Rise of Saudi-funded Caucasian Salafist fighters in West Asia - III
by Ramtanu Maitra on 05 Apr 2015 1 Comment

Enters Ibn al-Khattab : Then came the direct attack on Russia in the form of intervention in Chechnya by the Saudi-British-Pakistan combo. One of the key figures in this was Ibn al-Khattab, a collaborator of Osama bin Laden. Ibn al-Khattab, whose real name was Samir bin Salakh al-Suwailim, often referred to as Emir Khattab or simply Khattab, is a key player in the Saudi-Pakistan-Britain-led Chechen imbroglio. He had both Western and Islamic education and had appeared in Pakistan in 1987 at the height of the mujahideen-led war against the Soviet troops. In Pakistan, he met some of the key leaders of the Arab “Afghans,” including Sheikh Abdallah Azzam, Sheikh Tamim Adnani, and Osama bin Laden. 


Between 1988 and 1993, Khattab participated in all the major operations in the Afghan jihad, including the capture of Jalalabad, Khost, and Kabul. He also spent time expanding his knowledge of Islam and his military skills, while becoming conversant in both Pashto and Russian. (Ibn al-Khattab: the bin Laden of Chechnya: Money Jihad: April 21, 2013)


According to a Money Jihad article, by the early 1990s, Khattab had emerged as one of the most fierce and competent commanders, popular with both the Afghan and the Arab “Afghan” mujahedin. He also became one of bin Laden’s key protégés. Khattab reportedly spent the years between early 1993 and early 1995 commanding a small Arab elite force in support of the Tajik Islamist mujahedin, particularly in the Ferghana Valley. He returned to Afghanistan to train and lead one of the first elite forces to go to Chechnya. Ali Hammad, a senior al Qaeda commander in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s, knew Khattab as a senior commander under bin Laden and considered him “one of the more important personalities in al-Qaeda.” Ali Hammad confirmed that Khattab went to Chechnya on bin Laden’s orders, and that he and bin Laden personally managed the subsequent flow of jihadist volunteers into the area.


“Khattab arrived in Chechnya in the spring of 1995 with eight veteran Arab ‘Afghan’ commanders, followed by a few dozen combat veterans. He soon became one of the most important commanders in Chechnya, quickly forming a close relationship with Shamil Basayev. One of Basayev’s closest personal friends, Chechnya’s onetime foreign minister Shamil Beno, reported that Basayev underwent a profound change in 1995 under Khattab’s influence. Basayev ‘started moving from freedom for Chechnya to freedom for the whole Arab world,’ Beno said. ‘He changed from a Chechen patriot into an Islamic globalist.’”


Basayev worked closely with both al-Qaeda and Khattab. He trained for his jihad in the Afghansi camps, as he said in July 1995: “I was preparing for war with Russia a long time before the aggression against Chechnya began. Together with fighters from my Abkhazian [separatists within Georgia] battalion, I paid three visits to Afghan mujahedeen camps, where I learned the tactics of guerrilla warfare.” He also threatened China. In July 1998, as acting Prime Minister of Chechnya, he issued a threat to Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, that if China once more referred to Chechnya as part of Russia, Chechnya would launch support actions for the Uighur population in Xinjiang Province to split off as an independent state. (EIR Fact Sheet: Who Is Behind the Drive To Dismember Russia?: EIR Intelligence Team: Dec 19 2014)


Funding the Chechnya terrorism


“But al-Khattab didn’t only receive funds from the Middle East and Al Qaeda.  He was the recipient of zakat donations from U.S. Muslims.  Benevolence International Foundation, a Saudi-created Islamic charity which relocated to Chicago in 1993, was shut down by the Bush administration after 9/11 for its role in financing jihad in Bosnia and Chechnya.  The racketeering trial against BIF’s leader revealed that “[Al-Khattab] did have ties to Saudi Arabia: a fund-raising website listed the Benevolence International Foundation—originally a Saudi-based charity—as a vehicle for contributions.” (Ibn al-Khattab: the bin Laden of Chechnya : Money Jihad: April 21, 2013)


Funds also came through bank accounts of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group), Canadian Islamic Association, and Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), for which Adham Amin Hassoun, a prominent member of the Florida cell in the USA, filed incorporation papers in Florida. The cell pays out thousands of dollars in cheques, some of which were marked “Chechnya”, “Kosovo,” or “for tourism”. (History Commons: October 1993-November 2001: Florida Cell Supports Global Jihad, Is Monitored by FBI)


One other source of Ibn Khattab’s money was Britain where Jihadis and fundraisers working hand-in-glove with British intelligence to finance militants to undo “unfriendly” and geopolitically-important nations for the “benefit” of the West. Russia and its weak southwestern borders, of course, were natural targets in the 1990s. This collaboration between the MI5/MI6 and a brigade of radical Islamists that use Britain as their “safe house” has turned Britain into what the intelligence community calls Londonistan.


Long after the bird flew the nest and the nest was dismantled, news began to trickle out from Britain which showed that Londonistan was indeed raising and funding Khattab. During the eight-year-long (2006-2013) trial of Abu Qatada, a Palestinian-Jordanian whose real name is Omar Othman, it was revealed  that when Abu Qatada was questioned in 2001 over his alleged connections to a German cell, police found £170,000 cash in his home, including £805 in an envelope labeled “For the mujahideen in Chechnya”. No charges were brought. (Profile: Abu Qatada: BBC NEWS: Dominic Casciani: June 26 2014). The New York Times pointed out that at the time, Qatada had no money-making job and was living with a wife and four children on government benefits worth $150 a week plus other housing aid.


Abu Qatada’s trial lingered for eight long years. The lengthy trial suggests it was orchestrated to keep him off-limits of the media. He is now living free in Jordan, a monarchy that is intricately interlinked with Britain. Jordan also harbors a large population of Chechens who had migrated decades ago. Some of these Chechens openly express their dual royalty displaying pictures of Chechen rebel leaders next to the Jordanian King. A Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzon, described Abu Qatada as the “spiritual head of the mujahideen in Britain” and Dominic Casciani tells us UK’s security agencies in their efforts to make sense of the Islamist scene, MI5 “had approached Abu Qatada on more than one occasion to ask for his help in minimizing the threat to the UK.”


On September 18, 2002, the Caspian Studies Program hosted a seminar at the Kennedy School of Government on the topic of Chechen diaspora communities in the Middle East. In this seminar, Wasfi Kailani, an anthropologist at the University of Yarmouk who has studied Jordan’s Chechen communities, answering a question on the Saudi funding of the Chechens said much of the foreign presence in and funding for the Chechen conflict has come from Saudi Arabia. Kailani indicated that Saudi militants have come to Chechnya to participate in what they see as a jihad and Saudi missionaries have come to the region to teach Wahhabi Salafism to Muslims who are embracing Islam after decades of Communist rule in the Soviet Union.




While it is evident that the rise of Islamic State and the threat it poses to the Sunni benefactors of the western colonial powers of yore, and its trans-Atlantic ally, the United States, has created a dilemma among the anti-Russia, anti-Iran cabal that had bred and nurtured these Wahaabi Jihadis. However, it would be premature to assume that the West has any real intent to cut off the snake’s head. It is more likely that the long-term geostrategic benefit that the West envisions it would accrue harboring these Caucasian terrorists will trump making serious efforts to eliminate them. In other words, despite all the revelations and bloodshed, these terrorists have come to stay.


West’s commitment to change Syria from a nation friendly to Russia and Iran to anti-Iran, anti-Russia is deep-rooted. In 2011, in Syria, when President Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron, and President François Hollande joined forces to remove Syria’s elected President Bashar al-Assad from power, and thus deal a body blow to the Russians and Iranians, who acknowledge Assad’s legitimacy, not-so-militant groups within were bolstered by attaching them to well-trained Salafi-Wahhabi terrorists from a number of countries.


While Western countries were quite generous with arms, and worked with the neighboring countries to facilitate entry of arms into Syria, the bulk of the money came from the Salafi-Wahhabi bastions of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait. Despite denials issued from Riyadh and Doha to quiet gullible Westerners, the funding of various Sunni groups seeking to establish Salafism and Wahhabism in a number of countries has long been well-documented. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, who is keen to see Assad, and the Russian influence over Syria, vanish altogether, praised the Saudis and Qataris for financial help lent to the Syrian “rebels,” in a discussion on CNN, in January 2014, “Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends,” the Senator repeated at the Munich Security Conference in late January. McCain praised Prince Bandar bin Sultan, head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services and a former ambassador to the United States, for supporting forces fighting Assad in Syria. McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had previously met with Bandar to encourage the Saudis to arm Syrian rebel forces. (ISIS: Saudi-Qatari-Funded Wahhabi Terrorists Worldwide: Ramtanu Maitra: EIR: Aug 29 2014)



This article appeared in the Jan-Mar 2015 issue of Agni, a Journal of the Forum for Strategic & Security Studies  

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