One-time aide to late Chechen rebel leader Maskhadov reported poisoned at 15:05 on September 17, 2005

A one-time aide to the late Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov was killed in Chechnya, a top official in the pro-Kremlin Chechen administration said Saturday.


Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov said in televised comments that Akhmad Avdorkhanov, a prominent warlord and former head of Maskhadov's security guard contingent, had been poisoned by radical Islamic rebel Shamil Basayev's men. But the KavkazCenter website, considered a voice for Basayev's faction, said Avdorkhanov had been killed on Monday in a battle with Russian forces.

Kadyrov said Avdorkhanov had been a rival to Basayev, because "he was an ideological opponent of Basayev and a fierce opponent of Wahhabism (radical Islam)," Kadyrov said in an official statement.

"A conflict over the distribution of a large amount of foreign currency recently received by the guerrillas is believed to have brought the feud to a head," the Interfax news agency quoted Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov as saying Saturday.

Meanwhile, on Friday five Chechen police officers were killed and one was wounded in a skirmish near Dargo village, and two policemen from the Chuvashia Republic of Russia were killed and four wounded in an attack on a police car in the Chechen capital, Grozny, regional Interior Ministry spokesman Roman Shchekotin said.

It was unknown how many suspected rebels were killed or wounded in Friday's fighting in Chechnya.

In the neighbouring Russian republic of Ingushetia, two unknown assailants dressed in camouflage and masks broke into a police officer's house in the village of Nesterovskaya late Friday and shot the officer point-blank, killing him, Shchekotin said.

Earlier in the day, an explosion shook the same village. An anti-personnel mine exploded near a bus stop as a military convoy passed, but the blast did not cause any casualties or damage.

Russian troops re-entered Chechnya in 1999, three years after withdrawing at the end of a disastrous 20-month war with separatist forces that left the province de facto independent. Although the federal forces and allied paramilitaries control most of the small territory, rebels based in mountain hideouts mount regular guerrilla attacks, and there are frequent skirmishes even in Grozny.

Mashkadov's successor, Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, suggested in a statement posted on the KavkazCenter website on Saturday that he would not tolerate any attempts to drive a wedge between him and Basayev, whom many analysts have suggested is a dangerous rival for leadership of the rebel movement.

Sadulayev said he was dissatisfied with foreign rebel envoys who had made "loud promises" to "bring out" rebels, a reference to pledges by the late Maskhadov to put Basayev on trial after the Chechen war ends for his role in last year's tragic school-hostage taking in the southern Russian town of Beslan, in which 331 victims were killed.

"I won't allow anyone to touch our brothers," Sadulayev said in the statement.

The authenticity of the statement could not be confirmed independently, but the website frequently published Maskhadov's statements and his representatives never denied they were genuine.

Von: 17 September 200,

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