The commander of the United Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, Lieutenant General Nikolai Sivak, delivered a message to the Chechen people on March 18, asking them to inform authorities about rebel plans and thereby avert attacks. “Law enforcement officials are hoping to receive first-hand information from locals, which will help avert sabotage and terrorist acts and curb militants’ plans to destabilize the situation in the regions,” Interfax quoted him as saying in the address. Sivak added that police and other law-enforcement bodies and military commandant offices have hotlines for people to call and that the National Anti-Terrorism Committee had ordered a range of informational and promotional events, including a public service announcement, the distribution of fliers drafted by the security agencies and various events at educational institutions and job sites.
“The ideologists of extremism on the Internet are disseminating various calls, addresses, or declarations calling for a ‘holy war’, and essentially to chaos and self-destruction,” Sivak said. “Foreign centers which are trying to run conflicts do not like how Muslims wish to be part of Russian society, their desire to be proud to feel part of a great country.”
Kavkazky Uzel on March 18 quoted an unnamed Chechen human rights activist as saying that Sivak’s appeal to Chechens was evidence of “nervousness and apprehension on the part of the Russian military command concerning the armed formations active in the republic.” The activist added: “After nine years of war and many declarations of victory, to ask the population to inform the military and police about the militants’ plans looks strange, at the very least. Either some kind of information trickled in to the military about plans by the leaders of the armed underground in the coming months (and we all know well that with the arrival of the spring-summer season, the militants significantly step up their activities), or the Russian command and special services don’t know anything, and it is precisely that uncertainty which is alarming them.”
For his part, Aleksandr Bastrykin, the head of the Investigations Committee of the Prosecutor-General’s Office, said on March 18 that law-enforcement agencies have managed to reduce the rate of terrorist and extremist attacks and crimes in the North Caucasus by 43 percent in the first two months of this year compared to the same period last year. Bastrykin made the claim at a conference in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, devoted to summing up the work of the investigative bodies in the North Caucasus.
Meanwhile, a police lieutenant was wounded when unidentified gunmen fired at his car in the village of Ekazhevo, in Ingushetia’s Nazran district, Interfax reported on March 16. Also on March 16, a spokesman for Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry told Interfax that an improvised explosive device had been found amid the ruins of a sauna in Nazran that was destroyed by fire on March 13 and located next to a kindergarten. The device, consisting of a hand grenade attached to a mobile phone, was destroyed in a controlled explosion.
The relative of a police officer was wounded when a bomb went off as he was starting his car in the village of Nersterovskaya in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district on March 15, Interfax reported. On March 14, the Ingushetia.org website reported that the police department in the village of Troitskaya in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district came under fire from a grenade launcher, with one shell hitting the building and another missing and hitting a gas pipe. On March 13, a traffic police officer was wounded when his car came under fire in Ekazhevo. That same day, Ingushetia.org reported that two powerful blasts took place in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya, also in the Sunzha district. Also on March 13, a statement posted on the Kavkaz-Center website claimed responsibility for the killing the previous day of an officer of the main criminal investigation department of the Southern Federal District, identified as Amerkhan Tatiev. Interfax reported that the victim was a search operations unit officer from the federal Interior Ministry’s central department for the Southern Federal District, and that he was killed when his vehicle was fired on in Ordzhonikidzevskaya.
In Chechnya, an interior ministry serviceman was killed when he stepped on a mine during mine disposal activities in Tsentoroi, in the republic’s Kurchaloi district, Interfax reported on March 17. That same day, the interior ministry’s department for Chechnya reported that three men had been detained on suspicion of helping “illegal armed groups,” including a man suspected of having provided the group led by the late Arab Chechen rebel field commander Khattab with food and medicine in 2000. The latter detainee is also accused of having helped transport wounded rebels in his car from the Vedeno district to the Nozhai-Yurt district.
Interfax reported on March 16 that a man who had been kidnapped by a group of armed men near the village of Roshni-Chu in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district was found dead with two gunshot wounds in the head. The man was hunting with a friend in a wooded area when he was abducted by five unidentified assailants.