There are increasing signs that North Caucasus style unrest may be spreading to nearby Krasnodar Krai, in particular to Sochi, the planned site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Authorities in Sochi today (February 25) defused an improvised explosive device (IED) that had been placed on the Maikop-Samurskaya-Sochi natural gas pipeline, which belongs to Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas monopoly, whose employees discovered the bomb. A law-enforcement source told the Interfax news agency that the IED contained 110 grams of triacetone triperoxide and a homemade detonator (www.newsru.com, February 25).
The attempted bombing in Sochi follows an attack on tourists in nearby Kabardino-Balkaria. On February 18, masked gunmen opened fire on a van carrying tourists from Moscow who were on their way to a ski resort in the Mount Elbrus area of Kabardino-Balkaria. Three people, including a woman, were killed in the attack and two others were injured. Later that day, attackers bombed a ski-lift support pole near Mt. Elbrus. Nobody was hurt in that attack (RIA Novosti, February 20; Moscow Times, February 21).
On February 18, the same day the attacks took place in Kabardino-Balkaria, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev touted preparations for the Sochi Olympics by attending a skiing event in Sochi together with Jean-Claude Killy, winner of three gold medals at the 1968 games and current head of the International Olympic Committee’s 2014 organizing commission (Bloomberg, February 24). Last July, Aleksandr Bortnikov, director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), said his agency had information that terrorists plan to disrupt the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
Meanwhile, authorities in Kabardino-Balkaria on February 24 continued to search for a group of militants who were involved in a shootout with a group of Interior Ministry commandos two days earlier. The search was being carried out in the republic’s Elbrus district. On February 22, a unit of Interior Ministry Internal Troops engaged a group of suspected rebel fighters in a mountain pass between the villages of Bylym (in the Baksan Gorge) and Bulungu (in the Chegm Gorge). One serviceman was killed in the battle and six were wounded, two of them seriously. A spokesman with the National Anti-Terrorist Committee said three militants died in the shootout, but the Investigative Committee later said it had no information about dead or wounded among the militants (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, February 24).
Following the shootout, Russian military forces bombarded the mountainous area where the militants were thought be hiding, employing both mortars and airstrikes. However, no bodies were found after the bombardment. Security forces conducting a special operation in the area did discover a rebel base, where they found weapons and explosives (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, February 23).
On February 23, unidentified gunmen in Kabardino-Balkaria shot a policeman in the city of Baksan. The two attackers fired on the officer, identified as Lt. Aslan Afasizhev, from a car as he was returning home from work. He was wounded and hospitalized (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, February 23).
On February 19, a policeman was killed and another wounded in Kabardino-Balkaria’s capital Nalchik when another group of policemen, apparently thinking they were militants, mistakenly opened fire on them. That same day, unidentified gunmen shot and killed the head of administration of the suburban Nalchik village of Khasanya, Ramazan Friev (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, February 19; EDM, February 22).
Insurgency-related violence was reported this past week elsewhere in the North Caucasus. On February 24, a bomb went off as a police car was driving by in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital. While the blast slightly damaged the vehicle, no one was hurt in the incident. The bomb, which was placed under a roadside sign and was apparently detonated by remote control, detonated with the force of around 200 grams of TNT. On February 19, a sniper shot at two policemen outside the home of Makhachkala’s police chief, Ali Akhmedov, in the Dagestani capital. One of the policemen was wounded while the other managed to get out of the line of fire and was unhurt (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, February 25).
Also on February 19, unidentified attackers raided a home in the village of Novosositili in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district, shooting Patimat Shikhalieva and her daughter, Bella Kandaurova. Both women were killed, while a five-year-old girl thought to be Kandaurova’s daughter was wounded in the attack. The two women reportedly practiced non-traditional medicine and fortune-telling. The following day, February 20, security forces killed a man in the village of Vinsovkhosny near Khasavyurt who was suspected of involvement in the attack on the two women in Novosositili. A spokesman for the National Anti-Terrorist Committee, Nikolai Sinstov, said the slain man was a member of the rebel group headed by Adam Guseinov, who was killed earlier by FSB spetsnaz commandos. The NAK spokesman said the slain man was found with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a pistol believed to have been used in the attack on the women (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, February 21).