Khattab, the man who died for the cause of Chechnya

Khattab, the man who died for the cause of Chechnya

Born in a northern border city in Saudi Arabia in 1969, was a brilliant
student who scored 94 percent in the secondary school examination

By Mowaffaq Al-Nowaiser

May 04, 2002,

Mansour Al-Suwailem, elder brother of the leading Chechen fighter
Khattab, who was recently assassinated by Russians, said it was an old
Chechen woman who inspired Khattab to fight for the Chechens.
Khattabs real name is Samir Saleh Abdullah Al-Suwailem. In his early 
youth he wanted to study in the United States. Mansour shed light on several
aspects of Khattabs personal life in an interview with Arab News. The
interview was conducted at his fathers house in Alkhobar in the Eastern

Mansour said Khattab used to call their mother in Saudi Arabia before 
he carried out attacks against the Russians. Last week, Russian state
television broadcast pictures of Khattabs body and said he had been 
killed on March 19-20 after a yearlong operation by Russian special forces. 
The station said he did not die in a battle but did not elaborate on how he
died. Khattab is the most important Mujahedeen commander killed since
Russian troops launched their latest campaign against the Chechen 
freedom struggle two and a half years ago.

Mansour said there were two differing reports of how his brother had 
been killed. According to one report, it was five minutes after he opened a
poisoned letter given him by a trusted aide two weeks ago. The second
report says that he was given poisoned food in a private party about a
month ago. The last time Samir called his family was three months ago. 
He had visited Saudi Arabia only twice since he decided to go to 
Afghanistan in 1987.

"He called our parents whenever he had a chance and specially called 
our mother before carrying out any operation," he added. Samir was an
ambitious child who had dreams of owning a castle with "a garage big
enough for five cars". He also wanted all family members to live 
together and was concerned about the welfare of all family members and used to 
weep for the slightest reasons. He was loved by all. No one remembered him
seeing angry. He loved jokes and used to play with children.

Samir, who was born in an Arar, a northern border city in Saudi Arabia 
in 1969, was a brilliant student who scored 94 percent in the secondary
school examination.

Unlike other family members, he used to evince more interest in Islamic
periodicals and tapes. He was very much impressed by the history of the
second Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) and
therefore accepted the title Khattab. He joined a training course
conducted by the Aramco. He planned to continue his studies in the 
United States. He used to be very kind and helpful to others.

Once he found a stranger, a Sudanese expatriate, asking for a lift on 
the airport road. The man said his car broke down and he was afraid he may 
not reach the air[port in time. The man was, apparently, worried about 
leaving his car on the road. After taking him to the airport, Samir went back 
to the car and towed it to a workshop for repairs. When the Sudanese man 
came back he was surprised to find his car repaired. Samir refused to accept
the cost of the repair. There are several other instances of selfless
service to others.

Mansour could not give any specific reason for Samirs sudden change of
mind about his plan to go to the United States for studies. He joined 
the Afghan Arabs fighting the Russians at the age of 17 in 1987. The young 
boy refused to come home even after his father promised to buy him a house. 
He did not visit the Kingdom in the past 14 years except two times, the 
last one in 1993. He was gravely wounded four times and the most serious of
them was when he set foot on a land mine. He was the lone survivor when
his truck exploded, it was reported.

Mansour explained how Samir got the idea of going to Chechnya after
watching a news broadcast on the Afghan TV. The news broadcast showed
several Chechen groups wearing headbands with "No God But Allah and
Muhammad is His Messenger" written on them. They shouted Allahu Akbar,
Allahu Akbar. Samir felt curious about the jihad going on in Chechnya 
and decided to go there. But he did not know how to go there and the map he
bought did not show Chechnya. So he set out to Baku in Azerbaijan which 
is close to Chechnya.

While he was making inquiries about how to reach Chechnya, he received 
a letter from Fathi Abu Sayyaf, a Chechen of Jordanian origin describing
about the land of which he wrote, "a man who enters it is lost and one 
who gets out of it is like a reborn."

Somehow or other, he managed to reach Chechnya where he first went 
about as a TV reporter meeting with people and inquiring about the common 
mans attitude toward the jihad. His proficiency in Arabic, Russian, English,
and Pashtu helped him mix with all kinds of people. In his travels he 
also met with Shamil Basayev.

It was about this time that he met an old Chechen woman who stressed 
the need for jihad against the Russians. She told him confidently: "We want
them to quit our land so that we can return to Islam." When he asked 
her how she would help in a jihad against Russians, her reply was that she
possessed only a jacket and she would donate it for the cause of Allah.

Suwailam said his brother had sobbed until "his beard became wet with 
his tears" when he spoke to the woman, and that the meeting had been a 
turning point in his life.

Khattabs actions were based on certain strong principles drawn from the
Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. They can be summed up as
follows: The objective of jihad should be the establishment of the
religion of Allah, there is no negotiation with the enemy, the fight
should not end until the enemys threat was totally removed, jihad does 
not depend on the life of a leader, leadership does not mean comfortable
position, unity is the most important requisite for fighting against
Russia. He also stressed the need for treating civilians gently and not
doing any harm to them.

Samir had been seeking martyrdom for the past 14 years, Mansour said. 
He failed to achieve it in Afghanistan, then he sought it in Tajikistan. 
He was again disappointed, so went to Chechnya where finally Allah granted 
it to him, the brother said with pride.

Samir was married to a Dagistani woman and has three children.


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