Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 20

Interfax reported on May 17 that five servicemen were killed and another six wounded when their convoy was attacked on the outskirts on the settlement of Niki-Khita in Chechnya’s Kurchaloi district. A Chechen law enforcement source told the news agency that the convoy, consisting of one Ural car and two UAZ cars, was hit by fire from various types of small arms. A Chechen Interior Ministry source told Itar-Tass that the victims were policemen, not military servicemen. In any case, the wounded and the bodies of those killed were airlifted by helicopter to the hospital at the Khankala military base outside Grozny.

According to Chechnya’s Interior Ministry, all available forces in the area of the attack, including police and army units as well as members of the federal Interior Ministry’s Internal Troops, personnel of the office of the republic’s military commandant and servicemen from the federal Unified Group of Forces, were deployed to locate the attackers. Interfax quoted Chechnya’s chief prosecutor, Valery Kuznetsov, as saying that investigators were collecting evidence and questioning eyewitnesses at the scene of the attack.

Chechnya’s military commandant, Grigory Fomenko, said on May 13 that three Russian soldiers had been killed and three wounded during the previous week, RIA Novosti reported. According to Fomenko, a battle in the Shali district settlement of Novye Atagi took the lives of two rebel commanders—Timur Maayev, the emir of Novye Atagi, and Bilal Edilsultanov, the emir of Starye Atagi. Fomenko claimed that over the previous week, five rebels had been captured and five other people had been detained on suspicion of “complicity with bandit groups.”

Reuters reported on May 16 that a policeman and two militants were killed and at least nine other people, including a civilian, were injured in a gun battle in the Dagestani town of Kizilyurt, northwest of the republic’s capital, Makhachkala. According to the news agency, the rebels blockaded themselves in an apartment building that security forces subsequently stormed. Kommersant on May 18 identified the two dead rebels as Ibragim Ibragimov and Abdulmazhid Kabashilaev, and reported that a diagram of Kizilyurt’s School No. 7 had been found in the apartment where they had been holed up. The newspaper quoted Dagestani Interior Minister Aldigerei Magomedtagirov as saying that the militants had planned to seize the school. Itar-Tass on May 16 quoted Magomedtagirov as saying that Ibragimov was a rebel “emir of the Buinaksk Zone.”

Kommersant reported that soon after the security operation in Kizilyurt was completed, Dagestani President Mukhu Aliev held a meeting in which he asked his security chiefs: “Is it not possible to carry out an operation to seize and liquidate two militants with less blood, less damage, and more professionally?” The newspaper reported that one policeman was killed and 14 other people (12 policemen, one fireman and one civilian) were wounded in the gun battle, and that 20 apartments in the building were damaged, 12 of which caught fire. Kommersant quoted Sergei Solodovnikov, first deputy head of the federal Interior Ministry’s main department in the Southern Federal District, as saying: “The militants had the advantage of being on the third floor. In addition, they had broken through the wall into a neighboring apartment, which allowed them to defend the entire perimeter.” Solodovnikov added: “The desire to die according to the laws of Jihad gave them an advantage over us, inasmuch as we wanted to preserve people’s lives. Although we had the task of carrying out an operation without losses, everything did not turn out the way we wanted. We urged them [the militants] to surrender, but they refused. They said they must die as shaheeds. While we sustained losses, it all could have turned out much worse.”

Meanwhile, in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, the head of the Cherkessk remand prison (SIZO), Colonel Khasan Zhanaev, was assassinated in the republic’s Prikubansky district, Interfax reported on May 17. The news agency quoted a Prikubansky district law enforcement source as saying that Zhanaev’s car was shot up as he was heading to his office and that Zhanaev died from his wounds; his driver was not hurt. on May 17 quoted federal Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel as saying regarding the assassination: “Zhanaev had begun to actively free himself from traitors in his ranks, which most likely led to this tragedy.” The website noted that another version was being studied—the possibility that certain SIZO inmates serving sentences for particularly grave crimes were involved in the assassination. Shepel noted: “Not long ago a special operation was carried out in the SIZO to prevent deliveries to that institution of narcotics and mobile telephones.”