On January 31, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a car carrying the mufti of Ingushetia, Isa-Khadzhi Khamkhoev, in Nazran, lightly wounding the mufti and his son, Russian and Western news agencies reported. ITAR-Tass reported on February 1 that the mufti was treated for a superficial wound and released from the hospital while his son, who received an abdominal wound, was in a serious but stable condition in intensive care after undergoing an operation.
Meanwhile, four members of the pro-Moscow Vostok battalion were reportedly killed when their sub-unit was ambushed by rebels in a forest near Azamat-Yurt, near Chechnya’s administrative border with Dagestan. Interfax reported that three servicemen died at the scene, while the fourth was killed when reinforcements arrived and one of the rebels detonated a grenade, killing himself and the serviceman. According to Interfax, a source in the Vostok battalion identified the rebel who detonated the grenade as Ali Tsakalaev, who had surrendered in 2003 under an amnesty deal before rejoining the rebels. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian Service reported on January 29 that two Russian servicemen and one Chechen militant were killed that day in a separate shooting in Chechnya’s mountainous Shatoi region.
There was also violence in Dagestan on January 29. The Associated Press quoted Dagestani Interior Ministry spokeswoman Angela Martirosova as saying that at least one rebel gunman was killed in a clash with police and security agents in the village of Kosyakino. She later retracted the claim about rebel losses. “Reports claiming that a field commander was killed in the sweep have not been confirmed so far,” Interfax quoted her as saying. “Police are combing the area.”