Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 29

Agence France-Presse on July 26 quoted an anonymous official with Chechnya’s pro-Moscow government as saying that nine Russians soldiers were killed and three others wounded in fighting in the republic over the previous 24 hours. Four of the soldiers were killed and three wounded in attacks on checkpoints and military bases, while another four Russian soldiers were killed along with two rebels in fighting in the Vedeno district on July 25. A ninth Russian soldier was killed by a land mine at Novye Atagi in the Shali district. A member of Ramzan Kadyrov’s security force was killed and four others wounded in a shootout with rebels in the Akhkoi-Martan district, while two Chechen police officers were wounded in Grozny. AFP, on July 25, quoted an anonymous official with Chechnya’s pro-Moscow government as saying that three policemen were killed and six regular Russian soldiers killed in fighting. The officials said that the six soldiers were injured in 16 separate assaults against military positions over the previous 24 hours, and that two policemen were killed when their vehicle came under fire in Vedeno. The body of another policeman who was shot to death was found on the outskirts of Grozny, the official said. Still another policeman was wounded when the occupants of a vehicle opened fire on a police checkpoint. Meanwhile, two rebels died outside Grozny apparently while trying to lay explosives, the official said.

A police station in the village of Sary-Su in eastern Chechnya came under fire from two sides at dawn on 25 July, Interfax reported. “Firing continued for 20 minutes,” the news agency quoted a source in the Shelkovskoi district Interior Ministry branch as saying. “Police officers returned fire and forced the attackers to retreat. There are no casualties among the police.” A source in the Shali district police department told Interfax on July 22 that a police officer and a local civilian were killed in the village of Chechen-Aul. Several unidentified attackers fired Kalashnikov assault rifles and an underbarrel grenade launcher at a house that the policeman was visiting, killing both him and the house’s owner. Interfax also reported that a serviceman was killed when he stepped on a mine during mine clearance operation near the Groznensky district village of Dachu-Borzoi. Interior Ministry sources told Interfax on July 21 that a police officer was injured when a police unit attempted to detain Islam Usmakhadzhiev, one of the leaders of a guerrilla group active in the Achkoi-Martan district and Grozny. The rebels opened fire with underbarrel grenade launchers and automatic weapons when their car was spotted by police units in the village of Katyr-Yurt. The policemen could not return fire with large-caliber weapons because they were in a densely populated residential area. As a result, the guerillas managed to escape.

The head of the Chechen Interior Ministry’s press service, Ruslan Atsaev, said on July 25 that two militants who intended to carry out a major terrorist act in the center of Grozny were killed in the Chechen capital, Interfax reported. According to Atsaev, officers from the ministry’s special police and anti-terrorist center chased a vehicle in Grozny carrying “suspicious-looking armed people” that had failed to obey an order to stop. The car shot at the pursuing police, who returned fire, killing “the two armed people inside the vehicle.” The police officers discovered seven Kalashnikovs, a powerful homemade explosive device made out of a large caliber artillery shell and a large quantity of ammunition in the car’s trunk, Atsaev said. He added that there was information that the militants had intended to carry out a major terrorist act in the center of Grozny.

Kavkazky Uzel reported on July 21 that security sweeps had been carried out in towns and populated areas in Chechnya over the preceding 24 hours and that security measures had been tightened throughout the republic. Armored vehicles, military trucks and UAZ jeeps blocked several residential areas in Grozny’s Leninsky while federal troops and Chechen police carried out passport checks. A correspondent for the website was told at the Chechen Interior Ministry that large-scale search operations had been ordered by Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov in response to the July 19 bombing in the village of Znameskoe (see Chechnya Weekly, July 20). Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov told Interfax on July 21 that police killed a militant in a shootout in Grozny during a special operation to search for rebel fighters involved in the Znamenskoe bombing. One police officer was injured in the firefight. Alkhanov said he believed the slain militant was “a high-level member of an illegal armed group.”

Meanwhile, a group calling itself the “IbaduLLAKH” (Servants of Allah) Sabotage Group and identifying itself as part of Shamil Basaev’s Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs claimed responsibility for the Znamenskoe bombing. In a statement posted on the separatist Daymohk website, the group said the operation which it said was codenamed “Retribution-2,” was carried out by three “mujahideen” who afterwards returned to their “base” unharmed. In an indirect reference to the fact that three civilians were killed in the bombing (including teenagers aged 13 and 14, one of whom died when riding his bike past the blast), the statement also said: “The mujahideen have repeatedly warned, and we once again warn civilians, please, do not approach close to the locations, formations and patrols of the unbelievers and national-scum, inasmuch as the indicated objects are a legitimate target of mujahideen attacks.” The statement, which warned of more attacks to come, was signed by “Saiful-Islam, the Emir of the ‘IbaduLLAKH’ Sabotage Group.”

On July 22, Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel announced that the owner of the car that was blown up in Znameskoe had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack. He also said that the person who drove the booby-trapped UAZ and was then apparently shot to death by the rebels had been identified as Aleksei Semenenko, a resident of Chechnya’s Shelkovskoi district who was kidnapped on July 13 by unknown people.