FSB Dubs Kosovo a Chechen Hideout

Chechen fighters are hiding out in Kosovo, where they have hooked up with ethnic Albanian separatists, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, said Wednesday.

FSB officials said based on this new information, they are not ruling out the possibility that Chechen rebels may hijack airplanes on Russian territory to try to reach Kosovo.

"Chechen fighters have established contact with Albanian separatists, the side of Kosovo on which many mercenaries from Chechnya have fought," Interfax quoted the FSB as saying.

An FSB spokesman confirmed the Interfax statement. There has been no independent confirmation that Chechens have been seeking refuge in Kosovo, a province in Serbia where the majority of the population is Moslem ethnic Albanian.

On Monday, the FSB said it expected Chechen terrorists to flee with their relatives and supporters to Afghanistan.

Most of Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban, who have recognized Chechnya's independence and have called on the Moslem world to start a jihad against Russia.

But Wednesday, attention was turned instead to Kosovo, where tensions have been rising between Serbs and ethnic Albanians.

The primary goal of Chechen separatist leaders, the FSB said, is to transport their families to Kosovo.

"Former President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev and former Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov are initiating the [Kosovo] operations to seize air vessels with hostages in Russia bound for Kosovo. Don't rule out [the possibility] that an airplane will change its course to Kosovo," a spokesman for the FSB said, speaking on customary anonymity.

Yandarbiyev, who served as Chechen president in 1996, has been in Pakistan trying to raise support and financial backing for the Chechen cause. Earlier this week, Pakistani authorities asked him to leave the country.