Uncharacteristically, the Chechen government announced the launch of a series of special operations on March 12, when a counter-terrorism operation regime was introduced in Chechnya’s Shali district. The announcement specified that the search for the militants would be carried out in areas outside of the district’s towns and villages (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/221334/). The latter addition was evidently superfluous, since all special operations by Chechen government forces are normally conducted outside of the settlements. This is the special feature of the Chechen rebels, who are based only in the republic’s forested and mountainous areas. The Chechen rebels do this because the civilians who support them in the republic are heavily repressed.
The most recent special operation may have been the government’s response to the killing of one and injuring of two servicemen in Chechnya’s Vedeno district on March 7. During that incident, one of the rebels, amazingly, was broadcast live on Radio Liberty’s Chechen service and told the audience about the fighting (www.radiomarsho.com/content/chechen_fighters_last_call/24922239.html). During the several minutes he was on the radio, the rebel managed to provide a substantial amount of new information about the Chechen jamaat. The caller said his name was Ayub Zelimkhanov of the village of Alleroi and that he had joined the insurgency when he was 19 years old. Zelimkhanov said he joined the insurgency after 11 other people from his village did the same, and that he realized while working at a construction site in Grozny that he could not remain outside the resistance movement. Zelimkhanov said he was against the constitution Russia had imposed on the Chechens and wanted to fight for Sharia law (www.ekhokavkaza.com/content/article/24924099.html). The caller himself and his two other associates were subsequently killed in the clash from which he reported live. The Chechen authorities confirmed their deaths (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/221074/).
The latest special operations of the government forces in Chechnya may have been a consequence of what happened in January, when government forces killed two well-known Chechen rebel commanders. In fact, these operations were launched in the same area where these prominent rebel commanders, brothers Muslim and Khusein Gakaev, were killed on January 24 (www.gazeta.ru/politics/news/2013/01/24/n_2722273.shtml). In the opinion of Ramzan Kadyrov, the slain rebels were more dangerous than Doku Umarov himself (http://news.mail.ru/inregions/caucasus/20/society/11729226/).
Sources in the insurgency stated that the government achieved this success because their forces had managed to plant a mole within the armed resistance. According to these sources, a certain Islam Temishev may have been a government agent, given that he switched sides during the armed encounter and provided information to the police (www.youtube.com/watch?v=05PwuqJll-I). In a video leaked by the Chechen authorities, Temishev asks the government agents to pronounce him dead along with the slain rebels. Temishev was put on the federal wanted list (http://vroziske.net/id247150), which may have been a ploy to confirm his credentials to the rebels. Worst of all for the militants is the fact that Temishev lived among them for five years prior to switching sides and knows the locations of many, if not all the militants’ arms caches. Also, Temishev personally knew who provided support to the rebels, supplying food and information. All this put together will have a devastating effect on Chechen rebels operating in this part of the republic.
Rebel sources released a video of the questioning of a spy allegedly dispatched by the government to penetrate the ranks of the insurgents and was accidentally discovered in the summer 2011. Emir Abu-Jihad Elistanzhinsky questions the intercepted government agent (http://kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2013/03/10/96712.shtml). The video also shows devices the suspected government agent allegedly possessed—miniature bombs that were to be planted under certain commanders, signaling devices that were supposed to alert government forces about rebel locations, and so on. The video was apparently designed to show that the government’s successes were the result of the moles they plant among the rebels. This video, along with the events surrounding Islam Temishev, indicate that the Chechen armed resistance movement increasingly resembles the Palestinian movement. The Chechen resistance has reach the stage of development that jamaats in Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia experienced earlier, when the government planted agents within the rebels’ ranks and eliminated their leaders. In Ingushetia, government forces even managed to capture the leader of the jamaat, Emir Magas (Magomed Yevloev, Ali Taziev), something that the security services had never before achieved.
Despite its problems, the Chechen jamaat remains the engine of the armed resistance movement of the entire North Caucasus. The authority of the Chechen rebel commanders has always been and remains strong among the other North Caucasian jamaats. Members of the Chechen jamaat are under heavy government pressure, so they leave the settlements altogether and stay in the mountains. Not only rebels’ relatives, but even members of their extended clans come under pressure from the government, which is trying to cut off the rebels’ supplies completely.
Thus, while the Chechen jamaat dwells in the mountains, the government can only hope to plant agents in the rebels’ ranks in order to learn their plans. There are sometimes accidental encounters with the militants that do not always end favorably for the government forces. This means that special operations in Chechnya will continue indefinitely. At the same time, it appears that the rebels’ ranks are not filled with offended and vengeful young people, but rather by those who consciously choose to join the militants on ideological grounds.