Four Russian servicemen were killed and two wounded today in a shootout with insurgents in Dagestan’s Kizlyar district. According to the Investigative Committee’s branch in Dagestan, five militants were also killed in the battle, which took place on the outskirts of the Ukrainsky farm (RIA Novosti, January 27).
On January 21, three people were killed when a car blew up on the outskirts of the Dagestani city of Izberbash. The explosion occurred as the car was turning off the Kavkaz federal highway and heading into the city (Interfax, January 21).
In Ingushetia today (January 27), security forces reportedly killed the “military emir” of the rebel Caucasus Emirate – Dzhamaleil Mutaliev, aka Adam – during a special operation. According to the National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAK), Mutaliev was a member of Shamil Basaev’s inner circle who, following the 2010 capture of Ingush rebel Ali Taziev (aka Magas), was named by Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov to be the group’s military emir and led the rebels in Ingushetia. According to the NAK, Mutaliev was involved in the September 2010 suicide bombing in the central market of Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, and a suicide bombing on the Rostov-Baku highway a month earlier. Mutaliev was one of three suspected rebels killed today during the special operation, which took place in the village of Ekazhevo. The other two were identified as Bekkhan Ganiev, an aide to the emir of the rebel group in Ingushetia’s Malgobek district, and Magomed Katsiev, member of the Malgobek rebel group (www.nr2.ru, January 27).
Kavkazsky Uzel reported that a large quantity of armored vehicles and troops were in Ekazhevo and that Emergency Situations Ministry staff were working in a partially destroyed home where the suspected rebels apparently made their last stand. According to the Interior Ministry, they refused orders to surrender and died in the ensuing battle. No law-enforcement personnel were hurt during the operation (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 27).
In Kabardino-Balkaria’s capital Nalchik yesterday (January 26), three men wearing masks and armed with pistols with silencers and automatic rifles burst into the gymnasium of a school, forced seven people who were there at the time – six men and a woman – to lie on the floor and demanded to know whether there were any military or policemen on the premises. The raiders then tied the seven hostages up and cut the throat of a serviceman who was among them before escaping.
Investigators identified the slain serviceman as 26-year-old Denis Nikolaev, a lieutenant with an air unit based in Nalchik, and said it could not be ruled out that the attackers had an informer in the school who knew about Nikolaev (www.top.rbc.ru, January 27). The Kavkazsky Uzel website quoted an “unofficial” law-enforcement source as saying that Nikolaev, a pilot-navigator, frequently used the gym to work out and would arrive there wearing his military uniform (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 27).
Also yesterday (January 26), police discovered two improvised explosive devices and brochures on how to make IEDs during a raid on a home in Kabardino-Balkaria’s Cherkesk district. One of the devices consisted of a mixture of ammonium nitrate, aluminum powder and fragments of TNT blocks, while the other consisted of a TNT block and plastic explosives. A man was detained during the raid (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 26).
In Karachaevo-Cherkessia yesterday (January 26), staff from the local branches of the Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) detained a man in the city of Cherkessk during what they described as a joint operation to “discover the location of supporters of the illegal armed formations.” The suspect was identified as Umar Baichorov, allegedly a member of a rebel group headed by Islam Uzdenov, who was killed in a special operation last December (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 26).
There were also fresh reports of human rights abuses by authorities in the North Caucasus. On January 20, law enforcement officials in Dagestan’s capital Makhachkala shot and killed Umar Saidmagomedov, a lawyer, and Rasul Kurbanov, a local resident. According to Human Rights Watch, Saidmagomedov had frequently defended individuals arrested on insurgency-related charges and his colleagues believe he was killed in retaliation for his work (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 21; www.hrw.org, January 26).
Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights that the situation for lawyers in Dagestan is “gravely problematic.” She stated in her testimony: “In the run up to parliamentary and presidential elections, Russian leadership continued to make rhetorical commitments to human rights and the rule of law. However, harassment of human rights defenders continued and the working climate for civil society organizations and activists remained hostile. Impunity for past abuses and murders of activists in the North Caucasus prevailed, new attacks and even murders were documented, and the situation of human rights defenders, lawyers, and independent journalists in that region calls for special concern” (http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/26/russia-expert-testimony-situation-human-rights-defenders).