Five Years Later, Grosny, Republic of Ichkeria
The Republic of Ichkeria was born after over two hundred years of struggle between the Islamic Chechens and the powers that be in Moscow. At one point, near the turn of the century, the animosity grew so great that the Russian army tried to obliterate the Chechen opposition by destroying the city, itself. Like so many struggles before, the Chechen people merely scattered, bided their time, and plotted to return to what they considered to be their capitol city and homeland.
The terrorist tactics of the Sufi-mystic Chechens against the Russian Federation generally struck the world at large as a version of what al Qaeda had done to the United States. It was only after Beslan Khondev came forth with the idea of nonviolent resistance that things began to change. If he had lived, he would marvel at what was about to happen.
The Great Mosque of Grosnyy was still only partially built as it rose from ruins of Minutka Square, the center of the old, industrial Grosny of the communist era from the site where the once proud Dudayev Palace had stood. The mosque rose as the primary symbol of the new Ichkeria blossoming throughout the area, roughly the size of New Jersey, that Russia had, so generously, forfeited in the name of peace. In the year since President Petrov had made the proclamation, Chechens from throughout the globe had streamed back to their homeland in search of peace and an Islamic way of life they could not have in exile.
Said Zubayev had been chosen as the interim Prime Minister and the one to present the new constitution to the people. As always, Aleksandra the Great was by his side. The air was filled with the scent of cherry blossoms on that cool April day, a result of peace rally plantings years before, as they prepared for the presentation before an audience numbering nearly a million. The stage, built high on the steps of the new mosque was filled with dignitaries from all over the world, heralding this momentous occasion that had come about entirely without bloodshed.
To Dina's right, stood President Kennedy of the United States, Prime Minister Hawke of the United Kingdom, and Prime Minister François of Canada. On Zubayev's left stood President Petrov of Russia, President Hang Chon of China, and Prime Minister Rao Wadi of India. In all, over fifty countries were represented. In the sky above, two blimps, the Fuji Film Explorer, and the Goodyear Akron scanned the massive crowd and stage to broadcast the event to the world. Thoughts of what was happening and the bright morning sun warmed Dina to the occasion. The Moscow Symphony was playing the newly composed Chechen anthem, "Ichkeria the Beautiful". All was well with the world.
When the anthem was over, the prayer leader sent from Mecca announced an amplifier-enhanced prayer from a temporary minaret. The sight of nine hundred thousand people kneeling to Mecca at the same time was immense. While most of the World leaders present stood with their hands clasped and their heads down in reverence, Said Zubayev and Dina knelt on prayer rugs like those in the audience until the prayer was over. When they rose again, it was time for Prime Minister Zubayev to speak. He spoke in Chechen and was translated in over thirty languages.
"My fellow Chechens, world leaders, guests, and friends. It is my humble pleasure to present to you and the world the Constitution of the newly formed Republic of Ichkeria, .... " He paused for a moment as if to catch his breath and pick up a framed copy of the Constitution to show the audience from the podium.
Dina, watching in admiration, saw his right eye disappear and the back of his head blow away. Her basic training, so many years before, kicked in and she dove behind him for the floor. It was only then, going down, that she heard the distinctive, "Rata, ... tat, ... tat," of a machine gun. Blood was spattering everywhere as the men in the front row fell one by one around and on top her.
A mighty scream of horror rose up from the crowd. About fifteen meters from the podium the crowd closed in on a man with a Glock machine gun and stomped him to death. Dina didn't see them as she crawled to Zubayev's head and cradled it in her arms. His left eye stared blankly up at her and his life flowed out of the back of his head. She closed it and cried.
Someone grabbed Dina, hard, in her midsection, and lifted her from her hold of what remained of Said Zubayev's head. She fought, kicking and screaming as someone very strong carried her into the marble floor of the mosque where a triage unit was rapidly being set up to deal with the dead and wounded. Once there, she calmed down as others were carried and dragged in by security, dignitaries, and whoever was present to help. She realized that she wasn't hurt, just covered with blood, and the pain she felt was for the others and the loss of her beloved Said. They brought him in and laid him down beside her. She knelt before him and cried. Anne Kennedy, the American President's wife, came to her with a towel and began washing the blood from her face. Anne’s husband had been wounded in the arm, but was bandaged and already helping others. Anne looked in Dina eyes with the kind of empathy that only someone with generations of grief can understand. As she patted Dina gently, both women sobbed their sorrow.
Prime Minister Wadi was dead. Prime Minister Hawke and President Petrov were critically wounded and life flighted to Moscow by helicopter. Hawke died in route with his wife by his side. Petrov, after several operations to stop arterial bleeding and repair a ruptured bladder and collapsed lungs, was in intensive care for ten days. Considered a hero by his people for stepping in front of President Kennedy, Petrov fully recovered in ten months. President Chon had a broken shoulder and hand wound.
President Kennedy's arm was sore while the muscle healed, but he would spend no time in the hospital except for physical therapy and examinations. He returned to the microphone, and speaking in that unmistakable Boston accent and pacing with a Chechen interpreter, calmed the crowd. "I did not come all this way to be defeated by a terrorist. I did not come all this way to mourn the dead and wounded here, today. I came all this way to see the birth of the Ichkerian nation. Let us not let this cowardly act of terrible violence sway us from our course. Let us not let this dastardly act keep us from our purpose. Terrorism by one--or by many has no place in our world. Ichkerians know that more than anyone. In this time of our great sorrow, let us doubly resolve ourselves to end tyranny!"
With that, the crowd rallied and began chanting, "Let it began,. . . Let it begin!" The dignitaries came out from hiding in the mosque and joined President Kennedy on the still bloody stage. Everyone joined hands with him and began singing the Chechen version of the old civil-rights song, "We Shall Overcome."
Dina emerged from the mosque with eyes red from weeping and her white dress red with blood. She held the plaque with the new constitution on it high above her head and waved it with the song. When she reached President Kennedy, he guided her to the microphone. As abruptly as the song began, it ceased. Dina wiped the blood from the surface of the plaque and began to read, "We the People of the Republic of Ichkeria, …. "
The Khyber Caves, The Sofi Range, The Tribal Territories
There was to be a celebration. Deep in Mustafa el Sofi's stronghold in the tribal territories, Ali and the others had watched in horror as their dream, the verification of the Chechen Republic and the reading of its constitution had been disrupted by the violence of what appeared to be a single madman. Instead of shooting off their guns into the high ceiling of the cave, there was near silence as they watched the International Press go over and over what had happened. It seemed as though it would never end as state funerals played out in India, Chechnya, and Russia. In all, ten people were killed and twenty-seven wounded. Three of the wounded, including the Presidents of Ghana and Maylasia were permanently disabled.
Ali was elated that Dina was not among them. He was worried though, because the incident had given her such a high profile that she would never again be anonymous. The mere fact that she stood next to Zubayev and later came back to read the Constitution next to President Kennedy marked her as one of the most honored people of the 21st Century. How could it be? One moment unknown except to a few Chechen rebels, the next the woman whose courage and valor captured the world's heart? He didn't know. He didn't know what would happen now.
The CIA, with help from the Russian Federation Police and insiders from Zubayev’s staff, quickly unraveled the short, tragic life of the killer.
Adlan Akayev was the son of Chechen workers in a factory in Grosnyy. After the fall of the Soviet Union, his father joined the rebels in the battles that raged on for several years for the capitol. Both of his parents were eventually killed, and he was orphaned at eleven years old. He survived by eating garbage and catering to the rebels whenever he found them hiding out in the ruins, farmhouses, or camped in the mountainous countryside. By the time he was fourteen he became one of the young Sufi-mystic recruits, sniping at Russian soldiers, setting booby traps, and harassing the Russian invaders any way he could.
At some point, he learned of and sought to become, a dedicated Wahhabi. He traveled to Afghanistan and trained with al Qaeda. He claimed that he learned from Osama bin Ladin, himself, but the others doubted it. When Zubayev begin to preach non-violence, Akayev rejected it, joining a fringe group of Wahhabites that continued violent acts in spite of Zubayev's admonishment. When Zubayev explained that every violent act against the Federation doubled the violence heaped upon the Chechen people, his simple arithmetic gradually won over the hearts and minds of even the fringe groups like the one Akayev belonged to. Akayev was cast out. Forced to help an old couple with their farm to get food and put a roof over his head, he grew more resentful with each passing day, plotting how he would get even and rise to power like his hero, Osama bin Ladin. When the old couple complained of his behavior, he killed them and buried them in the barnyard where the cows’ muddy tracks left no evidence of his gruesome digging. He sold everything that he could steal from the old couples' meager farmhouse, and then he headed for Grosny.
Akayev arrived in Grosnyy a month before the ceremony. He sought work and got it helping to build the mosque. When the stage was being built for the ceremony he volunteered to help build it. He had bought the Glock in the black market in Baku before going to Grosnyy. It was a state of the art weapon, made of ABS plastic, with acrylic bullets. With no metal parts, it was easy to get it past the metal detectors under his great coat. Three days before the ceremony, he taped it under the stage.
To make sure that he would be able to get it, Abdul was among the first to arrive, and spent the night with about a hundred others at the foot of the stage so they would have a good view during the ceremony the next day. By morning, he was very cold, hungry, and thirsty. During the night, when no one was looking, he had retrieved the Glock with its hundred and fifty round magazine. He kept it under his coat all morning until the prayer. During the prayer, he prayed to Allah that if he did not live that he would become a great martyr in the eyes of Islam. He forgot how thirsty and hungry he was. He only thought of how he would end Zubayev's misguided ways and bring the Chechens back into the flock with him.
When he heard Zubayev's voice in the loudspeaker, a thousand banshees rose up in him and he had the strength of a bear. He threw back his coat and aimed the Glock at Zubayev's head. Once he'd pulled the trigger, he moved the gun back and forth and sprayed the stage of dignitaries until his bullets ran out. The more infidels he killed, the greater his martyrdom would be. He heard the crowd roar. They were applauding his great act--his great sacrifice.
Instead, they were beating him. Confused, he did not understand. "Why are they doing this?" He thought. "Maybe they're just patting me too hard and going to lift me over their heads soon. Maybe, ..., maybe, ... ooh, ... That hurts bad. Ooh! Ooh! Oooooh, ...." Soon, he could not feel the pounding any more. He was dead
At least that was the story pieced together from many witnesses who had watched Akayev slowly come apart and become a monster. From all angles, it appeared that he acted alone. At this point, with the Ichkeria Republic at hand, no one would choose the path he took except a madman.