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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Raduyev ResurfacesTo Claim Bus Blasts

Salman Raduyev, the Chechen military commander who led a massive hostage raid in Dagestan earlier this year and was reported dead in March, reappeared Thursday to claim responsibility for the recent trolleybus bombings in Moscow, Associated Press Television reported.

Raduyev, 28, a commander of Chechnya's southwest front until his injury, said he had just returned to Chechnya from Germany where he underwent plastic surgery after losing an eye when hit by a sniper bullet.

He was speaking to journalists just outside the Chechen town of Gudermes, his former home town and area of influence. At least two journalists, including a member of an Associated Press Television crew, said the man appeared to be Raduyev.

Russian news agencies reported Raduyev had been killed along with another top rebel commander when gunmen opened fire on their military jeep. But top Chechen separatists denied the reports at the time, saying he had survived and been spirited abroad for medical treatment.

Raduyev is wanted by Russian authorities for the attack he led on the town of Kizlyar in Dages position of the rebel leadership and other commanders who have denied any Chechen involvement in the bombings.

Raduyev, who is married to the niece of Dzhokhar Dudayev, said the former separatist leader was alive and in hospital in an unspecified location. Dudayev was reported killed April 21 in a Russian air strike, and, although no journalists have seen his body or his grave, his wife, rebel commanders and Chechen and Russian officials have all said he is dead.

Dudayev's wife, Alla Dudayeva, an ethnic Russian, described her husband's death in detail in an interview with the daily newspaper Izvestia a month ago, saying he was hit by a Russian rocket and died instantly while talking on his satellite telephone outside a village in the southern foothills of Chechnya.

Dudayeva, who was arrested by Russian authorities in May and later released, has since disappeared, giving rise to rumors that she is seeking asylum abroad or even that she has joined her husband.

But Raduyev's fate was always less murky than Dudayev's. The commander, who made a remarkable escape through Russian lines from the Dagestan village of Pervomaiskoye in January, had a second lucky escape when a sniper opened fire on his UAZ jeep one night in March on a back road south of Grozny.

"The sniper was waiting for us," Raduyev's deputy, Shamil, told The Moscow Times in an interview 10 days ago. "They were sitting three in the front, Raduyev, Umarkhadzhi and the driver. Umarkhadzhi was killed immediately. Raduyev was hit in the head. The bullet went through his [right] cheek and behind his left eye. He lost his left eye," he said pointing with his finger the direction of the bullet.

Shamil, who said he was sitting in the back seat, showed a scar on his wrist where he was wounded by one of the sniper's bullets.

With the car and driver still unharmed they hurtled straight to the Urus Martan hospital where Raduyev was operated on and lay for a day and a night. The head doctor of the hospital told The Moscow Times in May that people fetched Raduyev away from the hospital in the middle of the second night but his condition was such that he could have survived.

"I have seen worse injured survive," he said.

Shamil declined to say how they got Raduyev abroad but Izvestia quotes in its Friday issue Musa Charayev, a commander and close friend of Raduyev, who said they took the wounded field commander out via Azerbaijan. He was then nursed for the wound in the Middle East before going to Europe for plastic surgery.

Raduyev's deputy Shamil said the sniper was caught the same night and that he was a Chechen, but gave no further details. Rebels have denied Russian media reports that the shooting was caused by internal rebel disagreements over money and said it was more likely to be a Chechen working for the Russian security services.

The sniper was believed to be waiting for Shamil Basayev, the separatists' foremost commander and hero, notorious for the first mass-hostage taking by Chechens in Budyonnovsk last summer, who was also driving down the same road between Stary Atagi and Goity but stopped to talk to some fighters.

Raduyev, a slim-built man with a wispy beard, is not the hero in Chechnya that Basayev is, although many say he is driven by a desire for such fame. Many fighters have criticized him for the botched operation in Kizlyar and say the young commander of the southeastern front, Khunkar Israpilov, had to take over command when things went wrong.

Raduyev bragged afterward that his men had shown up the Russian Army, but he was chastised by Basayev, Chief of Staff Aslan Maskhadov and Dudayev himself for going against orders.a