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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Lone Wolf' Vows Death Or Freedom

Chechen "Lone Wolf" Salman Raduyev has emerged from obscurity to defy the Kremlin in a hostage crisis in southern Russia.


Little is known about the shadowy Chechen warlord, who was still holding some 200 hostages Thursday after releasing the rest of the 2,000 people his group of rebels seized in the town of Kizlyar on Tuesday.


But Raduyev, whose group calls itself Lone Wolf, has established himself as a fanatical commander dedicated to separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev in Chechnya's 13-month-old independence war against Moscow.


"We have made an oath to our president that we will be kamikazes to the end and carry out his orders," Raduyev told Russian Television.


"The main slogan of our action is death or freedom."


Russian media say Raduyev is 27 or 28, and reports say he is married to a daughter of Dudayev. Like many Chechen fighters, he has a long beard and wears a green Islamic headband and combat fatigues.


Raduyev's main demand has been for Russia to withdraw the troops it sent to Chechnya in December 1994 to try to end its then three-year-old independence drive.


Itar-Tass described him as a former regional official of the Komsomol communist youth organization and a local leader in Gudermes, Chechnya's second city.


Raduyev's major action as a rebel commander appears to have been the seizure last month of Gudermes, Chechnya's second city. Russian troops eventually forced the last Chechen fighters out about 10 days later after heavy fighting.


In the attack on Gudermes, as in Kizlyar, Raduyev seized the hospital along with other buildings.


Before that, an Itar-Tass report in January last year said he had taken diesel fuel that had been sent to Gudermes as humanitarian aid by Moscow and that he had handed it over to Chechen rebels.


In December 1994, Itar-Tass cited official reports saying he had tried to stage "provocations" against Russian troops in Dagestan -- the neighboring region where he launched Tuesday's hostage-taking raid.


The Itar-Tass report said Raduyev's slogan at the time was "Let the Caucasus be ablaze" and suggested his actions had prompted threats from two Russian commanders to "destroy Raduyev's entire clan" if he carried out threats against Russian troops. Russian media have shed no light on the rest of Raduyev's life.


But the raid on Kizlyar is likely to raise his profile dramatically in the rebel camp and establish him high on the Russian government's list of most wanted men.


Shamil Basayev, who led a similar hostage-taking rebel raid in the southern Russian town of Budyonnovsk last June, also emerged from obscurity to become a rebel hero and has evaded arrest ever since. He is thought to be in a mountain hideout.


In a sign of his determination, Raduyev said Tuesday he would continue his fight until the very end. "As long as there is a single Russian soldier on our territory, there will be no talks, no peace with Russia," he told Russian television.