In the minutes before his execution by an ISIS militant in Syria, Chechen Magomed Khasiev confessed to being a spy recruited by Russian intelligence agency Federal Security Service—something Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov quickly denied. But many people who knew the 23-year-old say he "seemed to live a double life," per Reuters, with connections to Muslim groups as well as Russian security. Born Yevgeny Yudin to a non-Muslim family in Chechnya, Khasiev lived for a time in an orphanage. "He was soft as a kitten," a former orphanage head says. He was later adopted by a Chechen family and took the family name, becoming Magomed Khasiev (he had earlier given himself the Muslim first name). Sources say he was friends with a cop, associated with non-Muslims, and did not appear to be a radical.
Others, however, say Khasiev was a devout Muslim whose best friend at the orphanage, Minkail Temiev, tried to convince him to fight for Islamist militants. When Temiev left the orphanage to enroll at an elite military school, friends say Khasiev kept in touch. In 2014, Khasiev sold his apartment and traveled to the Syrian town of Kobani on the border with Turkey. One report suggested he was caught with illegal drugs in February 2014 and then pressured into spying by the FSS, per the Telegraph. But a friend who received messages from Khasiev says he went to Syria to find Temiev, who Khasiev's adoptive family believed had become radicalized. Khasiev told the friend he found Temiev was dead, so he "simply collected dead bodies" with other fighters, whom he called "brothers." In his execution video posted Dec. 2, Khasiev says he passed intelligence on ISIS to Russian authorities through an old acquaintance, an ethnic Armenian named Grant. A friend of Khasiev's says Grant worked for the police. Little else about him is known. (Read more Syria stories.)