Another Violent Week In The North Caucasus

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 30

Yet another sign that Chechnya’s war is heating up came from the Associated Press on July 25, which as usual provided new reports on federal casualties from its sources inside Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration. An anonymous official told the news agency that rebel guerrillas had mounted 20 attacks on fixed Russian positions during a 24-hour period ending on Sunday. A total of at least 12 Russian troops had died in these attacks and in mine explosions and other clashes, said the official. Among the KIAs were two federal servicemen who died when their convoy was hit by an explosion in the town of Argun east of Grozny.

An anonymous source in Chechnya’s Interior Ministry told the Interfax news agency that a deputy battalion commander of the ministry’s security forces, Vakhid Salgereyev, died last week in a mine explosion. The explosion took place in the heart of Grozny, near the town’s central mosque. Yaragi Nikaev, a senior police officer of the North Caucasus department for investigating organized crime, was killed in Grozny on July 25 by a bomb that detonated when he turned on his car engine. His wife, standing outside the car, was wounded. A government source told Interfax that this was the first such car bombing in the Chechen war—as distinct from the many cases in which bombs have been planted on roadways.

Meanwhile, Prague Watchdog reported on July 21 that on the previous day unidentified gunmen successfully attacked a convoy in Grozny carrying pension funds for Chechen citizens. The attackers killed two Russian contract soldiers guarding the convoy and stole 5.5 million rubles (US$189,000). The driver of the vehicle carrying the money was unharmed, as was a female accountant on board.

There was also violence last week in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia, whose acting Deputy Interior Minister was wounded during the interrogation of an Ingush police sergeant suspected of having assisted the June 21-22 guerrilla raid on the republic. The sergeant’s pistol had been confiscated, according to an anonymous Interior Ministry source quoted by RIA Novosti, but he managed to conceal a hand grenade on his person and to detonate it while being questioned in the Interior Ministry’s headquarters. The sergeant himself died in the explosion.

Meanwhile, the independent website reported on July 19, most of the guerrillas who carried out last month’s raid on Ingushetia were ethnic Ingush ranging in age from 18 to 25. The website claimed that the Ingush raiders included both veteran guerrillas who had already been fighting for some time as recruits to the Chechen separatist cause, and “normal” Ingush frustrated by Ingushetia’s poverty and misgovernment.