Chechnya Bombings: Zapad Revenge against the OMON?

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 23

Investigators have determined that an explosion which took place in a café in the Chechen capital Grozny on the evening of June 9 was caused by a bomb, Kavkazky Uzel reported on June 10. According to initial reports, the blast in the “Dallas” café was caused by the explosion of two gas tanks; according to subsequent reports, an initial gas explosion had detonated ammunition that was being carried by a policeman who was in the café. Yet an official with the Chechen branch of the Investigative Committee, Maryam Nalaev, told Interfax that the theory the blast was the result of a gas explosion turned out to be unfounded, and a Chechen law-enforcement source told Kavkazky Uzel that the blast had been caused by an improvised explosive device.

Kavkazky Uzel reported that the explosion injured 7-12 people: according to the website, the Chechen Interior Ministry put the number of wounded at seven, including five policemen and two local inhabitants. The “Dallas” café is located not far from the base of a Chechen Interior Ministry OMON special unit. “Seven people received wounds and varying degrees of trauma in the café explosion—three OMON, one employee of the Chechen MVD’s PPS (patrol-sentry service) and three civilians, including a cashier and waitress from the café,” a Chechen police officer told the website. “After being given first aid, the women were sent home. Doctors assess the condition of one of the wounded OMON as extremely grave.”

According to Kavkazky Uzel, local residents believe the blast may have been part of an ongoing “razborka”—settling of scores—between members of the Chechen OMON and servicemen belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry’s Zapad battalion. In the summer of 2007, a shootout between members of the OMON and the Zapad battalion left four Zapad members dead. According to reports at the time of the incident, a Chechen policeman was also killed in the shootout (Chechnya Weekly, June 21, 2007). Kavkazky Uzel reported that following last year’s shootout, the “kakievtsy” (the name given to Zapad battalion members in honor of their former commander, Said-Magomed Kakiev, who several months ago was transferred to the post of Chechnya’s deputy military commissar) declared a vendetta against members of the Chechen OMON.

On June 11, just two days after the Grozny café explosion, a large bomb went off on a road in Chechnya’s southeastern Shali district connecting the city of Shali and the village of Agishty. The explosive device detonated as two cars were passing by with seven members of the OMON force from Perm Krai who are currently deployed in Chechnya. No one was hurt in the blast.

Meanwhile, security forces detained two policemen in Chechnya’s Vedeno district suspected of collaborating with separatist rebels, Kavkazky Uzel reported on June 11. An unnamed police officer told the website that the identity of the police collaborators was learned from “an active participant” in the “illegal armed formations” who had recently been captured. The website noted that security forces had captured a wounded militant in Vedeno district on June 9. The militant is believed to have been wounded in a shootout with servicemen on the outskirts of the town of Vedeno on the evening of June 8. Interax reported on June 8 that three unidentified gunmen had fired on servicemen who tried to detain them on the outskirts of Vedeno earlier that day, and that the servicemen had returned fire.