Abdul Khalim Salamovich Sadullayev
Abdul Khalim Sadullayev was born into the Biltoy branch of the Ustradoi teip, an influential clan in the town of Argun on the plains of central Chechnya to the east of Grozny. (The Ustradoys are believed to have founded Argun. ) After growing up in Argun, he entered Grozny’s university to study Chechen and Russian philology, but had to break off his studies as the First Chechen War with the Russian Federation broke out in 1994. He joined an Argun militia to fight against the Russians as a volunteer fighter.
Sadullayev also studied Islam under local Islamic theologians, and from 1996 began appearing regularly on Chechen television speaking about Islam. He spoke not only Chechen, but also Russian and Arabic. He lectured across Chechnya, and eventually ended up leading Argun’s Muslim community as the town’s Imam. Sadulayev made the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the only time he is known to have left his homeland.
He headed the Islamic Dzhamaat in Argun and delivered lectures on religious matters in many parts of the country. For a while he was imam of the mosque in Argun.
In 1999 President Aslan Maskhadov appointed him to the State Commission on Constitutional Reform. In 2002 he was appointed Chair of the Supreme Court and Vice-President. When the Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov was assassinated on 8 March 2005, he assumed the office of Chechen President and Supreme Commander of the Chechen armed forces in line with the Constitution.
Abdul-Khalim Sadullayev received major Chechen distinctions, including the highest medal of state, the Kyoman Ssiy (Honour of the Nation) founded by Dzhokhar Dudaev.
In 2003 Sadullayev’s wife was abducted by special troops. All efforts to ransom her failed. She was tortured and murdered by members of the FSB, the Russian secret service.
His undisputed religious authority which he used, for example, to condemn terrorist acts against innocent people as incompatible with the Koran, might have presented an opportunity to reconcile the people of Chechnya and begin a peace process. Under his government there were no suicide attacks and no hostage-takings.
On 17 June 2006, Sadullayev was killed in a gun battle with the FSB and pro-Moscow militiamen in Argun. According to the FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, ‘two members of the federal forces were killed and five were wounded in a firefight in which Sadullayev and his bodyguard were killed, and two others rebels escaped‘.
On June 20, 2006, the Russian human rights organization Memorial posted the findings of its investigation on the Kavkazky Uzel website. According to Memorial’s version, Sadulayev’s death was accidental; security officials did not know that he was in the house. Memorial reports that on June 17, about 10:00 a.m., a group of 12 FSB officers and local policemen approached a possible rebel safe house. They immediately came under gunfire as they entered the yard. Two of the servicemen were killed, and the group retreated after throwing a hand grenade into a window of the house. The grenade blast killed Abdul Khalim.
His death signified a further setback for democratic forces within the Chechen resistance.