In the video, a man in an orange jump suit kneels beside a lake in Syria and confesses in Russian to spying on Islamic State militants. Another Russian speaker, this one in camouflage fatigues, then uses a hunting knife to hack off the kneeling man’s head.
When Islamic State posted this footage online on Dec. 2, it brought the distant Syria conflict home to ordinary Russians. Here, in high-definition video, appeared to be one young Russian killing another for reasons few people could understand.
It also opened up another mystery.
The prisoner and alleged spy in the video said his name was Magomed Khasiev, that he was from Russia’s mainly Muslim region of Chechnya, and that he worked for Russian intelligence.
Pro-Kremlin Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov quickly denied Khasiev was a spy.
But interviews with more than a dozen people who knew Khasiev in Russia suggest the 23-year-old man had connections to both Muslim groups and Russian security and seemed to live a double life.
An ethnic Russian born to a non-Muslim family in Russia’s industrial heartland, Khasiev spent his teenage years among Chechens who knew him as a devout Muslim and a fluent Chechen speaker. Some of his Chechen friends went off to fight for Islamist militants in the Middle East, and encouraged him to join them.
Read more at Yahoo! News.