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Relatives Identify Dubai Victim As Chechen Ex-Commander

Sulim Yamadayev, former commander of the Vostok battalion, undated

Sulim Yamadayev, former commander of the Vostok battalion, undated

(RFE/RL) -- A man who was assassinated over the weekend in Dubai has been identified as pro-Russian Chechen military commander Sulim Yamadayev, and authorities say they have arrested a Russian national with ties to an "organized criminal group" in connection with the case.

Russian Consul Sergei Krasnogor said relatives confirmed that the dead man was Yamadayev, a prominent foe of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Krasnogor later stressed to RFE/RL's Russian Service that he had seen neither the corpse nor any identification but was quoting relatives of the victim who attested to his identity.

Local and Russian news reports quoting unnamed relatives said Yamadayev was shot at close range on March 28 outside the busy residential complex where he lived along the city's Persian Gulf coastline.

Yamadayev died of his wounds on March 30 in a Dubai hospital.

Local media in Dubai reported that either he or his security personnel returned fire against his assailant and that one person has been arrested in connection with the attack. Reuters later reported that the suspect was a Russian national.

"Police have detained a Russian national who is under investigation," Major General Dahi Khalfan Tamim told Reuters in Dubai. "There is a suspect but we are still investigating. Nevertheless, the case is clear and there is no confusion over what happened. An organized criminal group was behind the assassination."

Yamadayev, 36, was commander of the elite Russian Vostok battalion until he was dismissed from military service last August, reportedly because of a conflict with Kadyrov.

A month later, Yamadayev's eldest brother, former Unified Russia Duma Deputy Ruslan Yamadayev, was shot dead in Moscow. Shortly thereafter, Sulim Yamadayev reportedly left Russia.

Sulim Yamadayev's other brother, Dzhabrail Yamadayev, was also a military commander and was killed in action in Vedeno, Chechnya, in March 2003. All three Yamadayev brothers are recipients of the Hero of Russia medal.

Akhmed Zakayev, head of the government in exile of the self-declared Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service that "[the Yamadayevs] have committed too many dirty crimes against individuals" and "made too many wrong choices and miscalculations." He said he was not surprised by Sulim Yamadayev's death.

"No matter what they say, the war that took place and is still taking place is a very cruel war," Zakayev said. "No matter how hard they try to prove that Chechens are killing each other, it is impossible to hide that Russian security services are behind these murders. Therefore, I don't think [these killings] affect the image of all Chechen people."

Ivan Sukhov, a columnist for "Vremya novostei" and an expert on the Caucasus, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that Yamadayev's family had a long-standing conflict with Chechen President Kadyrov that had its roots in political competition stemming back to the 1990s. He noted, however, that Yamadayev had formerly been a separatist field commander and therefore may have had many enemies.

"Only an investigation, if one is conducted, can connect these events directly to Kadyrov," Sukhov said. "It isn't enough to speak of a conflict when there is no evidence at hand. It is clear that this man who fought for so long against the resistance might have made himself plenty of enemies on that side of the front line as well."

RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Andrei Babitsky says the attack on Yamadayev seems to be considerably less professional than other killings of prominent Chechens, which may indicate that the attack was motivated by a personal vendetta.

Several Kadyrov opponents have been killed both in Russia and abroad in recent months. On January 13, Kadyrov's former bodyguard, Umar Israilov, was killed in Vienna. On February 26, former resistance fighter Ali Osayev was shot to death in Istanbul.

Osayev was the third prominent Chechen killed in Istanbul in the last six months: Gazi Edilsultanov was killed in September 2008, and Islam Canibekov was killed in December.