|1st Emir of the Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya|
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Abu al-Walid|
|Born||14 April 1969|
Arar, Saudi Arabia
|Died||20 March 2002 (aged 32)|
|Allegiance|| Mujahideen of Afghanistan|
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
United Tajik Opposition (Loyalty was to the Islamic factions in Tajikistan)
|Commands||Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya|
Islamic Peacekeeping Brigade
Tajikistan Civil War
First Chechen War
Second Chechen War
Samir Saleh Abdullah (Arabic: سامر صالح عبد الله; 14 April 1969 – 20 March 2002), more commonly known as Ibn al-Khattab or Emir Khattab (also transliterated as Amir Khattab and Ameer Khattab, meaning Commander Khattab, or Leader Khattab), was a Saudi born mujahid who participated in the First Chechen War and the Second Chechen War.
The origins and real identity of Khattab remained a mystery to most until after his death, when his brother gave an interview to the press. He died on 20 March 2002 following exposure to a poisoned letter delivered via a courier who had been recruited by Russia's Federal Security Service.
For Muhammad al-`Ubaydi, scholar of militant Islam, his continued relevance is due to the fact that he's the internationalist Salafi jihadi fighter par excellence, being born in Saudi Arabia but fighting in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Dagestan, and finally in Chechnya, and he was able to speak, besides Arabic: Russian, English, Farsi, Chechen, Pashto, and Kurdish, his charisma attracting fighters from different ethnic groups, while also being a pioneer of jihadi media, especially when it came to using videos for propaganda.
Khattab was born in 1969 in Arar, Saudi Arabia and was of partially Syrian Turkish or Circassian descent. Khattab’s background has come to question, with some sources placing his year of birth as 1963 in Jordan as well as his birth name being Habib Abd al- Rakhman Ibn al-Khattab.
He was described as a brilliant student, scoring 94 percent in the secondary school examination, and initially wanted to continue his higher studies in the United States, even if he was already fond of Islamic periodicals and tapes as opposed to his siblings, to the extent they renamed him after the second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab and he would retain the title during his militant activities, which began in 1987, at the age of 17, by joining the Afghan Arabs against the Soviet Union.
Central Asia and the Balkans
At the age of 17, Khattab left Saudi Arabia to participate in the fight against the Soviet Union during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. During this time, he permanently incapacitated his right hand and lost several fingers after an accident with improvised explosives. The injury was treated with honey by Khattab on himself.
Khattab, while the leader of Islamic International Brigade, publicly admitted that he spent the period between 1989 and 1994 in Afghanistan and that he had met Osama Bin Laden. In March 1994, Khattab arrived in Afghanistan and toured fighter training camps in Khost province. He returned to Afghanistan with the first group of Chechen militants in May 1994. Khattab underwent training in Afghanistan and had close connections with al-Qaeda. Several hundred Chechens eventually trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.
Armenian sources claim that in 1992 he was one of many Chechen volunteers who aided Azerbaijan in the embattled region of Nagorno-Karabakh, where he allegedly met Shamil Basayev. However, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense denied any involvement by Khattab in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War.
From 1993 to 1995, Khattab left to fight alongside Islamic opposition in the Tajikistan Civil War. Before leaving for Tajikistan in 1994, al-Khattab gave Abdulkareem Khadr a pet rabbit of his own, which was promptly named Khattab.
In an interview, Khattab once mentioned he had also been involved in the Bosnian War. The fragment of this interview in which he makes this statement can be found in the 2004 BBC documentary The Smell of Paradise, though he did not specify his exact role or the duration of his presence there.
First Chechen War
According to Khattab's brother, he first heard about the Chechen conflict on an Afghan television channel in 1995; that same year, he entered Chechnya, posing as a television reporter. He was credited as being a pioneer in producing video footage of Chechen rebel combat operations in order to aid fundraising efforts as well as international recruitment, and he himself achieved notoriety in 1996 when he himself filmed an ambush he led against a Russian armored column in Shatoy. Not long after his arrival he married an ethnic Lak woman from Dagestan, the sister of Nadyr Khachiliev, an Islamist and leader of the Union of the Muslims of Russia, which has been seen as a way to already internationalize the Chechen struggle.
During the First Chechen War, Khattab participated in fighting Russian forces and acted as an intermediary financier between foreign Muslim funding sources and the local fighters. To help secure funding and spread the message of resistance, he was frequently accompanied by at least one cameraman.
His units were credited with several devastating ambushes on Russian columns in the Chechen mountains. His first action was the October 1995 ambush of a Russian convoy which killed 47 soldiers. Khattab gained early fame and a great notoriety in Russia for his April 1996 ambush of a large armored column in a narrow gorge of Yaryshmardy, near Shatoy, which killed up to 100 soldiers and destroyed some two or three dozen vehicles. In another ambush, near Vedeno, at least 28 Russian troops were killed. .
In the course of the war, Shamil Basayev became his closest ally and personal friend. He was also associated with Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who gave Khattab two of the highest Chechen military awards, the Order of Honor and the Brave Warrior medal, and promoted him to the rank of general.
A senior Chechen commander by the name of Izmailov told press how Khattab urged restraint, citing the Koran, when at the end of the war the Chechens wanted to shoot those they considered traitors.
After the conclusion of the war, Khattab, by then wanted by Interpol on Russia's request, became a prominent warlord and commanded the Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya, his own private army with a group of Arabs, Turks and other foreign fighters who had come to participate in the war. He set up a network of paramilitary camps in the mountainous parts of the republic that trained not only Chechens, but also Muslims from the North Caucasian Russian republics and Central Asia.
On 22 December 1997, over a year after the signing of the Khasav-Yurt treaty and the end of the first war in Chechnya, the Arab mujahideen and a group of Dagestani rebels raided the base of the 136th Armoured Brigade of the 58th Division of the Russian Army in Buinaksk, Dagestan.
In 1998, along with Shamil Basayev, Khattab created or reorganized the Mazhlis ul Shura of the United Mujahids (Consultative Council of United Holy Warriors), the Congress of the Peoples of Dagestan and Ichkeniya, the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR), the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB) (also known as the Islamic Peacekeeping Army) and a group of female suicide bombers, the Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Shahids. In August–September 1999, they led the IIPB's incursions into Dagestan, which resulted in the deaths of at least several hundred people and effectively started the Second Chechen War.
1999 bombings in Russia
A Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) investigation named Khattab as the mastermind behind the September 1999 Russian apartment bombings. However, on 14 September 1999, Khattab told the Russian Interfax news agency in Grozny that he had nothing to do with the Moscow explosions; he was quoted as saying, "We would not like to be akin to those who kill sleeping civilians with bombs and shells."
However, some western journalists and historians claimed that the bombings were in fact a "false flag" attack perpetrated by the FSB in order to legitimize the resumption of military activities in Chechnya. Among them are Johns Hopkins University scholar David Satter, historians Yuri Felshtinsky, Amy Knight and Karen Dawisha, and former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko who was believed to be poisoned by Russian agents in London.
However, the invasion of Dagestan in August 1999 was the first and the main casus belli for the Second Chechen War.
Second Chechen War
During the course of the war in 2000, Khattab took over the leadership of Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya and participated in leading his militia against Russian forces in Chechnya, as well as managing the influx of foreign fighters and money (and, according to the Russian officials, also planning of attacks in Russia).
He led or commanded several devastating attacks during this year, such as the mountain battle, which killed at least 67 Russian paratroopers, and the attack on the OMON convoy near Zhani-Vedeno, which killed at least 3 Russian Interior Ministry troops.
Khattab later survived a heavy-calibre bullet wound to the stomach and a landmine explosion.
Death and legacy
Khattab died of poisoning on 20 March 2002, when a Dagestani messenger hired by the Russian FSB gave Khattab a poisoned letter the day before. Chechen sources said that the letter was coated with "a fast-acting nerve agent, possibly sarin or a derivative". The messenger, a Dagestani double agent known as Ibragim Alauri, was turned by the FSB on his routine courier mission. Khattab would receive letters from his mother in Saudi Arabia, and the FSB found this to be the most opportune moment to kill Khattab. It was reported that the operation to recruit and turn Ibragim Alauri to work for the FSB and deliver the poisoned letter took some six months of preparation. Alauri was reportedly tracked down and killed a month later in Baku, Azerbaijan on Shamil Basayev's orders. Ibn Al-Khattab was succeeded by Emir Abu al-Walid.
He was falsely reported dead when Guantanamo captive Omar Mohammed Ali Al Rammah faced the allegations that he witnessed Khattab being killed in an ambush in Duisi, a village in the Pankisi Gorge of Georgia on 28 April 2002.
Links to Osama bin Laden
According to Fawaz Gerges who cited Abu Walid al Masri's diaries, Ibn al-Khattab and Osama bin Laden operated separate groups, as they defined the enemy differently, but tried to pull each other to their own battle plans. A part of bin Laden's interest was trying to obtain weapons of mass destruction (or at least dirty bombs) from the Russian arsenal through al-Khattab's contacts.
He wrote his memoirs entitled Memories of Amir Khattab: The Experience of the Arab Ansar in Chechnya, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
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- =18627&tx_ttnews[backPid]=184&no_cache=1 "Who Ordered Khattab's Death?"], Jamestown Foundation, quoting Russian press sources
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OARDEC (16 September 2005). "Unclassified Summary of Evidence for Administrative Review Board in the case of Al Rammah, Omar Mohammed Ali" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. pp. 42–44. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 8 January 2008.
The detainee witnessed the ambush that killed Ibn al Khattab
OARDEC (26 May 2006). "Unclassified Summary of Evidence for Administrative Review Board in the case of Al-Rammah, Omar Mohammed Ali" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. pp. 25–27. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 February 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2008.
The detainee was captured in a violent road ambush by Georgia Security Forces in Duisi, Georgia on 28 April 2002.
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- Elena Pokalova, Returning Islamist Foreign Fighters: Threats and Challenges to the West, Springer, 2019, p. 70
- BBC notice of Khattab's death
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- The Rise and Fall of Foreign Fighters in Chechnya, The Jamestown Foundation