Former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who has been linked to al-Qaida and was wanted in Russia for maintaining international terrorist ties, died here Friday, hospital officials said, after Arab media reported he was fatally wounded when his car exploded.
A doctor, who declined to be identified, told The Associated Press that Yandarbiyev died from his injuries on the way to the hospital. The doctor said Yandarbiyev’s son was in critical condition.
He said they were the only two people brought to the Hamad General Hospital. A hospital official had said earlier that two bodyguards were dead on arrival.
The hospital would not confirm that the injuries came from a car explosion, but Arab satellite channels Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya both reported Yandarbiyev was injured in an explosion that killed two other people.
The Russian Embassy had no comment on the reports. Russia seeks the extradition of Yandarbiyev, who has been living in Qatar.
Al-Jazeera said the explosion occurred after Yandarbiyev had prayed at a Doha mosque. He got into his private car, and the explosion went off at a road intersection 300 yards away.
The Qatari Foreign Ministry said it would issue a statement on the incident.
Links to terrorism
Yandarbiyev, born in 1952, became vice president of the Russian republic of Chechnya under separatist president Dzhokhar Dudayev, and served as acting president of de facto independent Chechnya in 1996-97. He headed the rebel delegation to talks with then Russian President Boris Yeltsin and then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in 1996.
Yandarbiyev opened a Chechen embassy in Kabul and a consulate in Kandahar during the reign of the hard-line Taliban militia.
The United Nations last year put Yandarbiyev on a list of people with alleged links to the al-Qaida terrorist network. The U.S. government, too, put Yandarbiyev on a list of international terrorists subject to U.S. financial sanctions.
Yandarbiyev was considered a key link in the Chechen rebels’ finance network, channeling funds from abroad. He has lived in Qatar for more than three years, according to Russian authorities.
Russian forces withdrew from Chechnya in 1996 after a disastrous 20-month war with rebels, leaving the republic running its own affairs and largely lawless. Troops swept in again in September 1999 after Chechnya-based militants launched raids into a neighboring region and after some 300 people were killed in apartment building explosions that Russian officials blamed on Chechen separatists.