“I heard a voice saying “Kill them”

The courageous Chechen woman killed the 4 bandits who shot her husband to death.
I was banned from photographing this lady as her relatives are concerned about her safety. Lilia Aslukhanova’s name became known to everybody in Russia after she shot to death the 4 bandits who killed her husband, the investigator of Chechen Justice Ministry. The 28-year-old wife of the murdered man, the mother of 4 kids, did not allow the murderers to leave the place – she shot the criminals from her husband’s machine-gun.

People from outside Chechnya cal Lilia a heroine, while Lilia’s fellow-villages feel sorry for her as bandits can attack her again.

The “heroine” is still experiencing shock, she can hardly speak. White face, trembling lips… Her relatives say that sometimes she even cannot eat.

I had to wait near the house for a while before I was invited in. I could see the traces of the exchange of fire everywhere: the gates were in holes made by bullets, the window was destroyed as well.

Lilia came being supported by other people. She was pale, in a black headscarf, with an unseeing look of her eyes. Luckily, her children help her not to lose contact with the reality. She has 3 little daughters and a 6-year-old son.
Lilia says her husband loved their kids very much and spent all his free time with them …

Love at war

Lilia and Ramzan fell in love with each other and got married in a horrible time, in the midst of the Chechen war. They met in 1993, before the first Chechen war, and after that Ramzan was dating his sweetheart for 2 years, risking his life: he came to see her in the neighboring village when there was an exchange of fire between Russian Army units and Chechen rebels.

”I told him not to visit me as it was too dangerous”, said Lilia with a weak smile. “He continued visiting me”.

They got married in 1995, when the war was in progress in the destroyed Chechen republic. A 29-year-old Ramzan who earlier graduated from Ryazan Police Academy, was working as an investigator in Shali Office of Public Prosecutor. Soon he was transferred to Chechen capital Grozny for the position of investigator for cases of special importance.

”Ramzan was an honest man”, his sisters say. “He always helped people. During the war, an entire generation of illiterate people grew up in our republic, and such people came to Ramzan to ask for a legal advise. He was very patient and always gave the people detailed consultations”.

”In the evening, there used to be a small crowd of people near out house, waiting for Ramzan’s return from work”, Lilia sighs. “I used to lay the table, he enters the house and tell me, “Bull-calf, go and have a rest… I’ll wake you up as soon as all the visitors leave”.

”He blandly called me a bull-calf, and I called him Genghis Khan as he was strong, courageous and honest.

The Asukhanovs family had only 1.5 years of life without war, when Ramzan was promoted to the position of Deputy Public Prosecutor in town Svetly of Kaliningrad region.

”I liked it there and did not want to go back to Chechnya”, Lilia says. She feels very sorry that she could not persuade the husband to stay outside Chechnya. However, it was hardly possible.

He said firmly, “This is my motherland, I have my parents there, and I should go back there. If myself and the other people like me, work to put everything in order in Chechnya, its people will return to a normal life. I want my children to be able to study peacefully in their motherland”.

Ramzan wanted his daughters Khadizhat and Malika to be doctors, and Luisa to become a lawyer like him.

Lilia gets frustrated again, “Ramzan did not say what career he wanted for our son. He wanted 3 more children. 4 children is few for a Chechen family. Ramzan himself had 8 brothers and sisters”.

“I knew nothing of the danger”

After return to Chechnya in 2001, the Asukhanovs accommodated themselves in Ramzan’s parents’ house. Their friends helped Ramzan to get a job as the Investigation Department of Russian Justice Ministry, Chechen branch needed so highly qualified specialist. Ramzan went to Grozny from Shali in his blue vehicle every day.

”This work is dangerous, like any work here if you try to do it honestly”, says Ramzan’s friend and colleague Murat Baskhanov, the Senior bailiff from Grozny. “He could prosecute those not being in compliance with court verdicts. Surely, many high-ranking person whose interests were confronted, disliked this”.

Later it was revealed that Ramzan Asukhanov was threatened with death. He told the Chief of Chechen branch of Justice Ministry about this. Thugs even requested money - $5,000 – in exchange of saving his life. He did not tell his family about the threats.

”I knew nothing about the threats”, says Lilia. “Otherwise, I would have locked the doors. We always had the doors open, even at night”...

It is extremely hot in Chechnya now. Of course, local residents have no air-conditioning, and they have a habit to keep their doors open.

At night of August 5 bandit broke in the Asukhanovs’ house.

It was 11:30pm, and Ramzan and his children were asleep. Lilia heard the noise near the house. Hardly had she woken her husband, two armed men wearing camouflage and masks broke in the house.  One of them rushed to Lilia and put his palm on her mouth not to let her cry for help. Ramzan had no time to help his wife as the second bandit hit him onto his head with the gun’s hilt, and killed him with 3 shot in his chest. Then the bandits pointed the gut to Lilia…

At this moment, her daughter entered the room, and the bandits pointed the gun to the child’s head...
”Gold, money!”, requested the criminals.
”We have nothing” (and this was the truth).
”Give the car keys then, or we’ll kill her”. 

Lilia remembers all this as a bad dream. She showed the criminals the place where the car keys were. They took the keys and left the house.  Тhere were 2 more bandits in the yard – they were watching the situation around the spot. Ramzan’s parents heard the noise and went out of their part of the house. The criminals hit Ramzan’s father, a 69-year-old Movladi Asukhanov, with the gun’s hilt, and the old man fell down. Then the murderers got into the car and started it to leave…

They did not leave. Lilia went out holding her husband’s machine-gun in her hands and started firing at the car...

She was firing as good as if she was practicing shooting all her life. She had never held weapon in her hands before. Although many Chechen men (especially officials) teach their wives how to shoot, for the sake of safety. Ramzan never told his wife about possible dangers, and always hid his pistol away.

”I don’t know how this happened”, Lilia says. “As if a voice was saying to me: “Kill them!”

She shot the entire machine-gun magazine – 30 bullets. The vehicle was all pierced with holes. One of the criminals was killed on the spot. The other three were badly injured. After the fire ceased, they went out of the car and started firing back. But by that time Lilia had already taken her children, ran into the house, and left it from the window on its opposite side.

Local policemen heard the sound of shooting and approached the house. It was 11:50 pm.

The bandits were encircled. The two of them blew themselves up with a grenade not to be caught alive. One more criminal was still alive, and the policemen took him to hospital.

”The policemen were even blood donors for the bandit to save his life, but he died”, they told me at the local police station.

The attackers were identified soon. They were…law-abiding citizens of town Shali: their relatives identified them. They were not involved in criminal gangs.

22-year-old Islam Dakaev (the one who died in hospital) studied English and Arabic at the local cleric school. For summer, he took temporary jobs as a construction worker. Another bandit, 23-year-old Tamerlan Israilov, was a worker for …Shali police station. As for 31-year-old Said-Magomed Jabrailov, he was a foreman at the local hospital. The only “black spot” was that Jabrailov’s brother had been a leader of a gang, but he was killed a while ago.

Only the fourth bandit was not identified. The policemen are sure that he was the organizer of the night attack on the house of the invеstigator. The bandit was likely a radical Muslim extremist – Wahabbi  (for instance, Wahhabis despise underwear, and this man had no short pants on).

Chief of Shali police, colonel Seitselim Dediev says that the problems of Chechen society often push local people to the path of crime. There are no jobs, and people have no legal options to earn money.

It is a known fact that Chechen rebels pay good money for the murders of policemen and state officials to the killers – ordinary students and unemployed. They say that during the recent attack on Ingushetia, they paid $500 for the murder of the law-enforcer, right there on the spot.

We will never know how much money was paid for the murder of Ramzan Asukhanov as the killers are dead…

Now the letter on awarding Lilia Asukhanova with Order of Courage, is being prepared.    

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Author`s name Evgeniya Petrova