister’s Commission for Refugees in this area,” Pánek told Czech Position. He also said that the Russian judiciary had effectively exonerated PiN of all the allegations raised against it in the mid 2000s.