Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 92

As of this writing, the death toll from yesterday’s terrorist bombing in Kaspiisk, Dagestan, stands at forty-one, including seventeen children and nineteen military servicemen. Some ninety people wounded in the blast remain hospitalized. The Dagestani authorities declared today a day of mourning for the victims of the explosion, apparently the result of a radio-controlled mine detonated during yesterday’s Victory Day celebration in the Caspian Sea coastal town, located 14 kilometers southeast of Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital. Most of the blast’s victims were either members of the 72nd marines brigade, who were participating in yesterday’s parade marking the 52nd anniversary of the end of the Second World War, or students from local schools who had come to lay wreaths at the town’s memorial to those who died in the Great Patriotic War.

Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev, whom President Vladimir Putin put in charge of the probe into the terrorist attack, said yesterday the authorities had already identified those suspected of having organized and carried out the attack. He did not name names. The state’s Itar-Tass news agency, however, today quoted a source in the investigation as saying that the attack may have been organized by Rapani Khalilov, a Dagestani “field commander” and “fervent adherent of religious extremism” who commanded one of the units of Islamist fighters that invaded Dagestan from neighboring Chechnya in August-September 1999. Khalilov reportedly controls several “sabotage-terrorist” groups that have carried out more than ten terrorist attacks in Dagestan over the last two years, including the bombing in Makhachkala this past January 18 of a truck carrying members of the 102d Brigade of Internal Troops. Seven servicemen died in that bombing (, May 10). Like yesterday’s attack in Kaspiisk, the explosive device used in the January bombing was apparently detonated by remote control and filled with bolts and nails.

The day after the January 18 attack in Makhachkala,, the website connected to the radical wing of the Chechen rebel movement, quoted the “Unified Command of Mujahideen of Dagestan” as saying that the “fighters of the Djaamat” had carried it out (see the Monitor, January 21). Various Dagestani media subsequently reported that Khalilov was responsible for that attack and quoted republican security officials describing him as a “close aide” to Khattab, the Saudi-born Chechen rebel field commander (, February 3). Khattab, who was married to a Dagestani woman, and Chechen rebel field commander Shamil Basaev jointly led the 1999 raids into Dagestan. Khattab was killed this past March, reportedly by Russia’s special services, and if Rapani Khalilov was indeed behind yesterday’s bombing in Kaspiisk, it may have been a response to Khattab’s assassination.