Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 235

On November 17, Chechen rebels fighters attacked the mayor’s office in Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital. The attack took place around noon, local time, after a group of Chechen policemen discovered a group of rebels some fifty meters from the building housing the mayor’s office. A shoot-out ensued, lasting some thirty to forty minutes. One rebel was killed in the fighting, while four members of Mayor Bislan Gantamirov’s security detachment were wounded. All four were related to him (Russian agencies, December 17).

About a week ago, a group of rebels carried out an attack on Gantamirov’s home in the capital. On that occasion, as in yesterday’s attack, the rebels managed to escape. Both incidents show that the federal forces have not only been unable to establish control over the southern mountainous part of the breakaway republic, where the rebel guerrilla movement is particularly active, but also over the republic’s capital, where there are checkpoints manned by Russian troops every 200 meters.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Shura of Ichkeria, the separatists’ Sharia court, has declared war on the republic’s oil sector. According to the Interfax news agency, the illegal newspaper “Voice of the Jihad” published a command ordering that infrastructure involved in the transit of oil and oil products be blown up or burned, along with railway lines and bridges used for transporting fuel. The order threatened oil-industry workers with harsh punishment if they continued to go to work, and ordered followers to “burn and destroy” oil trucks, which are “working for the occupiers.” Rebel field commander Shamil Basaev signed the order. It is unclear, however, whether the order expressed the position of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. “Voice of the Jihad,” which produced on a computer and run-off on Xerox machines, is distributed in local markets and other public places (Russian agencies, December 17). In 1996, during the first Chechen war, Basaev told the Monitor’s correspondent that once the rebels were victorious over the Russians, Chechnya’s oil industry should be destroyed, given that “oil provoked Russia into the war in Chechnya.”

Meanwhile, for the first time since the start of the current war, there has been a conflict between top leaders of the separatists. The Shura (Council) of the Mujahedin, an organ controlled by Basaev and fellow field commander Khattab, issued a statement charged that Chechen leaders, including the president, vice president and members of the parliament, had recently declared readiness to “begin immediate negotiations with the Russian occupiers without preconditions. The Shura’s military command officially announced that it was against any negotiations with Russia, saying that Moscow’s military campaign had reached a dead end (, December 17).

It cannot be ruled out that Basaev’s latest statements are connected to a large-scale federal operation to destroy his and Khattab’s unites in the mountainous regions of southeastern Chechnya (Russian agencies, December 17).