As of the morning of May 14, the number of confirmed dead in the May 12 truck bombing of the district-administration headquarters in the north Chechen town of Znamenskoe had reached fifty-nine. Most of the victims were civilians, and included ordinary citizens visiting government offices as well as street vendors and residents of closely adjoining apartment buildings. According to the authorities, at least seven of the dead were children. Thus, even though the attack destroyed the district headquarters of the FSB along with several other government buildings, only the most hardened fanatic would fail to classify it as an act of terrorism.
What is especially striking about this attack was the failure of the tens of thousands federal troops and the pro-Moscow Chechen police, with their scores of checkpoints. They were unable to prevent a truck with an estimated 3,000 pounds of explosives from freely traveling about a region that has long been considered the most secure, stable and pro-Russian in all of Chechnya. President Putin’s claims of “normalization” in Chechnya have once again been made to look hollow.
Predictably, the Russian authorities immediately blamed Aslan Maskhadov, but have yet to produce any solid evidence to back up that accusation. So far no group or individual, Chechen or otherwise, has claimed responsibility. The newspaper “Izvestia” noted that the head of the local branch of the FSB, Mayerbek Khusiyev, had taken a strong stand against the area’s well-organized smugglers of oil and metals and that such criminal groups would have had a strong motive to try to kill him. On the other hand, Khusiyev had also personally led some of the notorious “zachistki,” or security sweeps, directed against Chechnya’s civilians. These are among the activities most hated by the rebels.