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Suspected 'Mole' Who Allegedly Betrayed Chechen Insurgency Group To Face Trial

Islam Temishev allegedly helped Chechen security forces eliminate some prominent insurgents.
Islam Temishev allegedly helped Chechen security forces eliminate some prominent insurgents.
The Chechen authorities have charged Islam Temishev, 22, who was instrumental in the killing by Chechen security forces in late January of prominent Chechen field commanders Khusayn and Muslim Gakayev, with belonging to an illegal armed group. His trial was scheduled to begin this week in his home district of Vedeno.

At the time of the fighting in which the Gakayev brothers died, an unnamed member of the Chechen security forces was quoted as saying Temishev surrendered to the authorities following a gunbattle on January 23 in which Khusayn Gakayev’s fighters killed or injured 15 members of the security forces.

The unnamed source said Temishev confirmed that the brothers were among a group of fighters whom security forces had surrounded near the Gakayevs’ home village of Elistanzhi in Vedeno Raion.

The fighters blew themselves up the following day when their ammunition ran out rather than surrender or risk being captured alive.

Several weeks later, however, an insurgency website alleged that Temishev was one of several "moles" who had infiltrated the insurgents' ranks over the past few years. That report further claimed that, following the destruction of Khusayn Gakayev's detachment, Temishev had betrayed to the authorities dozens of persons from Vedeno and other districts who had acted as couriers for the Gakayevs or supplied the group with food and other essentials. (Some of them can be seen seen here being harangued by Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov.)

In early May, the rebel Kavkaz Center website claimed that Temishev had infiltrated the insurgency in the summer of 2008 after being recruited by then Shali district police chief Magomed Daudov, now Chechen presidential administration head, and trained by Vakhit Usmayev, now commander of the Second Regiment of the Chechen Interior Ministry Special Forces (OMON).

It was Usmayev who coordinated the operation in which the Gakayevs and nine other fighters were killed.

In a lengthy and rambling chronicle of traitors throughout history, beginning with Marcus Junius Brutus and Judas Iscariot and ending with those members of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria government who now serve Kadyrov, Kavkaz Center names 10 fellow fighters killed after Temishev allegedly betrayed them to the security forces. They include the Arab commander Muhannad, who was ambushed in April 2011. Temishev himself was twice erroneously reported to have died in such shoot-outs.

According to that article, Temishev quickly won the affection and trust of his comrades in arms, and became a favorite of Muslim Gakayev, through whom he had access to the brothers' correspondence with other senior commanders and with associates abroad. He also had control of the group's finances.

The Gakayev brothers began to doubt Temishev’s loyalty only during the final battle, when the group was already surrounded. In video footage, Khusayn Gakayav and another fighter both reproach Temishev for wasting ammunition by firing past, rather than at the enemy.

The report of Temishev’s imminent trial quotes a Chechen law-enforcement official as saying that since he "cooperated" with the investigation and admitted he had acted unlawfully in joining the insurgency, he can count on a lenient sentence.

Whether the trial is a formality intended to counter the allegation that Temishev was a “mole,” or whether by sentencing him the Chechen authorities hope to protect Temishev from retribution at the hands of relatives of his victims, is unclear.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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