Ample proof of the danger these camps posed to Chechnya and the neighboring Russian Federation came in August and September of 1999 when Dagestani, Chechen, and Arab militants poured over the border from these camps and raided the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan. As a horrified Chechen populace led by President Maskhadov and his secularist aids denounced the jihadi attack, Russia used these incursions as a reason to reinvade Chechnya. During these jihadi invasions into Dagestan, the name of Khattab's Deputy Commander, Abu Walid, was first disseminated in Islamist circles abroad.

While Khattab and Walid have become heroes to Islamists across the globe who followed their jihad exploits online at www.azzam.com and www.kavkaz.org, they were hated by average Chechens who saw them as foreign trouble-makers who gave Russia a pretext to reinvade their lands.

This division between the foreign jihadis and iChechens was, to a degree, healed by the Kremlin's subsequent response to the invasion of Dagestan. Although the Russian Federation had initially limited its retaliatory bombing strikes to Khattab's camps in southeastern Chechnya, the Kremlin launched a total invasion of Chechnya in October 1999. This invasion drove Chechnya's moderate leadership (the only force in Chechnya that might have assisted in expelling the foreign jihadis) into a strategic alliance with Khattab and his IIB.

Most imporantly, as Russia's bloody war in Chechnya continues to fester, it increasingly attracts attention in Islamist circles worldwide, where the Chechens' historic struggle is defined as jihad. Young Egyptians, Yemenis, Saudis, Pakistanis, and Turks continue to make their way to Chechnya to assist the Chechens in their struggle. Many of those who have fought in Chechnya have been radicalized by their experience as front line jihadis.

While there are no statistics on their numbers, it can't be doubted that some of these Chechen-Arab jihadis have subsequently drifted into Al Qaeda terrorist circles in much the same way that Afghan-Arabs from the anti-Soviet jihad were drawn to Osama bin Laden's terrorist struggle against the other Great Satan, America.

Below are some of the overlaps between Chechen-Arabs who fought (or sought to fight) in Chechnya and Al Qaeda. In none of the cases below, however, is there any question of Chechen involvement in Al Qaeda terrorist activities, even though in most of them the Chechen Arabs' Al Qaeda terrorism was reported in the Western press as 'Chechen' Al Qaeda terrorism:

  • 1995. Sudanese Al Qaeda defector Jamal al Fadl testifies that Osam bin Laden offered $1,500 per person (to be used for the purchase of Kalishnikov rifle and travel expenses) for jihad volunteers willing to travel to Chechnya to assist the Chechens in their struggle against the Russian 'infidels.'

  • December 1996. Ayman al Zawaheri, leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and member of Al Qaeda's ruling troika, travels to Dagestan in search of a new base of operations for his organization in response to its expulsion from Sudan. Zawaheri's plans are foiled by Russian security services which arrest him and hold him in jail for several months.
  • 1999-2000. The US government claims that prior to 9/11, the Islamic Benevolence Foundation (a US-based charity that sent $700,000 to the Chechens) and Al Haramein (an international charity based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia which channeled funds to Khattab's aid, Abu Duba, via its offices in Baku, Azerbaijan) also siphoned money to Al Qaeda. Another charity known to have sponsored the Chechen resistance was the Kifah refugee center which had close links to the Al Qaeda bombers in the 1993 WTC attack.

  • September 2001. Ahmed al Ghamidi, a Saudi jihadi who fought in Chechnya after studying engineering in Mecca, is one of the hijackers of United Airlines flight 175 which hit the south WTC tower. Another 9/11 hijacker on the flight that crashed into the Pentagon (Nawaq al Hamzi) also fought in Chechnya. Ahmed al Haznawi, a hijacker on United Ailines flight 93 which crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11 is reported to have left his home in the al Baha region of Saudi Arabia in 2000 telling friends he was going to train in an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan for jihad in Chechnya.
  • September 2001. Several minutes after the September 11th attack on the USA, American intelligence registers a mobile phone call from Afghanistan to the Pankisi Gorge, an inaccessible valley in Georgia that was known as the home base for 'Chechen-Arabs' who trained new recruits for jihad in neighboring Chechnya.

  • September 2001. Mounir El Motassadeq, a member of the 9/11 Al Qaeda support network arrested in Germany, claims that Mohammad Atta, the mission leader for the attack, "really wanted to got to Chechnya to fight because of the massacre the Russians were committing there."

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