… Ingushetia and Dagestan

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 28

An attack in Ingushetia on July 6 may also have been a type of rebel training exercise. The Russian army’s 503rd motorized rifle regiment, stationed in the settlement of Troitskaya in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district, was shelled by unknown gunmen using small arms and grenade launchers. According to ITAR-Tass, the attack began at around 1:00 a.m. on July 6, and the regiment’s positions were hit by ten rounds from grenade launchers. Heavy gunfire continued for around 15 minutes. Members of the regiment returned fire and suppressed the attackers’ fire, the news agency reported. None of the federal servicemen was hurt in the incident.

On July 7, Kommersant provided details of the attack in Ingushetia. Citing the Sunzha district prosecutor’s office, the newspaper reported that around 20 militants armed with automatic rifles and anti-tank grenade launchers gathered in the village of Troitskaya. They did not move right up to the unit’s position, which was surrounded by a concrete fence with towers along the perimeter. “They simply got into a group on the field beyond the old cemetery, around 800 meters from the unit’s fence,” a source in the prosecutor’s office told the newspaper. “The attackers were located so that they couldn’t see their targets beyond the trees, therefore they had to fire at random … through the trees.” According to Kommersant, the attack lasted for around five minutes, during which the militants managed to fire 15 shells from grenade launchers and several long automatic rifle bursts in the direction of the unit, none of which did much damage to the unit’s buildings. One grenade landed on the roof of an apartment house, another damaged the roof of a checkpoint, nine exploded in an empty parade ground, and the rest simply did not detonate and were later defused by OMON bomb disposal experts. The automatic weapons fire also did not injure anyone and, according to the newspaper’s account, the attackers apparently retreated into local homes after the attack, given that no one heard cars or vehicles leaving the scene. “As soon as the firing started, our side set up a perimeter defense,” said Igor Konashnekov, an aide to the commander of Russia’s ground forces. “After several minutes, the militants’ firing points were found, and fire was returned.”

The 503rd motorized rifle regiment’s prosecutor, Igor Tsypchenko, said: “There were no victims thanks to the fact that the unit’s command acted competently, decisively and in total compliance with regulations. As soon as the firing started, the perimeter defense and all the posts were fortified, document checks were intensified and coordination with the local law-enforcement organs was established.” Asked whether the unit managed to kill any of the militants in its return fire, Tsypchenko noted that the attackers were firing from an area where apartment houses are located. A source in the Ingush OMON police commando force said the OMON tried to coordinate with the army and suggested to the 503rd’s command that they conduct a joint operation to prevent the attackers from escaping, but that the army turned them down, saying they were forbidden from leaving the unit’s base at night.

According to Kommersant, Ingush police investigators believe the 503rd motorized rifle regiment was attacked by members of a group headed by the “Wahhabi emir” of the Sunzha district, Magomedbashir Albakov, aka Yasir, who operates under the command of the leader of all the Ingush “Wahhabis” – Ali Taziev, aka Magas. The newspaper wrote that the attack was “most likely” timed to coincide with the Russian military’s large-scale anti-terrorist exercises taking place July 7-13. “Staff of Ingushetia’s MVD note that the operational situation has become distinctly more complicated lately,” Kommersant wrote. “According to the police, in firing on the unit [the 503rd motorized rifle regiment], the militants were trying to prove that they have the sufficient force to attack even units in which more than 2,000 contract servicemen serve.”

The separatist Kavkaz-Center website, it should be noted, reported on July 6 that 14 Russian “kaffirs” (infidels) were killed and 23 wounded in the attack on the 503rd motorized rifle regiment, with four “mujahideen” receiving light wounds. The website claimed that 70 rebel fighters took part in the attack and used mortars, grenade launchers and large-caliber machine guns.

The attack on the 503rd motorized rifle regiment was the latest in a series of apparent insurgent attacks in Ingushetia. The deputy head of Nazran’s Leninsky district administration, Khavazh Daurbekov, was assassinated on July 3 in Karabulak, located northeast of Nazran. In June, attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades at a special-purpose police base in Karabulak, wounding three officers. On June 28, a border detachment was fired on in Nazran but no one was hurt (Chechnya Weekly, July 5 and June 21).

Meanwhile, Ingushetia’s new Interior Minister, Mussa Medov, who was appointed on June 28, vowed on July 5 to step up efforts to stop the attacks on police officers. “The Interior Ministry encounters many problems, mainly the increased number of scandalous crimes, murders, abductions and attacks on police officers,” Interfax quoted him as saying. “The ministry’s activity will now intensify. The primary goal of attacking police officers in Ingushetia is intimidation. The assailants won’t succeed. We will firmly prevent any attacks and destabilization attempts.”

ITAR-Tass, citing the Dagestani Interior Ministry’s press service, reported on July 6 that a forensic expert was killed by an explosive device in a forest near the village of Pokrovskoye in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district. “The explosion occurred at 8:35 a.m. Moscow time on Thursday [July 5] while police were searching for those who had attacked a traffic police patrol,” the press service said.

ITAR-Tass reported on July 5 that “unidentified bandits” had attacked a traffic police patrol in the village of Pokrovskoye in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt region on the evening of July 4. According to the news agency, the attackers drove a VAZ-2109 car without license plates and fired several shots at a member of the patrol service battalion of the Khasavyurt police department, wounding him, after which a group of investigators rushed to the scene. On a road on the outskirts of the village of Pokrovskoye, “unidentified bandits detonated a home-made explosive device without a shell and with an explosive yield of 200-300 grams of TNT,” blowing out the windows of the bus in which the police investigators were traveling. The Dagestani Interior Ministry’s press service reported that none of the investigators was hurt in the blast.