Newsru.com reported on November 10 that federal forces had shelled Starye Atagi at dawn the previous day instead of a rebel base because of mistaken “coordinates.” As a result, a barrage of 12 shells hit the village, wounding six residents—four women, an eight-year-old girl and a man—and destroying eight homes. The condition of eight-year-old Elina Yusupova was characterized as “grave.” The other casualties included 70-year-old Musa Yusupov, 28-year-old Aimani Yusupova, 52-year-old Yakha Yusupova— apparently all members of the same family—and 68-year-old Khamila Saidova. Chechnya’s military commandant, Grigory Fomenko, confirmed the shelling on the evening of November 9. “There was a mistake in artillery calculations,” newsru.com quoted him as saying. “In reality, the plan was to strike a militant base in a completely different location. The prosecutor will sort everything out.” According to the website, fragments from 152mm shells were found in the village. A Groznensky district police source said the shells “were fired from long-range artillery guns, possibly from the direction of [the town of] Shali.” Indeed, a Groznensky district police source told Interfax that witnesses had seen flashes “characteristic of large-caliber gunfire” on the outskirts of Shali at the time of the shelling.
Meanwhile, Starye Atagi administration head Vakha Gadaev told Interfax that local residents were stunned by the fact that the military prosecutor’s office had launched a criminal case on charges of careless handling of weapons. “The victims, their relatives, and the residents of Starye Atagi on the whole cannot understand how the firing of 12 large-caliber shells into the same spot in a populated area qualifies as careless handling of weapons,” Gadaev said. Chechen President Alu Alkhanov has ordered an investigation into the wounding of the members of the Yusupov family.
The accidental shelling of Starye Atagi was not the first such incident in Chechnya, newsru.com reported on November 10. According to the Memorial human rights group, a similar incident occurred on October 7, when an artillery barrage hit the outskirts of the village of Samashki in the Achkoi-Martan district. Fortunately, no one was hurt in that incident.