Chechen rebel back from dead to wage holy war

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The Independent Online
Chechnya (Reuter) -The Chechen rebel field commander Salman Raduyev, reported to have been killed after leading a hostage raid and a bloody battle against Russian troops in January, reappeared on Thursday and told a news conference at a secret location in Chechnya that the former separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev was also alive." Dudayev's death, from a Russian rocket attack in April, had never been confirmed.

Mr Raduyev was scarcely recognisable. In Germany he had undergone plastic surgery to his face, which he said had been severely wounded by a Russian sniper's bullet. His voice, however, was as unmistakable as his defiant tone. Mr Raduyev said Mr Dudayev, replaced as rebel leader shortly after his reported death by his deputy Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, was in a critical condition in a "safe place". He had given an order for all-out war against Russia to avenge the attempt on his life.

Mr Raduyev's "Lone Wolf" group of rebels took hundreds of hostages in the southern Russian town of Kizlyar in January and then, after a siege of more than a week, escaped with some of the hostages from the nearby village of Pervomaiskoye. Mr Raduyev, who came to personify the most extreme wing of the Chechen separatist movement, was reported to have been killed in March.

He said he had returned to Chechnya this week and was ready to launch "a war without rules" against Russia, that could even include chemical warfare. He also accused Mr Dudayev's successor, Mr Yandarbiyev, of treason for agreeing a ceasefire with President Boris Yeltsin in May. The truce erupted in new violence 10 days ago.

He said he had insisted Yandarbiyev revoke the deal with Moscow or face an internal attack from Raduyev's own forces - which he claimed included Stinger surface-to-air missiles that shortly would be usedagainst the Russian warplanes bombing Chechnya.

His bombastic style is at odds with the line taken by Yandarbiyev, who wants to give Moscow more time to salvage the ceasefire and peace talks.