RIA Novosti quoted the commander of Russia’s Interior Troops, General Nikolai Rogozhkin, as saying on March 27 that his forces and those of the Federal Security Service (FSB) killed some 50 militants in the North Caucasus last year. “In 2007, the Federal Security Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs conducted nearly 2000 operations, during which about 50 militants were eliminated, and 180 small arms, 120 grenade launchers and 500 kg of explosives seized,” Rogozhkin said, adding that sappers had destroyed more than 100 landmines during the operations. Rogozhkin had earlier announced that his troops killed 40 militants in the North Caucasus during the first quarter of this year.
Rogozhkin said on March 26 that between 400 and 500 militants are currently active in the North Caucasus and that a “surge in militant activity has been registered in Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria,” RIA Novosti reported. “The gunmen are waging war using mines against troops and civilians,” he said. “We are taking a range of swift measures to avert terrorist attacks.” According to the news agency, Rogozhkin said Russia has deployed about 30,000 interior troops in the North Caucasus, including 23,000 in Chechnya and 6,000-7,000 in other North Caucasus republics that have seen a “surge” in militant activity.
“The situation in the region is controllable and we do not expect any extreme circumstances,” Rogozhkin said. “We have sufficient experience accumulated over the past few years to combat terrorist threats in the North Caucasus, for example in Chechnya, where we ensured security at the parliamentary and presidential elections. We will prevent any serious manifestations of terrorism.”
It is worth noting that Rogozhkin’s comments came just few days after a rebel raid on the village of Alkhazurovo in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district (Chechnya Weekly, March 20). Kommersant reported on March 21 that two groups of rebel fighters had entered the village along two roads—one leading from Urus-Martan, the other leading from Starye Atagi—at around 9 p.m., local time, the previous evening. The newspaper quoted the police as saying that fifteen rebels were involved in the raid while local residents said there were twice that many. “At the entrances to the village the militants set up checkpoints, stopped passing cars, checked the documents of drivers and passengers, and if any turned out to be employees of law-enforcement organs, they shot them on the spot,” Kommersant reported.
The newspaper quoted Alkhazurovo residents as saying that the rebels’ first victim was Sultan Sugaipov, who worked in a rural unit of the police. “Seeing a group of armed people dressed in civilian clothes sitting around a bonfire on the edge of the village, the policeman went up to them, showed his work ID and began to ask who they were.” Kommersant reported. “In response, one of the militants shot him right in the forehead.” The rebels also killed a local inhabitant who mistakenly thought the rebel fighters were government soldiers and showed them his ID as a driver for the Shatoi military prosecutor’s office. The rebels killed four other policemen. One local civilian was killed during the seizure of the village and three others—a woman and two children—were wounded. According to Kommersant, the militants left the village after three hours.
Law-enforcement officials claimed that security forces killed at least eight of the militants who occupied Alkhazurovo. The head of the Chechen presidential administration’s department for cooperation with law-enforcement and power structures, Akhmed Dakaev, announced that the bodies of three rebel raiders had been found and that the bodies of the other rebels killed by security forces were probably in the woods near the village.