Dagestan is the only part of the North Caucasus today that is experiencing ceaseless counter-terrorism operations (KTO). The security services announce KTOs in various areas of the republic, and these sometimes continue for months. During an active KTO regime, the authorities restrict the movements of citizens within a village, city, district or even several districts at the same time, as recently happened in the Novolaksky, Khasavyurt and Kizilyurt districts, which border Chechnya and Dagestan. Two cities and three districts of Dagestan were under a KTO regime from March 16 to May 12 (Chernovik.net, May 12).
Prior to that, the authorities introduced a KTO regime in Kizilyurt district on February 25 that ended on March 2. After that, a new KTO was introduced, which lasted for nearly two consecutive months (Regnum, March 2). During the first KTO in Kizilyurt district in February, several rebels were killed, including a local insurgent leader, Ali Magomeddebirov. During the second KTO, however, the security services delivered no results. Local Dagestanis think that most often KTOs are designed not to find militants, but to demonstrate that the government is trying to do so. Most of the time, KTOs are not justified. The authorities sustain a special KTO regime until they somehow find a rebel or supposedly prevent an attack and report the success of the KTO. The killing of Khasmagomed Charinov, a rebel leader in Khasavyurt district, was declared a major success for of the security services (Vdagestan.com, April 27).
On May 2, police in the city of Kizilyurt, on Malaguseinov Street, tried to arrest a suspect who blew himself up with an improvised explosive device (IED). No one else was hurt in the explosion. The dead man was identified as 31-year-old Abdulkhalikov Shamil Isaevich from the village of Tsebari, in Dagestan’s Tsuntinsky district. Abdulkhalikov was on the wanted list for crimes specified in articles 105, 208, 222 and 317 of the Russian Criminal Code. While the KTO in Kizilyurt district was lifted that same day, police accidentally came across the suspect, who did not have a prominent status in the insurgency. Even the rebels themselves could not say who exactly he was.
KTOs in Makhachkala normally do not last longer than one day. A KTO in the Dagestani capital is introduced in a narrowly defined area where a rebel or group of rebels is located. After the operation is completed, the special regime is promptly lifted. On May 7, the KTO was introduced in part of Makhachkala at 6:00 a.m. and lifted at 11:00 p.m. the same day, after the operation was completed. Three rebels were killed in the operation: they were identified as Zaur Begov, Abumuslim Gasanov and Mirzabek Idrisov (Kavkazsky Uzel, May 7). Begov and Idrisov were on the Russian federal wanted list for attacks on Dagestani law enforcement personnel. It is unclear why Zaur Begov decided to go back home to his wife along with the two other rebels, knowing that he was on the federal wanted list and that the local police were on the lookout for him, closely monitoring members of the suspect’s family.
But while KTOs in Makhachkala are short and specific, they are also quite frequent. KTOs are introduced in the republic’s capital practically every week and sometimes several times a week. The nickname for Dagestan’s rebels—“forest brothers”—is not accurate since they mainly operate in the cities and the villages of the republic. Therefore, special operations in the republic rarely take place in the forested and mountainous areas of Dagestan.
Those belonging to the new generation of rebels began their insurgent activity in 2010 or later. Most of them have no experience in underground activities and joined the insurgency for ideological reasons rather than because the government was persecuting them. This generation is associated with a romantic notion of an ideal Islamic society.
From February to May 2015, KTOs have been implemented in Dagestan’s Kizilyurt, Khasavyurt and Novolak districts. KTOs were also implemented in Tsumada district in March, and in the Untsukul, Buinaksk and Karabudakhkent districts in April. KTOs are implemented in the capital Makhachkala on a weekly basis.
Thus, KTOs have become part of the daily lives of Dagestan’s residents, who have stopped regarding this as something out of the ordinary. This situation is dangerous because radical views may spread among young people, as increasingly more individuals are involved in this struggle, at least as onlookers. The number of violent incidents in Dagestan is high, and the republic is increasingly moving toward Islamic radicalism.