A roadside bomb detonated on the outskirts of Nazran, Ingushetia, on May 17, killing Ingushetian Deputy Interior Minister Dzhabrail Kostoev, his two bodyguards and four civilians. Kavkazky Uzel and the Associated Press reported on May 17 that the incident took place in the Nasyr-Kortovsky municipal district when a parked car exploded next to a passing convoy that included Kostoev’s vehicle. Kommersant reported on May 18 that Kostoev was on his way to work from his home in the village Ekazhevo in Nazran’s suburbs and that the bomb in the parked VAZ-2109 detonated just after the convoy, which included Kostoev’s armored Chevrolet jeep and two accompanying Volgas, crossed a bridge over a small river known locally as Nazranovka. According to the newspaper, the blast took place at the precise moment that Kostoev’s jeep was passing the VAZ-2109. “The blast hurled the jeep forward and to the left, onto the median strip, around 25 meters, and at that time a Zhiguli… with four construction workers inside who were driving to work, came toward it. The jeep flew into the Zhiguli, the [collision] was very strong, the gas tank caught fire and both cars blew up,” Ingushetian Interior Ministry press secretary Nazir Yevloev told the newspaper, adding that the passengers in both cars died immediately. According to Kommersant, virtually nothing remained of the VAZ-2109 that contained the explosives or the Zhiguli that was hit by Kostoev’s jeep. The explosion left the jeep a burned-out shell. Ingushetia’s chief prosecutor, Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov, told Kommersant that the force of the blast equaled roughly 100 kilograms of TNT.
While some officials initially said that a suicide attacker had been in the car that exploded, the Associated Press on May 17 quoted federal Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel as saying that the bomb apparently had been detonated by remote control. He said investigators had found no human remains amid the exploded car’s wreckage, but discovered what appeared to be fragments of a remote-control mechanism.
As various Russian and Western media noted, Dhabrail Kostoev had been the target of several assassination attempts. According to Kommersant, on February 17, 2005, when Kostoev was still head of the Nazran police force, someone fired a Shmel rocket infantry flame-thrower at his office. Nobody was hurt in that incident. On August 14, 2005, a bomb blew up next to Kostoev’s car as it passed by Nazran’s city center, seriously wounding him and his driver (Chechnya Weekly, August 18, 2005). On November 29 and December 7, 2005, the homes of Kostoev, his brother Amerkhan and a police officer in the village of Ekazhevo were hit by small arms fire and grenade launchers, but no one was hurt.
Kommersant listed a number of other incidents in which relatives of Dhabrail Kostoev were targeted. On December 10, 2003, a hand grenade was thrown through the window of the house of Kazbek Kostoev, chairman of the republican election commission, but no one was hurt. During the June 22, 2004 insurgent raid on Nazran, Ingushetia’s acting Interior Minister, Abukar Kostoev, was killed (Chechnya Weekly, June 30, 2004), as were two other relatives—Alikhan Kostoev, an officer in the ministry’s anti-organized crime unit, and Akhmed-Bashir Kostoev, an officer with the Nazran police force’s criminal investigation department. On September 20, 2005, a car carrying police lieutenant Rustam Kostoev—the son of Dzhabrail’s brother, Ibragim—and two other Nazran police officers was hit by small-arms and grenade-launcher fire in the town of Karabulak. All three were killed. On November 2, 2005, a car carrying Zubeir Kostoev, Dzhabrail Kostoev’s younger brother and an officer with the Nazran police, was hit by automatic weapons fire. Zubeir Kostoev was killed. The following day, a bomb went off at the entrance to the Kostoev family’s cemetery in Ekazhevo, where relatives had gathered to mourn Zubeir’s death. No one was injured in the blast.
While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing that killed Dzhabrail Kostoev, the Associated Press on May 17 quoted Ingushetian Interior Ministry press secretary Nazir Yevloev as suggesting that the attack on the Ingushetian deputy interior minister was revenge for Kostoev’s “uncompromising struggle” against crime linked with extremism. Likewise, Newsru.com on May 17 quoted Issa Kostoev, a member of the Federation Council’s defense and security committee and a cousin of the slain deputy interior minister, as saying Dzhabrail Kostoev was murdered because he was “one of the few” who was genuinely fighting terrorism and “Wahhabism.”
Ekho Moskvy radio on May 17 quoted federal Deputy Prosecutor General Shepel as saying that Ingushetia’s power structures believe that two alleged close associates of Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basaev, Ali Taziev and Adam Nalgiev, carried out the bombing, and that Basaev was the “main figure” behind it. Shepel said that Kostoev’s assassination was similar to an attempt made on the life of Ingushetia’s president, Murat Zyazikov, in April 2004.
On May 17, the same day as the attack, the separatist Kavkazcenter website posted an interview with “the commander of the Ingush mujahideen Amir Magas (Yevloev, Magomed),” in which he said that Shamil Basaev had ordered during an operational meeting several days earlier that “special operational groups” be set up to carry out specific military “operational-tactical” tasks, including the targeting of specific individuals. Magas said that these special operational groups had already conducted a series of “reciprocal actions and military operations” in response to the actions “of the FSB and other structures of the kaffirs [infidels] and munafiqs [hypocrites],” including actions targeting ethnic Russians in Ingushetia and elsewhere in the North Caucasus, “who we henceforth consider to be military colonists.” Asked about the coordination of the “mujahideen” operating in different parts of the North Caucasus, Magas answered: “Today, all of the mujahideen of the Caucasus have a unified command and a unified leadership headed by Sheikh Abdul-Khalim [Sadulaev]. As is known, the mujahideen of the Caucasus made a bayat [oath of allegiance] to him according to Sharia.”
The Newsru.com website on May 18 reported that Ali Taziev, one of the two men who authorities believe carried out the assassination, is the former Ingushetian policeman also known as Magomed Yevloev and “Magas” who was one of the leaders of the terrorist group that seized School No. 1 in Beslan, North Ossetia, in September 2004. On May 17, independent journalist Madina Shavlokhova told Ekho Moskvy radio that former Beslan hostages had said to her that Ali Taziev participated in the school hostage seizure and escaped on September 2—that is, a day before the school was stormed by security forces—but that he was nevertheless officially declared dead. According to Shavlokhova, former hostages said they did not see Taziev’s body among those of the dead hostage-takers, but the authorities did not believe them and said they had simply failed to “make out” his body among the others. Shavlokhova noted that the fact that Magas is apparently at large and carrying out attacks means “that the prosecutors’ version that all the [Beslan] militants were destroyed is exposed to serious doubts, and the investigation that the prosecutor’s office carried also proves to be open to questions.”
Likewise, Ella Kesaeva, head of the Voice of Beslan group, told Ekho Moskvy on May 17 that some of the women who were Beslan hostages had spoken of “a certain Ali” as being among the hostage-takers and had told this to the authorities. Kesaeva also said that these women had not seen his body among the dead militants following the September 3, 2004 storming of Beslan’s School No. 1 by security forces, although she noted that the bodies were badly disfigured and thus difficult to identify. Kesaeva said she plans to ask for an official investigation into this issue. “It is important now that these women who said that Ali was there be summoned to the prosecutor’s office to identify Ali,” Kesaeva told Ekho Moskvy. “This is very important. If this version is confirmed, it means that terrorists all the same escaped.”
On May 16, Nur-Pashi Kulaev, the lone Beslan terrorist to survive the security forces’ assault on School No. 1—at least according to the authorities—was declared guilty of terrorism, hostage taking, murder and other charges by the North Ossetia Supreme Court (see next article).