Head of Dagestani President’s Press Service Murdered

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 12 Issue: 15

Garun Kurbanov, the head of the press service of Dagestan’s president, was shot to death along with his driver in the Dagestani capital Makhachkala yesterday (July 28). The incident took place around 8:15 a.m., local time, near Kurbanov’s home. Both Kurbanov and his driver died on the spot, and the attacker was able to escape, reportedly in a silver VAZ-2114 automobile. A security camera showed that the attacker and the person driving the getaway car were wearing baseball caps and camouflage clothes. The security camera did not capture images of their faces.

Dagestan’s president, Magomedsalam Magomedov, described Kurbanov as “a principled and honest person who called for a civic dialogue against terrorism and extremism.” Magomedov demanded that the republic’s law-enforcement agencies bring Kurbanov’s killers to justice as soon as possible and solve other high-profile killings in the republic. He said that the republic’s residents want the law-enforcement structures to act more decisively against “extremism and banditry.” The Kavkazsky Uzel website quoted an unidentified law-enforcement official as saying that Kurbanov may have been killed by “religious extremists,” against whom he had maintained an “irreconcilable and tough position” (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, www.newsru.com, July 28).

Hours later in the Dagestani capital, unidentified gunmen shot up a Lada Priora automobile in Makhachkala, killing all three people inside. A law-enforcement source was quoted as saying the incident took place around 8 p.m., local time, on Makhachkala’s Imam Shamil Prospect. Elsewhere in the republic yesterday, Rabadan Omarov, the acting head of the village of Verkhnie Ubeki in Dagestan’s Levashinsky district, was shot to death in his home by an unidentified attacker.

Also yesterday, a policeman was wounded in an attack in the village of Manas in Dagestan’s Karabudakhkentsky district. On July 27, a kiosk selling beer was blown up in the village of Sultan-Yangiyurt in Dagestan’s Kizilyurt district. No one was hurt in the incident, and the kiosk was only slightly damaged. Police found another improvised explosive device next to a kiosk around 150 meters away. Federal Security Service (FSB) bomb disposal experts defused the second IED (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, www.newsru.com, July 28).

On July 24, two alleged militants and a woman were killed, and another woman was detained, during a special operation in the Dagestani town of Dagestanskie Ogni. The captured woman was wounded in the shootout between the militants and security forces, which reportedly took place after the militants refused to obey orders to surrender, instead opening fire (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, July 24). Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev claimed the two women had been trained as suicide bombers “Today’s operation foiled possible serious terrorist attacks,” he told Interfax. “Two female suicide bombers have been disarmed” (Reuters, July 24).

On July 23, the official car of the head of the police department in the Dagestani city of Derbent was blown up by an IED. The incident took place just after midnight, local time, in a parking lot near the city’s police headquarters. No one was hurt in the incident.

On July 22, FSB bomb disposal experts defused an IED discovered inside a car parked near an apartment building on Makhachkala’s Imam Shamil Prospect. They also found four Kalashnikov automatic rifles with seven magazines, two machine gun belts, and police and camouflage uniforms, along with masks and gloves, in the vehicle (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, July 23).

Also on July 22, two policemen were killed when unidentified gunmen attacked a jeep belonging to the head of Dagestani Interior Ministry’s anti-extremism center, along with a car that was accompanying it. The head of Dagestani Interior Ministry’s anti-extremism center, Akhmed Bataliev, was not in the jeep at the time of the attack (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, July 22).

Elsewhere in the North Caucasus, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Col. Amurbek Bitokhov, deputy head of the police department of Kabardino-Balkaria’s Urvansky district, on July 27. The incident took place around 8:30 a.m., local time, on the Nalchik-Urvan highway, when a car pulled up alongside the 39-year-old colonel’s car as he was traveling from Nalchik, the republican capital, to the city Nartkala, and those inside opened fire. Bitokhov died on the spot.

On July 26, Aslan Balkarov, a militant allegedly responsibly for carrying out the sentences of the rebel Sharia court, was killed by security forces outside Nalchik. According to a source in the Russian Interior Ministry’s anti-extremism directorate, the 32-year-old Balkarov, aka Suleiman, tried to drive his car through a police cordon in the village of Belaya Rechka, and was killed after he opened fire with a pistol.

According to Kabardino-Balkaria’s Interior Ministry, 18 policemen and 52 suspected militants were killed during the first six months of this year. Sixty militants and their accomplices were detained during the same period (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, July 27).

Russian Interior Minister Nurgaliev said on July 25 that the number of subversive and terrorist activities in the North Caucasus dropped 36 percent during the first half of 2011 compared with the same period last year (Interfax, July 25). Kavkazsky Uzel reported that 186 people were killed and 131 wounded in the armed conflict in the North Caucasus during the second quarter of this year – from April through June. Of those killed, 110 were alleged rebels, 51 were law-enforcement personnel and 25 were civilians. Of the 186 deaths, 116 occurred in Dagestan, 28 in Kabardino-Balkaria, 26 in Chechnya, 10 in Stavropol Krai, four in Ingushetia and two in North Ossetia (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, July 22).

Meanwhile, the rebel Kavkaz Center website, citing unidentified sources in Chechnya, reported on July 23 that the June 10 murder in Moscow of former Russian army colonel Yury Budanov – convicted in 2003 of strangling to death an 18-year-old Chechen girl, Elza Kungaeva, while serving as a tank commander in Chechnya in 2000 – may have been carried out by “mujahideen of the Riyadus-Salikhin martyr’s brigade” (https://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2011/07/23/83749.shtml).

Later on July 23, Kavkaz Center posted a video in which Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, the emir of the Caucasus Emirate, expressed satisfaction over the killing of Budanov and warned that the same fate awaits all those guilty of “bloody crimes” in Chechnya and elsewhere in the Caucasus. In the video, Umarov was sitting with Riyadus-Salikhin commander Emir Khamzat, who made no comments (https://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2011/07/23/83755.shtml).