Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Raduyev Reported Dead From Head Wounds

Salman Raduyev, the Chechen rebel who led the world's largest hostage raid in Dagestan in January, died Wednesday morning in a Chechen hospital from wounds he received when unknown attackers opened fire on his car, news agencies reported.

Quoting a well-placed source in the pro-Moscow government in Chechnya, Itar-Tass reported that Raduyev died from head wounds at 2:00 a.m. in the hospital in the town of Urus Martan, some 15 kilometers south of Grozny.

Reports of the attack on Raduyev were sketchy, and there was no independent confirmation of his death available Wednesday.

According to Itar-Tass, he was driving close to the front line from the village of Stary Atagi to Sovetskoye several days ago when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his car with an automatic rifle, Itar-Tass said. Field commander Umar Khaskhanov, who was with him, died immediately. Raduyev was taken to Urus Martan, an opposition-held town.

Raduyev, 28, an economist by training, and by his own account not an experienced fighter, was related by marriage to separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev. A soft-spoken man with a reddish beard, he wore a green Islamic headband on his wool hat and said he took up arms only when Russian forces invaded Chechnya.

He fought in Gudermes in December, when Chechen rebels seized control of the town for a week, encircling the main Russian command post.

In January, he led his so-called "Lone Wolf" band of rebels in an attack on Kizlyar, moving to Pervomaiskoye with some 150 hostages where they were encircled by Russian troops and bombarded for three days. They fought off Russian attempts to storm the village and eventually escaped unharmed into Chechnya with over 50 hostages.

Afterwards he was criticized by both Aslan Maskhadov, Chechen chief of staff, and Dudayev for overstepping orders. Dudayev said Raduyev would be punished for taking civilian hostages, but was reported last week to have awarded him a medal. After Pervomaiskoye, Chechen fighters were disparaging of Raduyev's military talents, saying he led the attack to make a name for himself.

President Boris Yeltsin has called him a bandit and terrorist and said last week that Raduyev, along with Dudayev and another notorious hostage-taker Shamil Basayev, should be shot.

Conflicting versions of the time and reasons for the attack on Raduyev were quick to circulate in the press. Itar-Tass quoted the commander of Russian forces in Chechnya, General Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, as saying he had heard an unconfirmed report that Raduyev had died from wounds received in fighting in the besieged village of Sernovodsk.

Interfax quoted a source in one of the Russian power ministries as saying that Raduyev's death was the result of infighting among Dudayev's supporters. The source suggested that Raduyev had been killed after he took $1.5 million that should have been distributed among his fighters, an explanation that has been picked up by some television news programs, including the independent NTV.

But Chechen political analyst Sultan Shabuyev dismissed the theory as "hardly believable." He also said he doubted Raduyev was killed by any Russian attack since they have failed to catch any of the key Chechen figures in more than a year of fighting.

"It is most likely that it was the Chechen opposition," he said. "There are many who were against his terrorist action of seizing hostage women and children."

Raduyev's father was also reported killed recently in an attack by unidentified gunmen in Gudermes, Russian news agencies reported.