Russia's most wanted terrorist has made a phone call to a radio station, proclaiming that he is in good health and warning of further attacks, scotching speculation that he was killed in a raid last month.
Doku Umarov, who has claimed responsibility for some of Russia's worst terrorist atrocities in recent years, denied he had been ill or had been hit during a massive strike on 28 March 28 by Russian warplanes on a terrorist base in Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya.
"I have no complaints about my health," said the caller, speaking Chechen and claiming to be Umarov, to Radio Liberty late on Thursday. "It's all good, and I don't know what illnesses the Russians are talking about."
There have been rumours that Umarov is in poor health and Russian sources suggested he is diabetic; insulin found at the bombed base last month was thought to point to his death.
"There was an operation in which a number of fighters died," said the caller. "My death was announced too. But I won't give them any time to relax; I am preparing my response. In the near future there will be news from me."
There has been no independent confirmation that the call was genuine, but correspondents at the radio station said that the voice was recognisably that of Umarov. The terrorist leader has claimed responsibility for many major attacks in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region, as well as for the suicide bomb at Moscow's Domodedovo airport in January that killed 37 people, including one Briton. There are also attacks on officials and police in the North Caucasus almost daily by militants loosely inspired by Umarov.
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