Convoy Ambushed in Vedeno

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 39

A serviceman was killed and another wounded in a battle with a group of approximately 20 militants on the outskirts of the settlement of Zhani-Vedeno on October 9. Itar-Tass reported on October 10 that two militants were also killed in the battle while the rest escaped. Also on October 9, unidentified gunmen fired grenade launchers at soldiers who were returning to their base on the outskirts of the Shali district village of Agishty from a reconnaissance mission. Four servicemen were wounded in that attack. Meanwhile, soldiers engaged a group of six militants in a forest five kilometers from the Itum-Kala district center, wounding one. The battle on the outskirts of Zhani-Vedeno on October 9 was clearly connected to an incident that took place in the area two days earlier. Four servicemen were killed and ten wounded in Chechnya’s Vedeno district on October 7 when rebels ambushed a convoy of vehicles as they were passing through a forest on the road from the village of Dargo to Vedeno. Itar-Tass on October 8 said the four slain servicemen included a contract policeman from Krasnodar Krai who headed a unit of Vedeno’s Interior Ministry department and three members of the Interior Ministry’s Yug (South) battalion. Kommersant reported on October 9 that 16 servicemen were wounded in the attack.

According to Kommersant, the ambush was carried out by militants led by rebel field commander Arbi Muntsigov, aka Shatral. The newspaper reported that local security forces had learned from a captured rebel collaborator that Arbi Muntsigov and his brother Usman (aged 20 and 28, respectively) were planning to visit their parents, who live in Dargo, on October 6. “Having decided that the liquidation of Muntsigov-the-elder and his gang would be a nice gift for the birthday of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov (who turned 31 on October 5), a large combined unit was set up in the district center to capture Shatral,” Kommersant wrote. Along with district policemen, the unit included members of the Chechen MVD’s Akhmat Kadyrov special regiment and the Yug battalion of Russian internal troops, both of which have sub-units based in Vedeno. A column consisting of ten army trucks and APCs entered Dargo late on the evening of October 6, after which security forces began to carry out document checks. Militants in the town began firing on them, but the security forces suppressed the rebel fire without sustaining casualties. The militants then managed to escape into the woods, leaving behind one dead fighter – identified as Khusein Khamaev, who was wanted for the murder of a Dargo resident.

On October 7, as the combined security force unit was heading back to Vedeno, it was ambushed near the village of Zhani-Vedeno. An unidentified member of the unit told Kommersant that the rebels fired at the vehicles in the convoy that were not armored – a UAZ and a KamAZ truck belonging to the Yug battalion. The drivers of those vehicles, Vedeno ROVD duty unit chief Sergei Narrated and a Yug battalion contract sergeant, were killed on the spot, and the KamAZ veered off a slope and crashed. Two other Yug battalion servicemen died as a result of the crash while 16 servicemen, including two officers, were seriously injured.

According to Kommersant, participants in the special operation are certain that Shatral and his brigade carried out the ambush. The newspaper also said that security officials in Vedeno describe Shatral as the “amir of the southeastern part of the Vedeno district” and “a commander from the new generation of militants” who is operating under the command of Chechen rebel leader Dokka Umarov. Shatral’s group, which consists of around two dozen young people who are relatives and fellow-villagers, has been unable to conduct large-scale operations but carried out a series of murders of Vedeno district officials and police this past spring.

Meanwhile, an unnamed official in the headquarters of the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya said that Chechen rebel leader Dokka Umarov plans to “pool” the “remaining criminal armed groups” under a single command in order to “get funding from international terrorists and to launch subversive actions,” Interfax reported on October 10. “Illegal armed groups have effectively been crushed and ‘decapitated,’” the official told the news agency. “Umarov and Yevloev [Akhmed Yevloev, a.k.a. Magas, the Ingush field commander who was appointed as the top rebel military commander this past summer] are the only surviving field commanders. They are little known beyond the North Caucasus. But Umarov wants to pool small groups under his command and portray himself as the leader of the militants in the Caucasus in the eyes of international terrorists and to win large rewards. Umarov wants to be in the news and to reap generous rewards, as [the late Chechen president and separatist leader Aslan] Maskhadov and [the late rebel commander Shamil] Basaev did. But the targeted sweep operations being conducted in Chechnya are producing tangible results.”

Just days ago, Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, speaker of the People’s Assembly, the lower house of Chechnya’s parliament, claimed that the “counter-terrorism operation” in Chechnya had been successfully completed, that only several dozen militants were still active in the republic and that Umarov was possibly no longer in Russia. “Only Dokka Umarov is left now, and it is not even clear whether he is in the Chechen Republic or in another state,” Abdurakhmanov said (Chechnya Weekly, October 4).

On October 8, the separatist Kavkaz-Center website published a decree signed by Umarov – who is president of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria – promoting Shamil Basaev, the top rebel military commander killed in 2006, to the rank of generalissimo. Another decree, dated October 3, promoted Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, the rebel leader killed in July 2006, and Rappani Khalilov, who was killed this past September, to the rank of general. Yet another decree posthumously promoted Arbi Baraev, the notorious rebel field commander killed in 2001, to the rank of brigadier general. Umarov also renamed two Chechen districts after Basaev and Sadulaev and conferred the Honor of the Nation order on more than two dozen dead rebel commanders.