Latest Killing of Chechen Envoy in Turkey Points to Russia
Against the background of the unfolding situation around the Chechen brothers accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and the killing in Florida of another Chechen connected to the brothers, Ibragim Todashev, the killing of a Chechen in Turkey went unnoticed. Medet Unlu, the “honorary consul” of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, was killed in Turkey’s capital, Ankara. Unlu was Akhmed Zakaev’s representative in Turkey and an official representative of those Chechens seeking state independence.
Unlu was shot dead in the office of the Permanent Representative of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in Turkey, the position he held. Surveillance cameras recorded two suspects in the parking lot near the office. According to investigators, the suspects pretended they were Chechen businessmen and made an appointment to see him in the evening, when he was alone. One of them waited in the car while the other killed the diplomat with a gun equipped with a silencer. Murat Aluch, a Turkish citizen known in the Turkish criminal underworld as Uncle Murat, was put on the police wanted list in connection with the murder when he disappeared after the crime. Aluch had earlier been sentenced to two years in prison for involvement in organized crime groups.
Meanwhile, the Turkish police arrested three suspects in this case, but one of them, the killer himself, was released after preliminary questioning. The killer’s name was Ruslan Kemal, a.k.a. Rizvan E., an ethnic Chechen whose full name Turkish investigators did not disclose. Several days after he was released, the police realized he was the organizer of the murder, but investigators were unable to locate him. Investigators discovered that the killers received 30,000 Turkish liras ($16,000) for the murder. According to the Turkish Immigration Service, the suspect, Ruslan Kemal, reportedly flew to Russia after being released. Turkish authorities asked Moscow to find him and hand him over to Turkey. Unlike previous killings of Chechens in Turkey, this time the killers murdered a person who was close to the country’s prime minister and other important Turkish political figures, so it is possible that the police will make a serious effort to solve the crime. If, however, influential figures in Russia are implicated in the crime, the Turkish authorities will not be willing to jeopardize their relations with Moscow over the murder of a Chechen activist.
Medet Unlu was an ethnic Chechen and a descendant of the Chechens who resettled in the Ottoman Empire at the end of 19th century. He was born in the Chechen village of Chardak in Turkey’s Kahramanmarash province. Unlu was a successful businessman and helped supporters of Chechen independence for two decades. It is no wonder, then, that Unlu’s family immediately accused Ramzan Kadyrov of being behind the killing. Akhmed Zakaev, the political emigrant in London and long-time Chechen independence activist, accused the Russian security services of killing Unlu.
Unlu’s murder aroused angry indignation in Turkey’s Caucasian community, and there were protests in front of the Russian consulate in Istanbul and Russian Embassy in Ankara. The protesters accused Russia of orchestrating the murder. Turkish TV featured multiple foundations that work with the Chechen diaspora in Turkey. A member of the Turkish Committee for ties with the Caucasus, Mehdi Nuzhet Cetinbas, said Unlu’s killing was meant to scare the Caucasian diaspora of Turkey and refugees from the Caucasus.
This is the second Turkish citizen of Chechen origin who advocated the interests of pro-independence Chechens who was killed in Turkey during the past several years. Earlier, the leader of the Chechen committee of the city of Kahramanmarash, Nezhdet Gun, was hacked to death in his home. Both victims were members of the Chechen diaspora that had resettled in Turkey after the Russian-Caucasian war of 19th century.
It should be noted that since the start of the second Chechen military campaign in 1999, six Chechens and one Karachay who represented the interests of the [virtual] Caucasus Emirate, the armed resistance in the North Caucasus, have been killed in Turkey. On September 16, 2008, a former Chechen militant, Gaji Edilsultanov, was shot dead in Istanbul in an episode that was widely discussed on Turkish television and media and actually had film footage of several persons of a suspected three-person hit team from Russia arriving and leaving Istanbul airport immediately following the killing, one of whom was wounded in the attack. On December 9, 2008, a former Chechen rebel field commander, Islam Janibekov, was killed. On February 27, 2009, former field commander Musa Ataev was killed with three shots to the head in Istanbul. On September 16, 2011, three members of the Chechen diaspora in Turkey, Berg-Khazh Musaev, Rustam Altemirov and Zaurbek Amriev, were shot dead in the central part of Istanbul. Musaev was considered to be a close associate of [so-called] Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov. Turkish media saw a Russian footprint in all of these killings. On October 8, 2011, an attempt on the life of the former head of Supreme Sharia court of Ichkeria, Shamsuddin Batukaev, was thwarted. A Russian connection to this incident was also detected at the time. The spree of murders in Turkey vividly shows that these incidents were not the results of internal conflicts among the members of the diaspora, but that immigrants from the North Caucasus were being specifically targeted by the Russian authorities in Turkey because they opposed Russian policies in the North Caucasus.
The brazen killing in the Turkish capital of a Turkish citizen who worked on Chechen issues is nothing other than a show of force by those who want to shut the mouths of Chechens living abroad. Any political activities abroad regarding the North Caucasus are viewed nervously by the Russian authorities. Russia makes every effort to intimidate anyone who is dissatisfied with its policies in the North Caucasus, and in particular in Chechnya. This latest crime certainly was not the last, and until the Turkish authorities make clear statements about political killings of Chechen activists, the forces fighting against the armed resistance in the North Caucasus, i.e. the Russian security services, will do everything they can to weaken Chechen separatists who have fled to Turkey. Therefore, the topic of killings of Chechens in Turkey will come up again and again.
Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 107
June 6, 2013 – The Jamestown Foundation