DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, (AP) – The assassination of a Chechen renegade — the first reported political killing in this glitzy city — was masterminded by a close ally of Chechnya’s president, Dubai authorities said Sunday, calling on Russia to untie “the knot of this crime.”
The allegation could have broad implications for President Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel now closely allied with the Kremlin and its campaign to quell a 14-year insurrection in Chechnya.
One of his bitter foes, Sulim Yamadayev, was gunned down March 28 outside a busy residential complex along Dubai’s shoreline.
His slaying was the latest assassination targeting Chechen renegades in and outside of Russia. Many observers have linked the killings to Kadyrov, who openly feuded with Yamadayev and his family. Kadyrov has denied involvement.
Dubai Police Chief Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim said Chechen authorities have not cooperated and that “Russia is also responsible for untying the knot of this crime.”
Four suspects were in Russia and two others, an Iranian and a Tajik, were in custody, Tamim told reporters. None has been charged.
One of the suspects at large was Adam Delimkhanov, a Chechen member of Russia’s lower house of parliament who is considered one of Kadyrov’s close friends and part of his inner circle, Tamim said. He has also served as a vice prime minister of Chechnya.
A suspect in custody told authorities that Delimkhanov planned the slaying, Tamim said. A suspect also said Delimkhanov’s guards provided him with the gun used to kill Yamadayev, the police chief said.
“Our investigation found him (Delimkhanov) to be the mastermind of the assassination of Sulim Yamadayev,” Tamim said. The police chief said Dubai will seek Interpol’s help in arresting Delimkhanov and the three others.
Delimkhanov, 39, denied involvement, accused Dubai’s police of incompetence and said Yamadayev had many enemies, according to a statement issued by his spokesman.
“I want to emphasize that I am a politician who for most of my life has battled terrorism and that even in this instance, I am ready to provide help to any justice system, including that of Dubai’s,” he said.
It was not clear what Yamadayev was doing in Dubai, but the authorities said he arrived to the emirate four months ago on a Russian passport issued in the name of Sulaiman Madov.
Though it’s highly unlikely that Russia would turn Delimkhanov over to Dubai for prosecution, the allegations could further taint Kadyrov and the Kremlin’s backing for him.
He took over the presidency in 2007 — three years after his father, the former leader, was assassinated in a bomb blast. Since then, Kadyrov has presided over a virtual end to the large-scale fighting that destroyed the Chechen capital, Grozny, and sent thousands of Chechen refugees into neighboring North Caucasus republics.
As he consolidated his power, Kadyrov and his paramilitary forces have been repeatedly accused of torture, rampant kidnapping of civilians and other human rights abuses.
Many of his critics and political rivals have been killed. Some have been gunned down on the streets of Moscow, including journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.
Kadyrov has denied any involvement in the killings. The Kremlin also has ignored calls for international investigations into the human rights allegations. While president, Vladimir Putin awarded Kadyrov Russia’s highest honorary medal.
Yamadayev was also a contentious figure at home. Once a rebel leader battling Russia, he later switched sides and led a battalion of former rebels alongside the pro-Russian government.
Yamadayev had long-running tensions with Kadyrov, which exploded in April 2008. Kadyrov accused Yamadayev of involvement in abductions and murders, and an arrest warrant for him was issued.
Despite that, Yamadayev led his battalion to fight alongside the Russian military during Russia’s war with Georgia last August. He was discharged from the Russian army shortly after.
Yamadayev’s brother Ruslan was shot and killed in September during a busy afternoon rush hour near Russia’s main government building in Moscow. Sulim Yamadayev and his family left Russia not long after.
In January, a former bodyguard of Kadyrov was shot dead in Vienna months after filing a criminal complaint against the president accusing him of torture.