Three people were killed and thirty-seven wounded in a series of bombings in the Chechen city of Gudermes on June 19. Three car bombs went off within minutes of one another at the city’s courthouse, Interior Ministry building and prosecutor’s office. Bomb specialists discovered and defused another car packed with explosives. According to Viktor Dakhnov, Chechnya’s chief prosecutor, one policeman and two local residents were killed in the blasts, and twenty-seven employees of the Interior Ministry and prosecutor’s office were injured. Around a dozen of those injured are in serious condition. Eight people have been detained on suspicion of involvement in the bombings. According to Sergei Fridinsky, deputy prosecutor general for the Southern federal district, all eight suspects are Chechens. One of them was reportedly in possession of a videotape of all three buildings targeted in the bombings (Radio Liberty, June 20-21).
Meanwhile, a car bomb went off yesterday in the Oktyabr district of Djohar (Grozny), the Chechen capital, some 200 meters from a checkpoint manned by members of an OMON special police unit from Murmansk. One soldier was killed in the blast, immediately after which other servicemen in the area came under fire from snipers in the ruins of apartment buildings nearby. The besieged federal troops received back up in the form of a Mi-24 helicopter gunship from the Khankala military base just outside the capital, which fired missiles at the suspected Chechen rebel sniper positions. Two Russian servicemen were killed and three wounded in that firefight (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 21).
The car bombings in Gudermes and Djohar were analogous to those that have taken place in Chechnya and other parts of the North Caucasus since the start of the latest Russian military campaign in Chechnya began in the autumn of 1999. Every such bombing in southern Russia has been accompanied by official assurances that “the situation in under control” and that because the Chechen rebels “are not capable of large-scale military actions” they are resorting to desperate terrorist attacks. The cumulative effect of such daily small-scale terrorist actions, however, exceeds that of large-scale military actions. That is to say, the war in Chechnya grows more serious each day. The Russian leadership, meanwhile, is unable to subdue the rebels by force but remains unprepared to seek a political settlement with them.
The situation is such that Moscow may soon find itself without any allies in the republic. Indeed, it is interesting to note that Akhmad Kadyrov, head of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration, noted in response to the latest terrorist acts that no one had yet been captured and punished for the murder of dozens of religious officials, local administration heads and police officers in the republic. In an interview with the Interfax news agency, Kadyrov said that this lack of punishment was encouraging the rebels to carry out new murders and terrorist acts, and that “a rabid band of criminals” was attacking “the best sons of Chechnya,” who had risked their own lives in the struggle against “the criminal world.” Kadyrov said that the organizers of the bombings in Gudermes and Djohar were trying to intimidate the Chechen people, cause panic among the civilian population and force inhabitants to flee the republic (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 21; Russian agencies, June 20).
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