Is Dagestan Now In the Midst of a “Real Guerrilla War?”

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 12 Issue: 18

As the website wrote today (September 23), the situation in Dagestan, where insurgents have sharply increased the number of attacks, “is beginning to spin out of control and increasingly looks like a real guerrilla war.” In the suburbs of the capital Makhachkala today, the deputy head of the republic’s branch of the Federal Penitentiary Service, Magomed Murtuzaliev, was killed along with his daughter, nephew and driver. The incident took place in the village of Semeder when gunmen opened fire on the car in which they were traveling and it burst into flames (, September 23).

That incident came on the heels of several other insurgency-related acts of violence in Dagestan. On September 22, two car bombs detonated in Makhachkala, killing one policeman and wounding 61 other people, 44 of them police officers. A spokesman for the republic’s Interior Ministry said that the first blast was equivalent to three kilograms of TNT, while the second – which went off about 15 minutes later, after police had arrived at the scene – was about 12 times more powerful than the first explosion. The Associated Press reported that most of the shops near the blast site were destroyed. Another explosion had taken place in Makhachkala late on the evening of September 21, when a bomb inside a VAZ-2109 went off, killing four people traveling in the car. According to police, the four were terrorists who were planning to use the bomb for another attack, but the device for some reason went off prematurely. Police said that weapons and ammunition were found inside the wreckage of the vehicle (, September 23; AP, September 22; Interfax, September 21).

Kommersant reported that the bombings in the Dagestani capital may have been organized by a Dagestan insurgent leader, Ibragimkhalil Daudov, who was behind a failed bombing attempt by a female suicide bomber in Moscow last New Year’s Eve. According to the newspaper, among the four suspected terrorist killed in Makhachkala in the apparent premature bomb explosion was Badrudin Salimov, the “emir” of the rebels in Dagestan’s Kadar zone, who was a close associate of Daudov. Kommersant claimed that Salimov was behind the murder of Zainudin Daiziev, the 84-year-old imam of the village of Kadar and a well-known Islamic scholar, who was shot to death in his home on September 15 (EDM, September 16). For its part, Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote that the leader of the Dagestani insurgent group Sharia Jamaat, Ibragim Gadzhidadaev, may have been connected to the September 22 bombings in Makhachkala. According to the newspaper, Gadzhidadaev is believed to have been one of the organizers of the bombings on the Moscow metro in March 2010, which were also the work of female suicide bombers (, September 23).

In yet another incident in Dagestan on September 22, gunmen opened fire on the head of the Buinaksk police, Col. Magomednabi Adilkhanov, as he was traveling from his native village of Aglan-aul to his office in the city of Buinaksk. Adilkhanov was not hurt in the attack, but two of his bodyguards were killed (, September 23).

On September 21, gunmen fired on a convoy of servicemen as it was traveling along the Gigatli-Urukh road in Dagestan’s Tsumadinsky district. The attacked wounded one serviceman – a police colonel who is the first deputy head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s temporary operational group in the North Caucasus. The colonel was hospitalized (Interfax, September 21).

On September 20, an officer with the Dagestani branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Lt.-Col. Magomed Gamzatov, was killed in Makhachkala, when unidentified gunmen shot him in the yard of his home.  On September 17, a policemen was killed when gunmen fired on his car in the village of Bairamaul in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district. His wife, who was also in the car at the time of the attack, was hospitalized with wounds to the shoulder and jaw (, September 20).

Also on September 17, one FSB border guard was killed and two were wounded when a bomb blast hit their vehicle as it was traveling between the villages of Khupri and Mezhdureche in Dagestan’s Tsuntinsky district. In yet another incident on September 17, a policeman was wounded when a police patrol stopped a car in the Tsuntinsky district village of Mokok and someone inside the vehicle opened fire (, September 17-18).