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Qatar Charges 2 Russians with Murder of Chechen Leader - 2004-02-26


The Gulf state of Qatar has charged two Russian men with murder in the assassination of a former Chechen leader two weeks ago.

Qatar's Interior Ministry says the two suspects were arrested last week during an inquiry into the death of former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev.

The separatist leader was killed February 13, when his car exploded shortly after he attended Friday prayers at a mosque in Doha.

Officials in Qatar have not released details about the two suspects.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has demanded that the detainees be released and allowed to return to Russia.

Moscow officials say the two men are Russian security agents conducting counter-terrorism activities in Qatar.

Mr. Yandarbiyev, who was acting president of Chechnya from 1996 to 1997, had been living in exile in Qatar for about three years. Russian authorities considered Mr. Yandarbiyev a top Islamic militant with terrorist connections, and were seeking his extradition.

The United Nations had included the former Chechen leader on its list of people with links to al-Qaida, and the U.S. Treasury had seized his assets in the United States.