Police in Dagestan killed three suspected militants on October 18 in ongoing violence in the republic. The latest incident follows a rise in tensions surrounding the municipal elections held in Russia on October 11, which were particularly controversial in the Dagestani city of Derbent, where a large number of polling stations did not open and police reportedly attacked would-be voters.
The three suspected militants were killed on October 18 when police on the Kavkaz federal highway outside the town of Enderei-Aul in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district tried to stop a car and those inside opened fire. Following the incident, police found two automatic rifles, two hand grenades and ammunition in the car. Police subsequently identified the slain suspected militants as Khachalav Sheikhmagomedov, Alisobulat Alisov and Aslan Magomedov, and claimed that all three had been involved in terrorist acts and attacks on police (Interfax, www.regnum.ru, www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 19). On October 17, a man attempting to plant a bomb under a gas pipeline in the city of Khasavyurt lost both of his hands when the device detonated prematurely. Police identified the man as Rustam Musaev, a 22-year-old Khasavyurt district resident (ITAR-TASS, www.rosbalt.ru, October 19).
On October 13, a policeman was slightly wounded when a bomb went off as he was driving his car on the Dorgeli-Buinaksk road on the outskirts of the village of Durgani in Dagestan’s Buinaksk district (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 13). On the evening of October 12, a bomb went off near a gas-distribution station not far from Makhachkala. No one was hurt in the blast, which damaged a section of a railroad track. On October 11, eight people were wounded when unidentified attackers fired on a car in which Amir Amirov, the Deputy-General Director of the Southern Power Company, was riding near the village of Mitagi in Dagestan’s Derbent district. The car’s driver and two members of the energy company’s security department were wounded in the attack along with five other people, including an officer with the Makhachkala police department and a two-year-old boy (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 12).
The local elections in the city of Derbent on October 11 attracted widespread attention after local election commission officials failed to show up for work, preventing 14 of the city’s 36 polling stations from opening. Some of the polling stations were reportedly occupied by police to prevent residents from voting, and there were also reports of OMON riot police using tear gas to disperse would-be voters. Moskovsky Komsomolets reported that OMON officers also attacked journalists attempting to film infringements of voting procedures (www.russiaprofile.org, October 13, RIA Novosti, October 15).
In a further escalation of the tense situation in Dagestan the republic’s permanent representative in Moscow under the Russian Federation president, Gadzhi Makhachev, called for creating a structure consisting of relatives from law enforcement officers slain by militants, tasked with exacting revenge on militants according to the local vendetta tradition. Makhachev was quoted as detailing these plans on October 16 by various media, including RIA Novosti and the websites of the newspaper Izvestiya and Argumenty i Fakty, but he subsequently said that his comments, which were made at the conclusion of a Moscow roundtable marking the tenth anniversary of the defeat of the rebel incursion into Dagestan from neighboring Chechnya, were off the record and had been misinterpreted. “In the fight against extremism, Dagestan does not need ‘revenge squads,’ but the consolidation of all healthy forces in the republic; the government, law enforcement bodies [and] institutions of civil society,” Makhachev said by way of clarification (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, October 18).
Last month, leaflets appeared in Dagestan stating that there are 250 people who need to be eliminated for supporting Islamists in the republic and specifically naming 16 people, all of them well-known Dagestani journalists, human rights activists and lawyers. The leaflets’ anonymous authors claimed their aim was to take revenge on the insurgents and their accomplices for killing policemen and civilians (EDM, September 9).
In an analysis of the situation in Dagestan Sergei Korenev wrote concerning the events in Derbent during the October 11 municipal elections:
“Fear, shootings, beating members of the election commission, closing of polling stations, crowds of people in uniform concentrated in Derbent to impose order –such things can be permitted, it seems, only in an occupied territory. Even in Afghanistan the elections took place with fewer excesses, and in neighboring Chechnya and Ingushetia [the October 11 election took place] in line with recent Soviet traditions: festively, with pathos and a mass turnout. So crude a tactic as the election campaign conducted in southern Dagestan, which is already stuffed with the dynamite of ethno-religious conflict, could lead to tragic consequences” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 20).
Korenev was also highly critical of Dagestan’s President Mukhu Aliev, alleging that he has populated the republic’s senior positions with loyalists. According to Korenev, it is more and more often “hungry people” who are getting the top jobs in Dagestan’s administration and, as a result, the size of kickbacks has doubled (www.ng.ru, October 20).