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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Maskhadov Declares Islamic Law

GROZNY -- Thousands of opposition supporters celebrated Thursday after the breakaway republic's president bowed to their demands and ordered the adoption of Islamic law.

But 1,500 opposition leaders and representatives meeting at a stadium in Grozny called for more concessions, including the abolition of Chechnya's parliament and the presidency.

Outside the stadium where the congress took place, an estimated 7,000 people, mostly armed with rifles and clad in military fatigues, also celebrated the new changes.

The order by President Aslan Maskhadov was seen as a major victory for hard-line Islamists, who have sought to establish an Islamic state since the republic won de-facto independence from Russia in a 1994-1996 war.

Maskhadov on Wednesday revoked parliament's legislative functions and ordered the body to cooperate with Moslem leaders to write an Islamic constitution within three months.

His decision came after heavy pressure from the opposition, who accuse him of being too sympathetic with the Russian government and threatened to oust him if he didn't meet their demands.

Maskhadov has been unable to rein in armed gangs behind a wave of political violence and kidnappings. He passed the decree on the condition that the opposition support him, though no official agreement was made.

Opposition leaders praised Maskhadov's move, but pushed for more concessions, including disbanding the parliament and getting rid of the presidency completely.

"If we do not introduce Islam now, under the next parliament and president things will get even worse,'' said Karavan Saiyev, a field commander with the government.

Already, the president's decree will change all aspects of Chechnya's life, including education and the military, Interfax reported.

Still, it wasn't immediately clear whether Maskhadov planned to introduce a strict version of Islamic rule, as imposed by Afghanistan's Taliban militia, or whether he intended to settle for a milder version.

Opposition leaders said the move would only make Chechnya more stable and establish its authority among other nations. No country has recognized Chechnya's independence, and Moscow still regards the republic as part of Russia.

Other Chechens were not as excited about Maskhadov's plans to throw out the region's present constitution, which outlaws anything but a secular state.