Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 32

Rebels in Dagestan carried out an operation on August 8 involving two apparently synchronized attacks, one of which killed a district prosecutor and the other narrowly missing Dagestan’s interior minister.

On August 8, the Associated Press quoted Dagestani Interior Ministry spokeswoman Anzhela Martirosova as saying that a parked car exploded as Bitar Bitarov, the prosecutor of the city of Buinaksk and Buinaksk district, was driving to work. Interfax quoted the federal Prosecutor General’s Office as saying that the car bomb exploded with the force of 6.5 pounds of TNT. Bitarov was severely wounded and later died at a hospital. Kommersant had a somewhat different version, reporting in its August 9 edition that the blast took place on the outskirts of Buinaksk at 8:30 AM as Bitarov was being driven to work and was caused by a bomb that was hidden in a pile of trash on the side of the road. According to the newspaper, the blast blew Bitarov’s official Volga car upside down, and shrapnel from bomb’s steel casing severely wounded Bitarov, his driver and his bodyguard. Surgeons worked on Bitarov for two hours, removing dozens of bomb fragments from his body and amputating his left arm, but were unable to save him. On August 9, Vremya novostei quoted a hospital source as saying that Bitarov’s driver, Gasan Gasanov, and his bodyguard, Ulluby Bataev, had been operated on in order to remove shrapnel and both of them would survive.

The second attack took place less than an hour later, when a motorcade that included Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov set out from Makhachkala to Buinaksk; Magomedtagirov planned to take personal control of the investigation into the assassination of Bitar Bitarov. According to Kommersant, a bomb went off five miles outside Makhachkala as Magomedtagirov’s armored Mercedes was driving by, and while the car managed skirt past the blast site, the car’s engine was knocked out of commission, and Magomedtagirov and several policemen traveling with him received contusions. A car with Magomedtagirov’s bodyguards that was traveling behind the Mercedes fell into the crater created by the bomb blast, while a third car managed to brake safely. Immediately afterwards, gunmen fired on the cars with Kalashnikovs from the nearby woods, and the minister’s bodyguards returned fire, after which a second bomb went off around 20 meters from the site of the first blast. Three of Magomedtagirov’s bodyguards and three bystanders, including a woman, were wounded in the attacks. Two of the bodyguards later died in a Makhachkala hospital. On August 9, Vremya novostei identified the dead bodyguards as Sgt. Marat Ramazanov and Lt. Murtuzali Mukhuchev. The newspaper reported that the explosions and ensuing exchange of gunfire also injured the passengers and drivers in two cars that were driving in the opposite direction of Magomedtagirov’s motorcade, and that these victims were also hospitalized.

Kommersant quoted eyewitnesses as saying that Magomedtagirov reacted to the attack “emotionally.” “After the wounded policemen were given first aid, he excoriated his subordinates publicly, and then started to go after the attackers with them,” the newspaper reported. “The minister ran up to each policeman standing near the scene and shouted, ‘Do you have a submachine gun? Why are you standing there?’”

According to Kommersant, one of the bombs had been hidden in a drainage pipe under the road, and the resulting damage to the roadbed caused a traffic jam that delayed both investigators who were dispatched from Buinaksk and OMON special police commandos who were sent to track down the attackers. After about an hour, armored personnel carriers and helicopters made it to the scene, but some of the security forces, who were wearing flak jackets, fainted from the 40-degree Celsius heat. None of the attackers were caught.