Chechen leader says murdered foe buried in Dubai

Wed Apr 1, 2009 9:20am EDT

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* Chechen leader says Yamadayev buried in Dubai

* Blames possible criminal feud for killing of foe



GROZNY, Russia, April 1 (Reuters) - The Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov confirmed on Wednesday that a prominent opponent, murdered last weekend, had been buried in the Gulf state.

Sulim Yamadayev, a former military commander and bitter foe of Kadyrov, was shot in the underground car park of a luxury seaside apartment block in a planned attack, local police said.

One Russian has been arrested in connection with the murder.

"Sulim Yamadayev was buried two days ago in Dubai," Kadyrov told reporters in the Chechen capital Grozny. He said the killing may have been the result of fighting between criminal gangs.

Yamadayev was the fifth Chechen living abroad to have been killed in the past six months. Kadyrov's spokesman has dismissed any suggestion that the latest crime was linked in any way to the Chechen president.

Russian analysts have noted that Yamadayev's death removes one of the last remaining powerful opponents to Kadyrov's increasingly strong control over Chechnya.

Kadyrov, 32, has pleased the Kremlin by calming the restive and mostly Muslim province -- which fought two separatist wars with Moscow -- but human rights activists have expressed alarm at extra-judicial killings and forced Islamisation.

Yamadayev's family, including a brother in Dubai, have repeatedly told Russian media that he survived the attack and was still alive. Dubai police have dismissed this, saying Yamadayev died instantly from wounds sustained during the shooting.

Once one of Chechnya's most powerful men, Yamadayev was a former rebel who switched sides and backed the Kremlin, becoming a decorated military leader. He had challenged Kadyrov for control of local security forces until last year, when he was dismissed from commanding an elite battalion and forced to flee.

Kadyrov described Yamadayev, who was awarded Russia's highest military honour, as a "criminal".

Yamadayev fought against Russia in the first Chechen war of 1994-96, when Moscow suffered a humiliating defeat and had to pull out of the separatist southern province.

He became commander of the Vostok battalion, a unit of battle-hardened former rebels, which local media said was linked to Russia's powerful military intelligence agency, the GRU. (Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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