Image: Sulim Yamadayev
AP file
Sulim Yamadayev, seen here in September 2007 at a military base outside Grozny, Chechnya, was a bitter foe of the Moscow-backed leader of Chechnya.
updated 3/30/2009 3:04:19 PM ET 2009-03-30T19:04:19

A bitter foe of Chechnya's Moscow-backed leader was fatally shot at close range in a brazen midday attack in Dubai, local and Russian news reports said Monday.

Sulim Yamadayev, a former Chechen rebel who went over to the government side, was shot Saturday outside the busy residential complex where he lived along the city's Gulf shoreline and died Monday in a hospital, Russian media reports said, quoting unnamed relatives.

When Yamadayev switched allegiances in the Chechen conflict, he created a battalion made up of other former militants that has fought rebels in Chechnya alongside federal troops since 2003.

But he is a longtime foe of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's Kremlin-backed president who has steadily tightened his grip on power in the war-ravaged region and imposed Islamic rules. Rights groups have accused Kadyrov's security force of rampant abuses, including torture and killings of suspected militants and their relatives.

The reported attack on Yamadayev followed assassinations of several other Chechen renegades. Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, said Saturday's shooting "looks like an assassination."

The Chechen "was assassinated in the parking lot of the building where he lives," Tamim was quoted as saying Saturday by the United Arab Emirates' official news agency, WAM.

Tamim did not answer calls Monday from The Associated Press seeking comment on the killing.

Several Dubai media reports identified the victim with a slightly different name, Sulaiman Madov. The discrepancy might have been caused in transliterating his name from Russian, or he might have been living under a different name in Dubai.

The Russian news outlets identifying him as former rebel Yamadayev included the country's two main news agencies, ITAR-Tass and RIA-Novosti. One of those reports, in the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, quoted Yamadayev's brother, Isa, as confirming the death.

Simmering dispute
Yamadayev was one of the few who refused to bow to Kadyrov's orders. Long-running tensions between the two men exploded into an open conflict last April when Yamadayev's men refused to give way to Kadyrov's convoy.

Kadyrov then 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, but was discharged from the Russian army shortly after. Yamadayev left Russia after his older brother, Ruslan, was shot and killed in his car in central Moscow last September.

"We hope that law enforcement agencies will find the killer," said Ali Karimov, a spokesman for Kadyrov in the Chechen capital, Grozny, reached by telephone.

When pressed for more details and about how he knew Yamadayev was dead, Karimov hung up the phone.

Several other Chechens have been slain abroad in recent years.

In 2004, former Chechen separatist President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was killed in Qatar. Two Russian intelligence agents were convicted of that killing and sent back to Russia to serve their sentences.

In January, a former bodyguard of Kadyrov was shot dead in Vienna. The man, Umar Israilov, had filed a criminal complaint against Kadyrov in Austria in June, accusing him of torture and other abuses in Chechnya.

Russia claims the right to dispatch soldiers or security agents anywhere to fight anyone it considers a terrorist. The parliament in 2006 authorized the president to make such dispatches, following the kidnapping of four Russian Embassy workers in Iraq.

More on: Chechnya

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