Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev has been named as the successor to Aslan Maskhadov. Shamil Basayev has openly declared his support, as have both London-based Akhmed Zakayev, and Maskhadov’s son, also in exile.
Basayev confirmed that under a 2002 agreement between Maskhadov and other Chechen leaders, the former court chairman, whom he called Sheikh Abdul-Khalim, was to succeed Maskhadov, the Kavkaz-Center Web site said.
I’ve never heard of Sadulayev, and I doubt you have either. Nor, it seems have many other people, including the press who have been scrambling to try and and find things to say abou the man. Here are a few snippets of the stories/rumours that have been flying around the wires this afternoon.
First up, a brief biography from Associated Press via ABC News (same link as above), including a Russian attempt to muddy the waters by calling him a Saudi:
The Internet newspaper Gazeta.ru Web site, citing Russian special services, said Abdul-Khalim was the head of the rebels’ so-called Shariat committee and a Saudi national, one of five who came to the fore of the rebel movement in summer 2002 because of their ability to bring foreign funds to Chechnya. But Anzor Maskhadov denied that, saying he was Chechen.
The new leader is little-known outside rebel circles. Ekho Moskvy radio said that Russian prosecutors considered him the main organizer of the 2001 kidnapping of American Kenneth Gluck, who worked for Doctors Without Borders in southern Russia. Gluck was freed after 25 days.
The radio station said Maskhadov had called Sadulayev the co-organizer of a June 2004 raid on police and security installations in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia, which killed some 90 people.
Mosnews says he was reportedly Maskhadov’s First Deputy although whether that was an honorific or a practical title isn’t clear.
Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev is not to be confused with Malik Saidullayev, a Moscow based Chechen who ran for the presidency last year, say Reuters.
…few Chechens had even heard of the cleric, with some spelling his surname Saidullayev and suggesting a link with Moscow-based tycoon Malik Saidullayev, who has great prestige in his native Chechnya.
"I do not know him, I have never heard of him. If he was famous I would have heard of him," said Saidullayev by telephone from France. "Maybe this is just a pseudonym, but he is likely to show himself one way or the other."
The BBC also reports that some (un-named) sources from within Chechnya don’t think he is a real person either:
Several pro-Moscow Chechen officials said they did not know who he was and suggested he might be a fictitious figure or a puppet of Mr Basayev.
So far, the chances that Chechnya’s Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev will turn out to be a moderate who can do a deal with Russia and rein-in Shamil Basayev from his worst excesses do not look good.