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October 17, 2005
BBC Reluctantly Reports On Chechen Islamists

Last week, I pointed out that the American media seemed intent on keeping their readers in the dark about the nature of the conflict in the Caucasus. Not one of the newspapers or broadcasters noting the attack on Nalchik ever mentioned the fact that the so-called Chechen "rebels" did not represent a nationalistic group of freedom-loving Chechens, but instead are Islamist terrorists at least loosely associated with al-Qaeda.

The BBC reports today that the leader of this band of terrorists, Shamil Basayev, makes it pretty plain what kind of organization he runs in his statement of responsibility for the attack on Nalchik:

In his statement on the Kavkaz Center website, which was couched in Islamic terms, Shamil Basayev said that 217 "mujahideen" had attacked Nalchik, targeting police stations and military installations as well as the airport. ...

"Our losses were high because five days before the operation there was a serious leak of information and the infidels brought in an extra 1,000 special forces troops," Basayev said.

Among the militants killed was an Ingush commander called Ilyas Gorchkhanov, he added.

Basayev, who claimed the attack on the Beslan school last year as well as a string of other deadly raids, said the Nalchik operation had been a "great success because our dead are in Paradise and theirs in Hell".

The Chechnyan conflict has widely-known ties to al-Qaeda -- in fact, so widely known that even the relatively clueless 9/11 Commission makes 31 references to them in their final report, more than seven times as many references to Chechnya as to American military intelligence. Page 58 of the report makes the connection explicit:

Bin Ladins impressive array of offices covertly provided financial and other support for terrorist activities.The network included a major business enterprise in Cyprus; a services branch in Zagreb; an office of the Benevolence International Foundation in Sarajevo, which supported the Bosnian Muslims in their conflict with Serbia and Croatia; and an NGO in Baku, Azerbaijan, that was employed as well by Egyptian Islamic Jihad both as a source and conduit for finances and as a support center for the Muslim rebels in Chechnya.

Yet even with the evidence clear, the American media report on Chechen attacks such as Nalchik as part of a separatist movement, as if this consisted of a secular independence movement for an oppressed ethnic minority devoted to democracy. In doing so, they deliberately distort both the nature of the conflict and the nature of the attacks -- at least until the attacks themselves turn so grotesque as to defy the spin. That happened with the notorious Beslan attack on a grade school that left over 300 people dead, including a large number of children taken hostage by the Islamists.

The attacks in the Caucasus represent Islamist terrorism just like the bombings in Iraq, the weakening efforts of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the subway bombings in London. All of these attacks have direct links back to AQ and Osama bin Laden. The American press needs to report this honestly to its consumers, instead of keeping them as misinformed as necessary for the electorate to bend towards political positions they endorse.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 17, 2005 5:40 AM

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