In an interview with the pro-independence Kavkaz-Center Chechen website, Anzor Astemirov assessed the 13 October raids on Kabardino-Balkaria's capital Nalchik as a strategic success. "We've achieved our main objective. We finally and openly carried out the first step toward jihad," Astemirov is reported to have said.
Astemirov is also known by his nom de guerre Amir Seifulla.
Shamil Basaev, the top military leader of the Chechen separatist leadership, made similar comments on 9 January in another interview posted on Kavkaz-Center.
Russian officials say the October raids claimed the lives of more than 140 people, including 95 alleged militants. Astemirov and Basaev both said 37 militants were killed in the unrest.
A slideshow look at the October 13-14 violence in Nalchik, capital of the Russian North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.