Western-Backed Chechen “Freedom Fighter” Named as Istanbul Attack Mastermind

Meet Akhmed Chatayev: Freedom Fighter - Government Informant - Most Wanted Terrorist   

First details begin to emerge about the suspected Islamic State attack on Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport that left at least 44 people dead and more than 230 injured.

A senior Turkish government official announced on Thursday that the three suicide bombers who carried out the attack were nationals of Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.[1]

Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak quoted police as saying that eight terrorists were involved in the operation. Three of them were killed, one was detained and four others remain at large.

According to the Yeni Safak report, well-known Chechen Islamic State commander Akhmed Chatayev organized the deadly attack.[2]

Turkish officials did not immediately confirm Chatayev’s involvement but a Turkish police source with direct knowledge of the investigation told NBC News that Chatayev is believed to be the planner of the attack.[3]

Turkish police reportedly launched a manhunt to catch the Chechen terrorist leader.[4]

Western governments and media are now scrambling to explain why they dismissed Russian warnings about Chatayev and protected him for many years despite a long history of terrorism-related offenses.

Akhmed Chatayev first caught the Russian authorities’ attention when he was captured during the Second Chechen War in the late 1990s. Depending on whom you want to believe, Chatayev lost his right arm either due to a wound sustained during the fighting or as a result of torture after his arrest.

The circumstances of his release remain unclear, which prompted Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s The Interpreter to suggest that Chatayev might have been recruited as a Russian informer or agent.[5]

Judging by his actions upon release, this seems unlikely.

Chatayev left Russia in 2001 and found refuge in Azerbaijan,[6] like many other Chechen “freedom fighters.”[7]

This can be explained by the fact that Azerbaijan served as one main conduit for the U.S.-NATO-led ‘Gladio B’ operations in the region – the other main conduit being Turkey.[8]

The true extent of U.S.-NATO involvement in the Chechen struggle for independence is still a well-guarded secret but Chatayev’s story sheds some light on dubious Western machinations that have fueled terrorism in Russia and beyond.

In 2003, “Akhmed One-Arm” moved to Austria. He was granted asylum and received Austrian citizenship. While enjoying Austrian hospitality, Chatayev made extensive use of his new passport that “allowed him to travel freely in Europe and elsewhere.”

Russian media reports suggest that Chatayev was wanted by Russian authorities since 2003 on suspicion of recruiting fighters and raising funds for the North Caucasus insurgency. According to sources in Chechen Islamic groups, this task was assigned to him by none other than Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov.[9]

Neither Chatayev’s close connection to Umarov nor his criminal activities seemed to bother anyone in the West. Russia repeatedly tried to get him extradited, to no avail.

In 2008, “Akhmed One-Arm” made headlines in Sweden. He was arrested and sentenced to 16 months in prison for smuggling an automatic weapon and two handguns with munition and silencers into the country. Chatayev had arrived by ferry boat from Germany along with two other Chechens. He told the Swedish authorities that they were on their way to Norway to go fishing and denied having any knowledge of the weapons hidden in a spare wheel in the trunk of his car. Chatayev was convicted in March 2008 and released in January 2009.[10]

A few months later he continued his tour through European prisons in Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities arrested him at Russia’s request. Russia asked for Chatayev’s extradition but the European Court of Human Rights and Amnesty International intervened, reminding the Ukrainian government that the wanted terror suspect had been granted refugee status in Austria.[11]

Instead of enjoying life in Wien, Chatayev then got into trouble in Bulgaria. In summer 2011, he was detained at the Bulgarian border while attempting to cross into Turkey. A Bulgarian court decided to extradite him to Russia but Chatayev filed an appeal and played the refugee card – with success.[12]

Afterwards, Umarov’s trusted associate settled in Georgia, where he was offered a job by then-Deputy Interior Minister Giorgi Lortkipanidze due to his excellent connections to the North Caucasus insurgency.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Lortkipanidze did his best to obfuscate what really happened in Georgia and which role Chatayev played. He claimed that he recruited Chatayev as an informer and negotiator between the Georgian government and the Islamic underground of the North Caucasus to prevent terrorist attacks in Georgia.

Lortkipanidze told The Daily Beast that he was pleased with Chatayev’s work for more than a year until he refused to rat out a group of radical militants that was trying to cross from Georgia into Russia.[13]

Georgia’s former Deputy Interior Minister was referring to the so-called Lopota incident in August 2012, but for some reason he failed to mention that this incident exposed a secret government training program for Chechen fighters. An investigation into the clashes in the Lopota gorge by Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili unearthed explosive information:

According to the report, in February 2012 senior officials from the Georgian Interior Ministry contacted some of “veterans of the Chechen war”, as well as representatives of Chechen community now living in Europe with the purpose to convince them that the Georgian authorities were ready to give armed militants “so called corridor”, a free passage for infiltrating into Russia’s North Caucasus via Georgia.

These efforts, according to the report, resulted into arrival from Europe of about 120 Chechens and other natives of the North Caucasus in Georgia.

“Flats were rented for them in various neighborhoods of Tbilisi, mainly in Saburtalo district,” the report reads, adding that the Interior Ministry officials were picking them up at Tbilisi airport and providing them with firearms and driving licenses.

Georgian military officials and “Chechen militants with large combat experience” trained the Chechen recruits at the Shavnabada and Vaziani military bases near Tbilisi. There is evidence to suggest that Akhmed Chatayev was involved in this secret program. Nanuashvili’s report named Lortkipanidze as having coordinated the recruitment and training, which explains why he didn’t tell The Daily Beast the whole truth about Chatayev’s work for the Georgian government.

According to Nanuashvili’s sources, the Chechens grew impatient because their training was taking longer than expected and demanded to be taken to the Russian border. But after arriving in the Lopota gorge, the fighters were prevented from entering Russia and told to surrender their arms before returning either to a military base or to Pankisi gorge.[14]

Chatayev was reportedly one of the “authoritative Chechen individuals” that were brought in to mediate after the Chechen fighters refused to lay down their arms. The talks yielded no results and Chatayev was injured during the ensuing fighting. Georgian security forces arrested him a few days later. His injured leg had to be amputated and he was charged with illegal possession of two hand grenades.

Russia asked once again for Chatayev’s extradition, with the same result as before. In December 2012, Chatayev was released on bail and the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office eventually dropped the charge against him one month later.[15]

Former President Mikheil Saakashvili and his United National Movement (UNM) seized upon this fact in the aftermath of the Istanbul airport attack to settle political scores.

Saakashvili emphasized that Chatayev was arrested by his government in a counter-terrorist operation led by Lortkipanidze, and lamented that, after a change of government, “the new Georgian government, led by Russian oligarch Ivanishvili, promptly freed him.”[16] The former Georgian leader failed to mention that his close associate Lortkipanidze was in charge of a secret government training program for Chechen fighters and that Chatayev had been working for him.

Lortkipanidze later escaped prosecution in Georgia for his role in the Lopota debacle by following his old boss Saakashvili to Ukraine.[17]

In addition to Chatayev, nine Chechen fighters survived the 2012 clashes. They were allowed to leave the country a few days later and the Georgian Interior Ministry assisted them in traveling to Turkey.[18]

Turkey is the preferred destination of many Chechen “freedom fighters,” and Chatayev was no exception.

According to Russian independent news agency Caucasian Knot, he lived in Turkey between 2012 and 2015. During this time, he came into direct contact with Islamic State commander Tarkhan Batirashvili – a man with a similar story.[19]

After serving as the Caucasus Emirate’s representative in Turkey, Chatayev reportedly joined IS in 2014.[20]

As early as January 2015, “a trustworthy source from Istanbul” told Georgian media that Chatayev was organizing the transit of young recruits from Georgia’s Pankisi gorge to Syria.[21]

One month later, Chatayev removed any last doubts about his activities by appearing in an IS video in Syria as the commander of the Yarmouk Battalion, a Chechen-led IS battalion of Russian-speaking jihadists.[22]

In August, Russian security services identified “One-Legged Akhmet” as the main recruiter of Russian nationals to the Islamic State.[23]

In October 2015, the U.S. government finally acted on the IS video from February and added Chatayev to its list of specially designated global terrorists.[24]

Within a few years, Chatayev had gone from working for the U.S.-backed Georgian government and enjoying protection in the West to becoming one of the most wanted terrorists - despite barely changing his behavior. The biggest difference was that his activities were no longer limited to Russia.

The fact that Akhmed Chatayev has now emerged at the center of the investigation into the Istanbul airport attack raises many inconvenient questions - and Western governments have a lot to answer for.

# # # #

Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

[1] Humeyra Pamuk and Daren Butler, “Istanbul airport bombers were Russian, Uzbek, Kyrgyz: Turkish official,” Reuters, 30 June 2016: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-blast-raids-idUSKCN0ZG0RM.

[2] “Russian national identified as a suicide bomber in Istanbul airport attack,” Yeni Safak, 30 June 2016: http://www.yenisafak.com/en/news/russian-national-identified-as-a-suicide-bomber-in-istanbul-airport-attack-2488906.

[3] William M. Arkin, Mansur Mirovalev and Corky Siemaszko, “Chechen Akhmed Chatayev Is Called Suspected Planner of Istanbul Attack,” NBC News, 1 July 2016: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/istanbul-ataturk-airport-attack/chechen-akhmed-chatayev-called-suspected-planner-istanbul-attack-n602401.

[4] Dominique Soguel and Suzan Fraser, “Attention in Istanbul bombing focused on Chechen extremist,” The Associated Press, 1 July 2016: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fad6ca6eda9142bead29b11b7b259981/turkish-official-mastermind-feb-terror-attack-killed.

[5] Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, “Russian Press Claims Alleged Mastermind of Istanbul Attacks Was Detained For Terrorism In Four Countries But Was Let Go,” The Interpreter, 30 June 2016: http://www.interpretermag.com/turkey-claims-airport-bombers-were-russian-uzbek-and-kyrgyz-georgian-ties-possible/#14408?pressId=14408.

[6] Nino Burchuladze, “‘Ahmed One-Arm’ - The man who sends Jihadists from Pankisi to Syria,” Georgian Journal, 31 January 2015: http://www.georgianjournal.ge/military/29509-ahmed-one-arm-the-man-who-sends-jihadists-from-pankisi-to-syria.html.

[7] Sibel Edmonds, “BFP Exclusive: US-NATO-Chechen Militia Joint Operations Base,” Boiling Frogs Post, 22 November 2011: http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2011/11/22/bfp-exclusive-us-nato-chechen-militia-joint-operations-base/.

[8] Nafeez Ahmed, “Why was a Sunday Times report on US government ties to al-Qaeda chief spiked?,” Ceasefire Magazine, 17 May 2013: http://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/whistleblower-al-qaeda-chief-u-s-asset/.

[9] Fatima Tlisova, “Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain,” Voice of America, 30 June 2016: http://www.voanews.com/content/chechen-suspected-istanbul-attack-questions-remain/3399309.html.

[10] “The Latest: Tunisian town buries doctor killed in Istanbul,” The Associated Press, 1 July 2016: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fda76e4091a14140b0c30212f60139d0/latest-us-official-chechen-organized-airport-attack.

[11] “Ukraine: Ukraine obliged to halt extradition: Ahmed Chataev : Further information,” Amnesty International, 22 January 2010: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur50/002/2010/en/.

[12] “Bulgarian court refuses to hand over terror suspect to Russia,” Russia Today, 22 July 2011: https://www.rt.com/news/terror-suspect-denied-extradition/.

[13] Anna Nemtsova, “Mastermind of Istanbul Airport Attack Had Been Georgian Informant, Official Says,” The Daily Beast, 1 July 2016: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/07/01/mastermind-of-istanbul-airport-attack-had-been-georgian-informant-official-says.html.

[14] “Public Defender Calls on MPs to Probe into Lopota Armed Clash,” Civil Georgia, 1 April 2013: http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=25911.

[15] Liz Fuller, “President Again Denies Georgia Co-Opted Chechen Fighters,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 28 April 2013: http://www.rferl.org/content/georgia-chechen-militants-allegations-saakashvili-denial/24970927.html.

[16] Mikheil Saakashvili, Facebook, 30 June 2016: https://www.facebook.com/SaakashviliMikheil/posts/1224494270914285.

[17] “New head of Odessa Police escapes prosecution in Georgia,” Caucasian Knot, 17 June 2015: http://eng.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/32068/.

[18] Ibid., Civil Georgia.

[19] Ibid., Tlisova.

[20] “Details of Atatürk Airport attack planner emerge,” Yeni Safak, 2 July 2016: http://www.yenisafak.com/en/news/details-of-ataturk-airport-attack-planner-emerge-2489718.

[21] Ibid., Burchuladze.

[22] Joanna Paraszczuk, “Russian Citizen Linked To Lopota Gorge Incident Now Heads IS Battalion In Syria,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 25 February 2015: http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-lopota-gorge-incident-islamic-state-syria/26869379.html.

[23] Joanna Paraszczuk, “Main Russian IS Recruiter 'Identified In Turkey,' But Who Is One-Legged Akhmet?,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 10 August 2015: http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-islamic-state-one-legged-akhmet-recruiter/27181197.html.

[24] “Treasury Sanctions Individuals Affiliated With Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and Caucasus Emirate,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, 5 October 2015: https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0199.aspx.

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  1. I have so many questions about behind the scenes stuff here:

    1) I am guessing that his successful use of reugee status was NATO or U.S. backed somehow?
    2) It looks pike there is a power struggle in Georgia?
    3) Why is a Russian Oligarch helping U.S. terror?

    On that note, although not directly related to this, but related to the underlying structure of it maybe, I am sure that I once read that the Clinton’s sold a U.S. uranium mine to the Russians. So why is Killary so bellicose toward the Russians? Is it a case of the lady doth protest too loudly? I have wondered if western powers are crooked and seting NATO up for a failure against Russia. I have also wondered if all the chest pounding from either side is just theater to get us to accept WW III/nuclear war as a sort of giant power grab that would destroy industrialized infrastructure and reduce us all to living like an Iraqi, for example. A complete reinstatement of feudalism. Am I being too grandiose?

    I will have to start reading these as pdf’s so I can highlight as they are very complex to my ignorant mind.

  2. Crap, your website doesn’t save to pdf well. Can you post a pdf? If I try to do it with my browser it cuts off the last 5 pages with grey.

  3. Response to Erdagon’s apology for SU shootdown..perhaps..

  4. How does that explain the allowing of the terrorists to casually prepare right in the entrance?

  5. CuChulainn says:

    In Tbilisi, Istanbul terrorist Chatayev was named agent of the Georgian special services
    Lenta.ru, Jul 3 2016
    A suspect in organizing terrorist attacks in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, Chechnyan native Ahmed Chatayev was an agent of Georgian special services during the reign of Mikhail Saakashvili. This was stated by the Chairman of the parliamentary Committee on defense and national security of Georgia Irakli Sesiashvili, reports “Interfax” on Sunday Jul 3.

    Agent of Georgian special services
    Colonel Cassad, Jul 3 2016
    Now it’s clear why Saakashvili is so sharply involved in shifting the blame for the current Georgian leadership, because he felt that it may float its direct involvement in cooperation with an international terrorist. However the news is silent when it Chatayev is started and when finished to receive a salary from the Georgians. Plus a trailer is still a little fakturka about the struggle of “human rights” for freedom international terrorist. New information on ASP 07/10, EUR index 50/001/2010:

  6. In my ignorant mind I am getting the picture that:

    1) We know Georgia is U.S. controlled.
    2) Now we know that Georgia is a U.S. terror development operation.
    ?3) Russiam Oligarch is loyal to who? Did he let terrorist through to get revenge on Turkey? Or is he allied with U.S. and aiding them, just using revenge as cover to please Russians?

  7. No wait, the oligarch, Ivanishvilli was in control of Georgia, I had thought it was some other country. So the Russian Oligarch is a U.S. asset. Why does Russia not shut down his accounts?

    I hate this crap. It is such a.mess to sort.

  8. To me it looks like he was a NATO agent trying to bring in U.S influence into Russia in the 90’s, then switched to Georgia for better use. No revenge for the Russian plane shootdown here I think


    Despite the obvious bad feeling between he and his political opponent Saakashvili, it seems they share the same Western political values. At a press conference after the election, Ivanishvili said Georgia’s entry to NATO is one of his priorities. Yet he criticised Saakashvili for souring relations with neighbors.

    “That was an erroneous policy; we intend to be a regional actor and to normalize relations with neighbors, including Russia,” he said.

    Bidzina Ivanishvili made his fortune in Russia, having founded the Rossiysky Kredit Bank with his partner Vitaly Malkin in 1990. He set up various businesses during the infamous privatization processes in Russia in 1990s, with interests extending into metal production, mining and investments in the Russian stock market. Reportedly the Georgian billionaire used to own Russian drug store chain Doktor Stoletov and two five-star hotels in the Russian capital.

  9. Yep, Ivanishvili is controlled opposition to throw Georgians the idea that they are getting real reform.
    This is just another U.S led terror attack/false flag op. Lame as f—.


    “There’s much to admire in the Georgian president’s nearly decade-long rule, which looks to be coming to an unexpected end. After the 2003 Rose Revolution, which he helped lead, the western-educated Sakashvili inherited a country emerging from more than a decade of Russian client-hood, separatist warfare and economic and political stagnation. Sakashvili overhauled a chronically-corrupt police force, invested in much-needed infrastructural improvements, and shifted Georgia’s political orientation westward. But his rule took on an increasingly authoritarian character, and the country’s stilted relations with Russia — partly a matter of policy for Sakashvili, who was president during Russia’s devastating 2008 invasion of his country — had a negative impact on much-needed cross-border trade. An uneven economy, and plummeting trust in a once-effective but autocratic government, provided an opening for a unifying opposition figure.”

    Just the U.S maintaining control.

    “In August, The Atlantic interviewed that figure. Before this election cycle, Ivanishvili was so enigmatic that most Georgians didn’t know what he looked like — even though he was personally responsible for as much as half of the country’s GDP. Georgian Dream is a loose alliance of mainstream opposition parties and elements of the anti-Sakashvili political fringe: “free-market liberals, xenophobic nationalists, and those who hanker for the era before 2003,” according to The Economist. Yet even if the coalition is ideologically incoherent, Ivanishvili’s money, influence and name-recognition made Georgian Dream an instantly credible alternative to the ruling party.”

    Apparently normalize means go back to the cold war…

    “It’s somewhat wishful to believe that you could convince the Russians to withdraw from Georgian territory while Georgia has NATO membership, given Russia’s opposition to Georgian and Ukrainian NATO membership in the past. I’m wondering how you foresee building trust with the Russians while being a member of NATO.

    Well, it’s a very hard question. We need to see this within a global political landscape. The United States, Europe, NATO members, the West in general is trying to normalize its relationship with Russia.”

    This part is interesting, but I am not sure what to make of it.

    “If you were in power, how would you further deregulate the economy?

    Sakashvili’s a professional liar. He learned how the World Bank is doing their ratings. If you come to Georgia, you can open up a company in a day. You yourself can come tomorrow and establish a company in a day and you’re not halted by paperwork.

    If we look only at the paperwork, yes this is an achievement, for Europe and for the World Bank, yes, this gives them the right to say that yes, in Georgia you can found [businesses]. But as soon as the smoke hits the chimney and that company starts to generate revenue, they come after you and they take away from you. So opening up in a day doesn’t really matter much. And no real business is coming.”

  10. I am betting Ivanishvili got his money from the CIA. Sorry for the short post.

  11. Valerie Lever says:

    And today Ramzan Kadyrov has a list of Chechen terrorists in Turkey for them to arrest and hand over to Russia. He wrote on his instagram that these guys are in Turkey (just a helpful list for them):
    Tarkhan Gasiyev,

    Ahmad Umarov,

    Ahmad Patayev,

    Shirvani Basayev,

    Mahran Saidov,

    Rizvan and Usama Yakubov,

    Aslanbek Vadalov,

    Movsar Chatayev,

    Khadi Aslanov,

    Rustam Naurbayev

    and their mentor:

    Movladi Udugov

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