Fighting Continues in Ingushetia and Chechnya after Authorities Launch Joint Operation

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 10 Issue: 20

Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov

Kavkazky Uzel on May 21 quoted law enforcement officials as saying that a winter base for Chechen rebels had been destroyed between the settlements of Neftyanoe and Eshilkhatoi in the mountains of Chechnya’s southeastern Vedeno district, while another large rebel base was discovered on the outskirts of the village of Chemulga in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district.

On May 17, the presidents of Chechnya and Ingushetia, Ramzan Kadyrov and Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, announced they were jointly launching an operation aimed to neutralize rebels in their respective republics. The announcement followed a suicide bombing targeting the building of the Chechen Interior Ministry in Chechnya’s capital Grozny that killed two policemen and seriously wounded three others. Law enforcement officials subsequently identified the suicide bomber as Beslan Chagiev, a 41-year-old resident of Ingushetia’s Sunzha district who, they claimed, was a member of the inner circle of Chechen rebel leader Dokka Umarov. Following the attack, Kadyrov said he would no longer offer amnesty to rebels and vowed either to imprison or kill all of them (see the articles by Mairbek Vatchagaev and Valery Dzutsev in this issue).

Kavkazky Uzel on May 21 quoted Chechen law enforcement sources as saying that one suspected rebel had been killed and a former rebel and seven suspected rebel accomplices had been taken into custody over the previous two days. Itar-Tass quoted police officials as saying that they had surrounded a group of up to 30 militants in a forest on the border between the Russian republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia. They said the blockaded militants were part of a group that had been trying to abduct local residents and steal their vehicles. A shootout between security forces and a small group of gunmen reportedly took place around the village of Chemulga in Ingushetia on the morning of May 21, during which several gunmen were wounded.

Interfax quoted a military source as saying "mercenaries" may be among the militants blockaded along the Chechen-Ingush administrative border. The source said the blockaded militants belong to a group operating under the command of Umarov, and that a total of four militants have been killed since the start of the joint Chechen-Ingush security operation, including a "mercenary" from Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, a policeman involved in the operation was injured by a landmine while searching for militants in a forest.

On May 20, a Federal Security Service (FSB) officer was killed in Ingushetia when a bomb destroyed his car. Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted an FSB spokesman, Damir Rosin, as saying that Magomed Tokhov, deputy head of legal affairs for the FSB in Ingushetia, died on the spot after his car exploded in Nazran. “It was a makeshift explosive device which was attached to the bottom” of the Lada car, Rosin told AFP. He said Tokhov was the fifth FSB officer killed in Ingushetia this year.

Law enforcement authorities in Chechnya said on May 19 that an alleged militant was killed and four policemen wounded in two incidents in the republic. According to The Associated Press, Chechnya’s Interior Ministry said police shot and killed the alleged militant after he opened fire when they tried to arrest him southwest of Grozny early on May 19. The ministry said three federal police troops and one Chechen police officer were seriously wounded by gunmen who attacked their position in southeastern Chechnya twice late on May 18. The attackers escaped, AP reported.

Chechnya’s Interior Ministry reported that a policeman was killed by a remote-controlled explosive device near the southern village of Bamut on May 17, while another Chechen policeman died from wounds sustained during a battle with militants in Ingushetia. On May 18, an Ingush policeman and a local resident were wounded in a clash with militants in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district.  Two militants were killed in the shootout, law enforcement sources reported.

During a visit to the State Duma in Moscow on May 19, Kadyrov repeated his vow that he will no longer ask for amnesties for rebel fighters. “We will no longer request an amnesty [for the militants] from the federal center, but will tackle them brutally,” RIA Novosti quoted Kadyrov as saying. “Today the republic is reviving. If someone hasn’t seen or heard this, then they are not a person and his place is in prison or in a cemetery.”

Kadyrov also declared that “churches and culture” are being revived in Chechnya and insisted the republic had made its final choice to remain part of Russia. “The Chechens are Russian patriots,” Itar-Tass quoted him as saying. “We wish to be worthy citizens of this country.”

Kadyrov’s vow to liquidate rebel fighters has received backing from Chechnya’s official clergy. “I am exercising my right to issue a fatwa supporting the actions of Ramzan Kadyrov aimed at liquidating the criminal groups,” the Grozny-Inform news agency on May 20 quoted the republic’s mufti, Sultan Mirzaev, as saying. “If we continue to stand on ceremony with criminals as with little children, we will never get rid of this evil.” Interfax quoted as Mirzaev saying that Kadyrov had repeatedly “offered the militants [the] chance to put down their weapons and return to peaceful life” but that in the wake of the recent attacks by Chechen rebels, “that opportunity will no longer be offered.”