Russia praises bin Laden operation, seeks greater counterterror cooperation with US
Russia eliminated a number of top militant leaders. Russian experts warn that eliminating Osama bin Laden does not remove the threat of Al Qaeda attacks.
The Kremlin has warmly welcomed the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden – who got his start killing Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan – and urged Washington to use the occasion to explore joint efforts to fight terrorism.Skip to next paragraph
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But Russian experts warn that while eliminating the Al Qaeda mastermind might win justice for his victims and buy a bit of breathing space in the battle against his followers, the threat could become more dangerous.
"The Americans have done what had to be done. Evil has to be punished; there is no alternative," says Vladimir Vasilyev, head of the State Duma's security committee, which oversees internal antiterrorist operations. "But we know that the terrorists learn from one action to the next. They draw conclusions and their activities become more complex, both domestically and globally. ... We should not entertain the illusion that anything will change for the better once a top leader is liquidated."
That's the voice of experience. Since the first Chechen war in the mid-nineties, Russian security forces have killed top enemy leaders over and over again in targeted assassinations, sometimes in chillingly innovative ways.
Some of those they killed were men the Kremlin might have negotiated with, including Chechen separatist president Dzhokhar Dudayev, killed by a laser-guided missile that homed-in on his satellite phone in 1996, and Mr. Dudayev's successor, Aslan Maskhadov, who was gunned down in a small Chechen town by a special unit of the Russian FSB security forces in 2005.
Others have been outright terrorists allied to Mr. bin Laden's Al Queda organization, responsible for killing hundreds of innocent Russians in a wave of bombings and hostage-seizures over the past dozen years.
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One of those was a Saudi Arabian-born veteran of the anti-Soviet Afghan war, Ibn al-Khattab, who rose to become a top Chechen warlord and is accused by the Kremlin of orchestrating a devastating wave of apartment bombings in 1999 that killed almost 300 Russians in their sleep. After many attempts, the FSB finally eliminated him in 2002 by sending him a "poison pen" letter written with ink containing a deadly nerve agent.
Another was Shamil Basayev, architect of a horrific downtown Moscow theater siege that led to the deaths of 120 people, and a mass 2004 hostage-taking at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, that left 330 people dead, half of them children. Though the facts of his death remain murky, the FSB claims to have tracked him to a small village in Ingushetia in 2006 and, using an unmanned drone aircraft, detonated the explosives packed in his vehicle.
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