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US Declares Chechen Rebel a Security Threat - 2003-08-08

The State Department has designated Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev a threat to U.S. national security, and imposed financial sanctions against him. Three Chechen rebel groups linked to Mr. Basayev were penalized by the United States earlier this year.

The action against the Chechen rebel figure came in an order by Secretary of State Colin Powell published Friday in the U.S. government's official journal, The Federal Register.

The secretary said Mr. Basayev has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of United States citizens or U.S. foreign policy or security interests.

Mr. Powell invoked sanctions under an executive order issued by President Bush shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States in 2001.

They include freezing any assets Mr. Baseyev may have in the United States and blocking any attempt to transfer such funds.

The action may not have any practical effect, in the absence of any known financial holdings of the Chechen warlord in the United States.

But it has political importance, and Mr. Powell's decision was immediately welcomed by Russian government spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky, who said it reflects "deepening understanding" that events in Chechnya are "inseparable" from the global war against terrorism.

Mr. Basayev has claimed responsibility for a series of suicide attacks in May that killed nearly 100 people, as well as the deadly hostage-taking at a Moscow theater last October.

In February, Secretary of State Powell moved against three Chechen rebel groups affiliated with Mr. Baseyev, adding them to a U.S. list of terrorist organizations and also subjecting them to a U.S. asset freeze.

In a related development Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department added Mr. Baseyev to a list of international terrorists subject to financial sanctions, along with another Chechen rebel figure, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev.

Mr. Yandarbiyev, who served as acting president of the breakaway Chechen republic in the late 1990s, was recently added to a United Nations list of people with alleged links to the al-Qaida terrorist network.