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A RADICAL WAHHABI TAKES MASKHADOV'S PLACE

RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, March 11. (RIA Novosti)-Warlord Abdul Saidulayev, the chairman of the Ichkerian Shariat court, has become the new separatist leader after the death of Aslan Maskhadov, ex-president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Ichkeria, Chechen separatists' sites reported. Nezavisimaya Gazeta and Kommersant discuss the succession.

According to the distributed "explanation," Aslan Maskhadov signed a decree in summer 2002 under which "in the event of the Ichkerian president's death or captivity, all his powers will be transferred to the chairman of the Supreme Shariat Court until the next free election."

Shamil Basayev has already sworn allegiance to the newly appointed president and called on militants to rally round the new leader. The current Chechen authorities claim, though, that no one in the republic knows Mr. Saidulayev.

Yesterday, Chechen mufti Akhmad-Khadzhi Shamayev called Mr. Saidulayev "the republic's Wahhabi No One". He said Abdul-Khalim was one of the most extremist-minded militants. The mufti also recalled that the new Ichkerian president, who is under 40, had not received a special religious education, but still regularly issued permission from the Shariat court for militants to carry out terrorist acts.

At present, there is no Ichkerian leader that can be called the equal of Aslan Maskhadov, Mercator group head Dmitry Oreshkin notes. This is why Mr. Basayev will have to play a key role in commanding combat operations. However, the political scientist believes the militants have been practicing self-rule for a long time.

The "moderate" separatist Maskhadov was always wary of the radical Wahhabi Abdul-Khalim, a source close to the head of Ichkeria, who was killed on March 8, notes. "The latter will not agree to any talks," he says.



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