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Abu al-Walid
(Arabic: ابو الوليد‎)

Abu al-Walid.jpg

Born 1967
Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg al Bahah Province, Saudi Arabia
Died April 16, 2004
Flag of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.svg Tsa-Vedeno, Chechnya
Predecessor Ibn al-Khattab
Successor Abu Hafs al-Urduni

Abu al-Walid (ابو الوليد) (also transliterated as Abu al-Waleed and also called Abu al-Walid al-Ghamdi or simply Abu Walid) (1967 – April 16, 2004), was a Saudi-born Arab of the Ghamid tribe who fought as a "mujahid" volunteer in Central Asia, the Balkans, and the North Caucasus. He was killed in April 2004 by the Russian federal forces.

Al-Walid was one of the most prominent Arabs fighting in Chechnya, and took over as Amir (commander) of an autonomous unit composed mostly of non-Chechen mujahideen following the death of its previous commander Ibn al-Khattab on March 20, 2002.

Abu al-Walid was accused by Russians of terrorist attacks on civilians, and "there are allegations that al-Walid is variously an agent of Saudi intelligence, the Muslim Brotherhood, or Bin Laden's al-Qaeda."[1] While al-Walid has neither confirmed nor denied these charges, he has condemned abuses and perceived abuses by Russian forces in Chechnya.[2]



During his lifetime, little was known about al-Walid’s background, lifestyle or fighting methods. In sharp contrast to his predecessor – Ibn al-Khattab (more commonly known as Khattab) who was known to have a personal camera crew of two who followed him even into combat, al-Walid was very reclusive. This led to speculation about his identity, whereabouts and actions, and occasionally to rumours of his death. One such rumour that was very persistent was that he had drowned in June 2002 after he and his horse were carried off by the current of a river he was trying to cross.[1] Russian officials announced his death at least seven times[3] and at one point, even his very existence was deemed doubtful.[1][4]

However on June 23, 2002, his family gave an interview to the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan, revealing much about his background,[5] including his full given name, Abd Al-Aziz Bin Ali Bin Said Al Said Al-Ghamdi.[3][6]



Early life

Al-Walid was raised in the village of al-Hal, near the city of Baljorashi in Saudi Arabia’s Al Bahah Province. In his native village his father was a well known imam and he was born into a large family as one of eleven sons. His brothers claimed that in his youth al-Walid had enjoyed acting, reading religious books and studying the Quran.[1][3]

Afghanistan, Bosnia and Tajikistan

In 1986, when he was 16-years old, al-Walid obtained his parents' permission to defend his country. He soon left for Afghanistan to join the mujahideen in their fight against the Russian forces. The next two years he would spend training at the Maktab al-Khidamat, an organization created by Abdullah Azzam and Osama bin Laden with the purpose of training the international volunteers and distributing funds. Upon completing his training he was assigned to a combat unit with which he participated in the actual fighting. On two occasions he briefly returned to Saudi Arabia, once to have an injury to his left hand treated.

After the end of the Afghan War al-Walid would go on to fight in other conflicts in Europe and Asia. In the 1990’s, the movement would lead him to the Balkans, where he fought alongside the Bosnian Muslims in the Bosnian War, Tajikistan, where he assisted Muslim Rebels in the Tajik Civil war, and eventually (possibly as early as 1995) to Chechnya, where he joined a band of mujahideen known as the Arab mujahideen in Chechnya, which had been created and was being led by Ibn al-Khattab.[1][3][6]

First Chechen War

In the First Chechen War al-Walid would serve as a Naib (deputy) in Khattab's unit. In this role he actively participated in the numerous raids and ambushes that were executed by the IIB, including the April 1996 Shatoy ambush, in which a large Russian armoured column was attacked and destroyed.[7]

Interwar period and Dagestan War

After the war he would remain in Chechnya along with most of the battalion, which was now focusing its attentions on setting up a network of camps in the mountainous South of the country, in which they trained Islamist rebels from throughout the region, and even further abroad. He also married a Chechen woman with whom he would later have two children.[3][6] On December 22, 1997 he participated in Khattab's Buynaksk raid, a surprise attack on the base of the 136th Armoured Brigade of the Russian Army, stationed in Buynaksk, Dagestan.[8] An incident which added to the already growing tensions between Moscow and the newly formed government of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

In 1999 he participated in the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade’s invasion of Dagestan, one of the events which triggered the outbreak of the Second Chechen War. During this conflict Khattab's first deputy Hakim al-Medani was killed.[9] It is assumed that after al-Medani's death al-Walid was promoted to the position of first deputy. Before the events of 1999 in Dagestan al-Walid was a relatively unknown figure outside of Chechnya. It was only after this incursion that his fame began to rise in Islamist circles abroad.[10]

Second Chechen War

In the Second Chechen War, al-Walid’s role would be similar to the one he played in the First Chechen war, he continued to participate in raids and ambushes as Khattab’s deputy. In the spring of 2000, al-Walid would achieve his most important military victories. On February 29, he led the Battle of Ulus-Kert in the vicinity of Ulus-Kert. In this encounter Al-Walid and his forces engaged and surrounded an entire company of the VDV 76th Guards Air Assault Division from Pskov. The battle lasted for several days and eventually resulted in the total annihilation of the Russian company.[11] The separatist news agency Chechenpress reported that only 12 Chechen rebels had been killed in the battle,[12] while estimates of this number by Russian sources range up to 300. In April of the same year he successfully attacked the VDV 51st Guards Parachute Landing Regiment from Tula.[1]

In the summer of 2001, the late Aslan Maskhadov, then president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, appointed Abu al-Walid commander of the Eastern front.[7]

Abu al-Walid in the Caucasus mountains

After Khattab’s death on March 20, 2002, al-Walid assumed command of the IIB. Soon afterwards he released an article through the foreign Mujahideen’s official website al-Qoqaz in which he explained the circumstances surrounding Khattab’s death. The release of this article also confirmed the fact that he had taken command of the IIB.[3] Later he also issued a video-statement in which he commented on the effect of the death of his predecessor.

On April 9, 2002, al-Walid announced that his forces had shot down the Mil Mi-24 ‘Hind’ gunship that had gone missing two months earlier, and that it’s crew of three had been taken prisoner. To support his claims he also released the serial number of the helicopter and detailed information about the crewmembers. On May 16 he issued an ultimatum to the Russian military authorities; threatening to kill the three prisoners if the Russians would fail to release 20 Chechens who were being held in Russian prisons. The Russians did not comply and nothing has been heard of the crew ever since although the online Chechen Islamist news agency Kavkaz Center claimed it has unconfirmed information that the crew had possibly been executed.[13] A video of the actual moment the helicopter was shot down was later released and is now circulating on the Internet.


On April 16, 2004, Abu al-Walid was killed. Although al-Walid's death was later confirmed by official rebel sources, the exact circumstances surrounding his death remain somewhat uncertain, with KavkazCenter claiming he was killed by an air strike while preparing for prayer,[14][15] while Abu Hafs al-Urduni claims he was ambushed by Russian snipers in the vicinity of Tsa-Vedeno.[16] After al-Walid’s death there has been uncertainty for some time as to who had succeeded him. Both Abu Omar al-Saif, the ideological leader of the foreign Mujahideen in Chechnya, and Abu Hafs al-Urduni, al-Walid’s deputy, were expected to assume command of the IIB.[6] Al-Urduni later released a letter in which he explained the circumstances surrounding the death of al-Walid, much like al-Walid himself had done after the death of Khattab. In this letter he also asserted his assumption of command of the IIB.[16] Official rebel sources later confirmed this to be true.[17]

Allegations of involvement in terrorism

Like Khattab and many of the other Arabs fighting in Chechnya, al-Walid has often been accused of involvement in terrorism by the Russian authorities. According to the FSB, Al-Walid was responsible for several terrorist attacks, including the 1999 apartment bombings, the 2002 Kaspiysk bombing, and planned but never executed bacteriological attacks on Russia. He and Shamil Basayev were also accused of organizing the suicide-bombing of the Chechen Republic's Government headquarters in Grozny on December 27, 2002. Although only Basayev claimed responsibility for the attack, Russian officials asserted that the “Arab methods” used in the attack pointed to “Arab militants trained in Afghanistan”. He has also at various times been accused of being an agent of al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Intelligence.[1] Al-Walid himself has never responded to the allegations, but he never claimed responsibility for any of the terrorist attacks he was reported to be involved in, nor did he ever admit to being a member of al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood or Saudi Intelligence.

There are however several instances known when al-Walid commented on or even announced acts of terrorism. On June 11, 2003, the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported on a statement al-Walid had released through the al-Qoqaz News Agency, in which he encouraged the Iraqi insurgents to carry out suicide operations. He was quoted as saying; “According to [my] experience in the Caucasus, such operations will have an effect on American and British troops.” [3] It may however be argued that the suicide attacks al-Walid was referring to should not be considered terrorism since he only mentioned military targets.

Abu al-Walid issuing a video statement on Al Jazeera

On November 19 of the same year, the Qatar-based Arabic television network Al-Jazeera broadcast a video statement in which al-Walid commented on suicide bombings carried out by Chechen women, claiming that the attacks had been motivated by fear of rape and brutality by Russian soldiers.[3] A translation of this statement is available on BBC Monitoring and in a copy of this translation published by KavkazCenter he was quoted as saying;

“These women, particularly the wives of the Mujahideen who were martyred, are being threatened in their homes, their honour and everything are being threatened. They do not accept being humiliated and living under occupation. They say that they want to serve the cause of Almighty God and avenge the death of their husbands and persecuted people.” [18]

On March 13, 2004, one day before the Russian presidential election, al-Walid released another video statement which was broadcast by Al-Jazeera. In the interview he commented on the Russian strategy of dropping mines in the forested areas from which the Chechen insurgents are carrying out their guerrilla war against the Federal Armed Forces and their Chechen collaborators. He was quoted as following;

“The enemies of God drop mines in the forests and God willing, we will return them to the Russians and they will find them on their land and in the midst of their families. (…) But perhaps we may wait a little to see the upcoming elections. If they elect someone who declares war on Chechnya, then the Russians are declaring war against the Chechens and by God we will send them these [mines]... Not only these but also things that did not cross their minds. (…) We will return these to you [Russians]… You will, God willing, see hundreds of people crippled.” [2]

It is not known whether or not these threats have ever been carried out.

Although it is known that the Amirs of the Arab mujahideen in Chechnya have been instrumental in the acquisition and distribution of funds provided by wealthy, Salafist charities like al-Haramein,[7] there has never been any solid proof of links to al-Qaeda or other international terrorist organizations, nor did any of them ever claim responsibility for the terrorist attacks they had been accused of ordering. While his predecessor Khattab often responded to accusations of terrorism in the media, denying any involvement, the more reclusive al-Walid never did. Whether or not he has ever had any ties with terrorist organizations, or if he has ever been involved in the planning and execution of terrorist attacks, remains unknown.


See also

External links



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