Chechen rebel not known as Islamist


Associated Press Writer

MOSCOW - Boldly appearing as the only hostage-taker

without a mask, rebel leader Movsar Barayev was known

more for his brutal exploits as a gun-for-hire than

any devotion to the Islamic cause. He was raised by a

warlord uncle and his adolescence was forged by war.

Barayev led as many as 50 heavily armed men and women

into a Moscow theater Wednesday to seize hundreds of

hostages in the boldest attack since the

long-simmering conflict in Chechnya began in 1994. He

died during a bloody shootout with Russian elite

troops Saturday morning.

Russian television pictures from inside the theater

after the crisis ended showed the Barayev's

camouflage-clad body, lying on its back in blood and

broken glass. A cognac bottle sat on the floor near

his hand.

In the only television pictures from inside the

theater during the raid, taken early Friday by

Russia's NTV, Barayev was wearing the same camouflage

fatigues and loosely cradled a Kalashnikov rifle on

his lap - his hands away from the trigger.

Barayev was born in 1979 in the city of Argun in

Chechnya, where he grew up in a five-floor apartment

building and was remembered by neighbors as quiet and


"He was a tender boy, and was a good student," Zara

Satsieva, a neighbor of Barayev's in Argun, told NTV

Friday from the rundown halls of the apartment house.

"I can't say anything bad about him."

Whatever his childhood was like, Barayev's youthful

innocence likely ended around the time he was 15 -

when the first of Russia's two wars in Chechnya began.

His training as a fighter began four years ago when he

moved to the town of Alkhan-Kala, where his uncle,

Arbi Barayev, bought him a house. By Chechen

tradition, boys often are entrusted to their uncles

for upbringing.

The young Barayev soon led one of the most ruthless

gangs of rebels known as the Islamic Regiment. He

reportedly became one of the best fighters in the

group, earning the distinction of being appointed one

of Arbi Barayev's bodyguards.

His uncle's strategy included regular use of

kidnappings for ransom - such as the 1998 abduction

and beheading of three Britons and a New Zealander,

who were working on Chechnya's phone network. The

Barayev gang was linked to scores of other

kidnappings, even including a Kremlin envoy.

Arbi Barayev was killed in June 2001 after an

eight-day Russian operation in Alkhan-Kala, where

federal forces say 17 other rebels also died. His body

was displayed to TV cameras to prove the claim. The

younger Barayev then is believed to have assumed

leadership of the group.

In March, Barayev reportedly was involved in a fierce

battle with Russian forces, telling a pro-rebel news

agency he was attacked during a meeting of rebel

commanders. The rebels killed at least 13 federal

soldiers and five of his group were hurt, Barayev


Barayev next turned up in the videotape broadcast by

Arabic satellite station Al-Jazeera that the station

said was believed to have been taped Wednesday before

the Chechens raided the theater.

"Each one of us is willing to sacrifice himself for

the sake of God and the independence of Chechnya," one

of the Chechens said, according to the station. "I

swear by God that we are more keen on dying than you

are on living."

Though the hostage-takers were waving the banner of

Islam, appearing in front of a curtain printed with an

Islamic expression, a Muslim leader who said he spoke

numerous times to Barayev said the rebel had not been

concerned much with religion but fought for money.

"Barayev was never a religious fanatic," said Dzhafar

Zufarov, the mufti of the southern Russian region of

Rostov near Chechnya. "He was a swindler, a bandit who

made money from kidnapping people and from terrorist


"He never read a single line from the Quran, and he

doesn't understand the true meaning of jihad (holy

war)," Zufarov said.


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