CONTENT PREVIEW
Terrorism & Insurgency

JTIC Brief: Reported death of Chechen Islamic State militant in Georgia’s Tbilisi raises questions over relationships with militant groups and authorities

12 December 2017
A screenshot from a video in January 2015 showing Akhmed Chataev with Magomed-Ali Israilov (alias Abu Sayfullakh Shishani) Source: Jane's

Key Points

  • On 1 December, Georgia’s State Security Service (SSSG) announced that the Chechen Islamic State militant Akhmed Chataev had blown himself up in an apartment in the capital Tbilisi during a counter-terrorism operation on 22 November.
  • Chataev, who was formerly Imarat Kavkaz’s representative abroad, was captured by Georgian forces in September 2012 following a clash between armed militants and Georgian special forces in the Lopota Gorge but was released on bail in December 2012 and acquitted a month later.
  • Chataev was later connected with the Russian-speaking Katibat Badr, which fought in Syria and Iraq in early 2015, and Turkish media claimed he was behind the 28 June 2016 attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

On 1 December, Georgia’s State Security Service (SSSG) announced in a press briefing that the Chechen Islamic State militant Akhmed Chataev (alias Akhmed Shishani or One-armed Akhmed) had blown himself up in an apartment in Tbilisi during a counter-terrorism operation that had begun on 22 November. It was unclear whether the operation had specifically targeted Chataev.

According to SSSG press spokesperson Nino Giorgobiani, during the 20-hour operation three individuals – including Chataev, who was inside the apartment at the time – were killed. None of the three individuals had identity documents but Chataev was identified using DNA and fingerprint analysis. The SSSG did not give any further details.

The SSSG’s confirmation that Chataev had been in Tbilisi only added to the questions surrounding the Chechen militant and his relationship to the Islamic State, with Islamist militancy in Russia’s North Caucasus, and in particular with Georgia. It is unclear how a militant of Chataev’s international and local notoriety and with his level of physical impairment could have entered Georgia, presumably via Turkey, seemingly without hindrance – or what his motivation for doing so would be, and why he would risk such a move unless he believed himself to be protected.

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