Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 32

Kommersant wrote on July 9 that immediately following the bombing that killed Buinaksk prosecutor Bitar Bitarov, investigators suspected that it had been carried out by Buinaksk businessmen who manufactured plastic tubing, against whom Bitarov had launched a criminal case for tax evasion. According to the newspaper, these businessmen had organized several demonstrations in which protesters blocked roads and demanded Bitarov’s resignation. Following the attack on Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov an hour later, however, investigators believed that it was carried out by rebel fighters. “The murder of the prosecutor was carried with only one aim—to lure the head of the MVD [Interior Ministry] of Dagestan into an ambush,” the newspaper wrote. “The militants knew that General Magomedtagirov always personally drove out [to the scene of] notorious crimes. And there was no way he could detour around the booby-trapped section: the main route leading to Buinaksk from Makhachkala is closed because of repairs.”

Indeed, Vremya novostei on August 9 quoted a source in the Dagestani Interior Ministry as saying that the preliminary findings indicated that the two attacks were “a prepared and planned action to kill officials of the republic’s law-enforcement organs.” Likewise, the deputy prosecutor general of the Southern Federal District, Ivan Sydoruk, said he was sure that that the attacks were linked.

Noting that the Prosecutor General’s Office for the Southern Federal District is in charge of investigating the attacks in Dagestan, Kommersant quoted investigators as saying that the attacks were carried out by the same group of rebels and were presumably coordinated by “field commander and terrorist Rappani Khalilov,” who is based in the Buinaksk district and well known in Dagestan. “The militant Khalilov was born in Buinaksk and is highly popular with the local youth, whom he is actively drawing into his ranks.” The newspaper also reported that after Federal Security Service (FSB) Chairman and National Anti-Terrorist Committee head Nikolai Patrushev offered amnesty to rebels in the North Caucasus (Chechnya Weekly, July 20, 27 and August 3), the deputy head of the federal Interior Ministry’s main directorate in the Southern Federal District, Sergei Solodovnikov, had called on Khalilov to give up, promising that he could count on a certain amount of “leniency.” Yet only around ten people in Dagestan have taken the amnesty offer, and these, according to Kommersant, were rebel accomplices who were brought in by relatives.

The reason for the amnesty’s paltry results in Dagestan, the newspaper quoted unnamed republican officials as saying, is the local population’s distrust of the republic’s law-enforcement organs. “After yesterday’s terrorist acts, by which the militants yet again demonstrated their power (the MVD head remained alive only because the [bomb] operator was a little late in detonating the bomb), the process of disarmament in Dagestan may have hit a complete dead end. At any rate, Rappani Khalilov and his people made it clear that they have no plans to enter into negotiations with the authorities and will conduct their war even in the absence of [Chechen rebel warlord] Shamil Basaev and other Chechen commanders.”

Following the bombings in Dagestan, even Rossiiskaya gazeta was forced to admit that the situation was “difficult” for the republic’s law enforcement officials. In an article titled, “In Dagestan, Explosions Continue to Ring Out and People Continue to Die,” the official newspaper reported that there have been around fifty attacks on policemen over the last year, most of which have caused deaths or injuries.

“An especially tense situation is developing in the Buinaksk district,” Rossiiskaya gazeta wrote. “The other day, a meeting of the republican anti-terrorist commission was held in Makhachkala. Speaking at the meeting, Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov assessed the difficult operational situation in the republic. He discussed the several special operations that were recently conducted in the Buinaksk district to destroy militants who were preparing to carry out a series of terrorist acts against military personnel deployed in the city [of Buinaksk]. Yet, the measures taken by the law-enforcement structures were inadequate. In many of the large population centers of the district there were not even stations for the district police officers who were responsible for carrying out preventive work among the youth and [among] the adherents of Wahhabism and extremism. According to Buinaksk district administration head Batdal Batdalov, a majority of the local youth are unemployed; therefore they either leave the district or the republic or join the ranks of the Wahhabis.” According to the newspaper, some 60 people, for the most part residents of the village of Karamakhi, are under surveillance by the law-enforcement authorities, and seven “bandit formations” are operating in the republic that could “at any moment destabilize the situation” there.

Rossiiskaya gazeta noted that the murder of Buinaksk prosecutor Bitar Bitarov was not the first attack on the officials of the district. In September 2004, the head of the Buinaksk branch of the Interior Ministry’s criminal investigation department, Magomed Gadzhimagomedov, was shot to death outside the entrance of his home. The following month, Buinaksk district head Abakar Akaev was fired upon for a fifth time.

Meanwhile, the separatist Kavkazcenter.com website on August 8 posted a statement by Dagestan’s Sharia Jamaat rejecting the federal amnesty offer, stating that “in the wake of “Emir Shamil Basaev’s departure for better worlds,” the mujahideen not only did not plan to surrender, but would “intensify their blows against the crowds of occupiers.” “With this [amnesty], the kaffirs [infidels] have shown their weakness and cowardice,” the Sharia Jamaat statement read. “This is already the seventh ‘amnesty,’ during each of which yet another munafiq [hypocrite] was dragged out…and passed off as a surrendering mujahid…We have not declared an amnesty for Patrushev and other criminals from the band of kaffirs, and we will destroy them at any time and until such time as the mujahideen are proclaiming the Azan [call to prayer] from the walls of the Moscow Kremlin. Allah is with us and victory is ours. Allahu Akbar!”

Chechen President Alu Alkhanov took a rhetorical shot at the Dagestani authorities. Asked by Interfax on August 8 to comment on the attacks in Dagestan, Alkhanov said that “the situation in neighboring regions, including Dagestan, has not been helped by the fact that up until a certain time the leaders of these constituent parts of the federation have tried to link their internal problems solely to Chechnya and Chechens.” Alkhanov continued, “It was not quite fashionable to say that the terrorist attacks in Dagestan were committed by Dagestanis. As we know, it does not help to eliminate the threat of terrorism if you bury your head in the sand. There’s no need to shift the responsibility to Chechnya. We in Chechnya have paid dearly for today’s tranquility. The president of Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov, was killed. Hundreds of policemen and members of the first president’s security service, heads of district administrations, imams and ordinary citizens have been killed. Attempts to nod in Chechnya’s direction whenever something happens in any North Caucasus region is a worn-out tactic that should be abandoned in the interests of the cause.”

In order to resolve a problem, Alkhanov added that one must first recognize its existence. “Let us make no bones about it—there are hotbeds of terrorism in the North Caucasus, there are supporters of terrorism in all regions,” he said. “The destruction of Shamil Basaev is, unquestionably, a substantial success and a historic event, but this does not remove the problem of terrorism once and for all.” Alkhanov called for the creation of a “mechanism whereby people can return to a peaceful life” and the creation of “the conditions for their adaptation to normal society.” He concluded, “We in the Chechen Republic have fought terrorism and terrorists for many years. When there was reason to, we pointed out that hotbeds of terrorism also existed in neighboring regions. Yet, our warnings were never welcomed. I am firmly confident, however, that the present leaders of the constituent parts that border Chechnya are capable of dealing with these problems and have an interest in eradicating terrorism.”