07/11/2006, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Moscow patriarchate justifies killing of terrorist Basayev

On the situation in Chechnya, the secretary for Church-State relations said Moscow was not conducting an anti-Islamic campaign, adding that religious education was the best defence against distortions of Islam.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Moscow patriarchate upholds as fully justified the operation by special Russian forces that led to the killing of Shamil Basayev, the Chechen Bin Laden. Basayev was responsible for several attacks including that in Beslan. "In the Russian Orthodox Church, the right of secular power to use force to defend citizens from the evil of militants was never cast in doubt," Fr Mikhail Dudko, secretary for Church-State relations of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate declared yesterday.

The head of the security services, Nikolai Patrushev, said yesterday that Basayev was killed on the night of 9 July during a raid by special Russian forces in Ingushetia. The separatist Chechen guerrillas told a different story: they confirmed their leader was dead but claimed he was killed in an accident, when a truck full of explosives exploded. Basayev was held responsible for several attacks against Russia. In September 2004, he claimed responsibility for the hostage-taking in School no. 1 of Beslan, North Ossetia, which ended in the massacre of more than 330 civilians, including 186 children.  

Fr Dudko took care to underline the importance of "not interpreting the situation in Chechnya as a clash between Christianity and Islam". According to Fr Dudko, it was unacceptable to describe Basayev and those like him as "Islamic terrorists". "We insist on the fact that the actions of people like Basayev represent a distortion of Islamic doctrine and the charge against Russia that it is conducting a war of religion in the Caucasus is unfounded."

Dudko expressed conviction that religious education was the best defence against the reality that "new generations of youth were being formed under the banner of a militant pseudo-Islam". He recalled: "As is well known, we support the introduction of 'Foundations of Islamic culture' in the regions of the northern Caucasus."

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