An explosion occured in Dagestan on May 9. What do you think it was, an ultimatum of terrorists or the beginning of large-scale actions?
Let us return to ten years ago. The fact of the matter is that this was not the first time that explosions have sounded in Dagestan. When I visited London in 1992, a secret international conference on the struggle with terrorism was held there. Russia’s Public Prosecutor Konstantin Stepankov and I were present at this conference. According to information presented by the Ministry for Security, Ministry for Internal Affairs, and General Office of Public Prosecutor, Dagestan was the leader regarding the number of acts of terrorism. Since that time, many famous and respected people have suffered. I should also mention that people breaking the law were also killed. The people of Dagestan have the right to expect the law enforcement system of the republic and the RF legal system to answer the question, “What has been during these years? Why was this illegal system not destroyed?” Dagestan was perpetually shaken with explosions. Federal authorities should have assisted Dagestan in declaring a war on the terrorists in order to protect the people from this terror.
Let us have a look. About ten attempts have been committed by the Makhachkala mayor and minister of Finance, Duma Deputy Gamidov, a very clever, respected man who was killed in an explosion. We have many examples of this kind.
Everyone has relics of his own, for example, Victory Day. I am really proud of the fact that our fathers and grandfathers achieved victory. It is blasphemy to set off a bomb on such a day. It was not an ordinary explosion, as the explosion had been prepared by professionals to kill as many people as possible. Deputy Gadji Makhachev said that the people were to be executed, but he forgot that we were mountain people who prefer vendetta. As soon as we find out who committed the explosion, we will seek revenge. Nowadays, we are all ingratiating ourselves with the West, and capital punishment has been abolished in a bandit state. How would a normal man react to the murder of over 40 people? When I think of it, I am scared, because children, wives, husbands, and parents of the killed have been seriously hurt with this act of terrorism. I saw a lot of hurt over the 33 years of my work with the Ministry for Internal Affairs, but I am still sure that even beasts cannot act like this.
Russian writer Anton Chekhov said, “If you treat a disease, you should treat its causes, not the disease itself.” Do you think that the attempt of terrorists following Shamil Basayev to set up an Islamic republic on Dagestan territory was just a single episode?
When an organization commits an act of terrorism, this is a good chance to promote itself. As if the organization declares, “We have done it and lay down definite terms and want you to follow the terms, otherwise we will keep on organizing explosions.”
The anonymous acts of terrorism put me on my guard, and I sometimes think that, probably, the act of terrorism was connected with the visit of President Bush or someone else. Things of this kind are committed to knock two civilizations together. Currently, it is often said that Islam is a dreadful religion. Those who try to cause a clash between Orthodoxy and Islam allow such talk. However, not a single religion upholds this.
It is not right to say that Muslims are extremists, because Muslims really suffer from such words. The faithful never commits things of this kind, no matter whether he is a Muslim or a Christian.
Every act of terrorism committed on the planet is said to be originating from Chechnya. When people of Dagestan are accused of committing acts of terrorism, they are said to have been trained in Khattab camps. However, in fact, people are taught to operate with explosives even in the army. Therefore, it is not right for the Ministry for Internal Affairs, the Federal Security Service, and the Prosecutor’s Office to connect every act of terrorism with Chechnya. Do you really think that if an explosion sounds in any part of the world it is really connected with Chechnya? As far as I know, there are no land-mine producing enterprises in Chechnya. I can easily imagine the reaction of the Russian people when acts of terrorism are blamed on the Chechens. We should not focus our attention on the fact that Chechen people have criminals. We also should not make the situation more tense. Unfortunately, journalists often like to discuss non-existent facts.
Do not you think that the invasions and the recent explosion are connected with each other?
No, we should not treat them as connected with each other. The power structures have done great work in Chechnya. If it is proved that Maskhadov’s military units committed the act of terrorism, then practically the whole of the world would turn against them. I think that they are not so naive to commit crimes of this kind.
Who do you think expects to profit from such acts of terrorism? It is well known that conflicts arise in any place where oil is involved.
I say it can be for any reason except for criminal conflicts. I think that it is connected with politics and oriented at the destabilization of the situation in Dagestan. The people of Dagestan are suffering now greatly, and someone probably dislikes the fact that the situation is becoming stable in the republic.
Do you think it will be possible to investigate the incident? To what extent do you suppose that local and Moscow-based law enforcement authorities are corrupt?
I agree that local and Moscow police may be corrupt, but I will never believe that all of the police are corrupt. In Dagestan and in Moscow, people carry out their duties under the most difficult conditions. When the incidents occurred, I think that even corrupt police officers did their best to save people’s lives.
Do you believe the incident will be successfully investigated?
The awful crime shook not only Russia but the whole of the world. Even if no investigation is performed, the president will see to it that the act is investigated. I believe that we will soon know the name of the person who committed this crime.
Recently, we interviewed one of your countrymen, who said that Dagestan was extremely corrupt and very few crimes are solved there. What is your professional opinion of the situation?
If we admit that our state is diseased, then corruption in every layer of authority is considered to be the norm. The same concerns Dagestan. Even in the Soviet era, the Northern Caucasus and Central Asia differed from other Soviet republics for their criminality, especially in the economy. Nowadays, I think that the situation is very much like all of the regions of the Russian Federation. Almost all institutions are corrupt, each to a definite extent.
Is Dagestan rich in oil and other natural resources?
Dagestan is a republic living on subsidies; it depends mostly on Russia’s budget. Russia renders support to Dagestan for its loyalty to the center. Not very much oil is extracted in Dagestan, as well as in the other regions of the Caspian basin. The Dagestan people are very hard working; crimes committed there are attributed to unemployment.
Is it possible that criminal structures can use unemployment to make the situation in the country more tense? I am sure that criminal structures have nothing to do with it. The majority of acts of terrorism are directed against those officials who are disagreeable. It looks as though someone is making the situation unsteady to displace the government and State Council of the republic. However, these are suppositions only, as I have no proof.
I sympathize with the presidents of the republics, because they live like as in a war. It is really very hard to be at a managerial post. Only people who are corrupt themselves usually accuse officials of corruption and dishonorableness.
Were Vakhabit camps created on Dagestan territory?
Yes, they were. However, nobody mentions that Dagestan, and chairman of the State Council in particular, said it was necessary to prohibit Vakhabism. Minister of Justice Kovalev said that Vakhabism was a normal organization that could not be prohibited.
Vakhabism originates from Dagestan, but, at the same time, Dagestan was the first to sound the alarm because of this extremist movement. Chechnya also tried to start a struggle against Vakhabism, but won no support.
Where does global Vakhabism originate from?
I think that only specialists can answer the question. I am a believer, but understand very little about the details of true or traditional Islam.
Do you think that Khattab was connected with Middle East extremists?
For sure. Our special services inform that he was closely connected with extremists not only in the Middle East and Afghanistan but also in other hot spots. It was his work. If the Chechen war were over, Khattab would find some other place to shed blood.
Do you think it is possible that Russian oligarchs and corrupt people in different structures of the power are interconnected?
Certainly they might be.
Aslambek Aslakhanov was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/06/10/42450.html