The continuing rebel attacks in Ingushetia are forcing the Russian authorities to look for new ways to pacify the region. Russian officials repeatedly vowed over the past summer that the situation in Ingushetia would soon be normalized, but the only thing that has changed since then is that the Ingush rebels have started to conduct their combat operations in an almost non-stop regime. Now, there are sometimes several attacks on police and military forces per day. The situation has become so humiliating for the authorities that they are trying to cover up the attacks conducted by the rebels, especially if no one was killed or wounded. According to the independent Ingushetiya.ru website, Ingushetia’s Interior Minister Musa Medov ordered his subordinates not to count attacks on policemen and the military if no casualties occurred.
The authorities made their first attempt to change the situation in Ingushetia for the better on July 21, when they launched a special “preventive” operation in the republic. Officers from the Russian Interior Ministry’s central directorate were sent from Moscow to Ingushetia to take charge of the operation (Agentura.ru, September 19). At the same time, Musa Medov was named Ingushetia’s new Interior Minister.
On August 9, an additional 2,500 troops were deployed to the region. However, attacks continued. On August 22, the Regional Anti-Terrorist Commission and the Operational Anti-Terrorist Headquarters in the North Caucasus held a special joint meeting in the republic to discuss additional alternatives to neutralize rebel activity in Ingushetia.
On September 9, rebels attacked a military and police base in the town of Malgobek. The next day, on September 10, federal Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev declared that General Iskandar Galimov, head of the ministry’s Criminal Investigation Department, had been sent to Ingushetia along with a group of senior police officers, so that the situation would soon improve. On September 13, Dmitry Kozak, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District [Kozak was subsequently promoted to the position of federal Regional Development Minister], Arkady Yedelev, the supreme commander of the Russian anti-terrorist forces in the North Caucasus, and Ingush President Murat Zyazikov met in the city of Nazran to talk again about possible ways to stop the rise of the regional insurgency. At the meeting, Kozak assured Zyazikov that the Kremlin did not want his resignation because “no political decision should be made under pressure.” Kozak called on Yedelev to improve the coordination between the various security bodies in Ingushetia, especially between the local police and the Federal Security Service (FSB). In an interview with Russian media following the meeting, Kozak criticized the head of the police department of the city of Karabulak, who had ordered the arrest of a group of FSB commandos who had kidnapped several Ingush youngsters and killed one of them.
Nevertheless, the insurgents’ reaction to the decisions made at the meeting was immediate. Over a span of two days – September 15-16 – militants twice attacked the Nazran police department, where the best-qualified Ingush police officers work.
The FSB leadership decided to form a special operational group in Ingushetia headed by an Ingush FSB officer, Colonel Alikhan Kalimatov, who is a member of the Central Directorate of the FSB in Moscow. As soon as Kalimatov arrived in Ingushetia, he was shot dead near the village of Gazi-Yurt.
On September 26, Magas, the “amir” or commander of the Ingush rebels, issued a statement saying that Kalimatov had been tasked with forming a special anti-insurgency group consisting of former Ingush rebels similar to the Chechen Vostok battalion headed by a former Chechen rebel field commander, Sulim Yamadaev.
Magas said in his statement that Kalimatov wanted to recruit candidates for a newly armed formation from members of the insurgency, offering them amnesty and a significant amount of money. In other words, if what Magas says is true, the Russian authorities are trying to use Chechenization methods in Ingushetia.
However, all of the attempts by Russian security officials to change the situation are being thwarted by the fierce and well-calculated resistance of the insurgency. During their summer campaign, the rebels lost only three militants and none of their field commanders, while the Russian side lost several senior officers and their intelligence network in the republic was completely destroyed. It will not be easy for the FSB to collect sufficient information about the rebels in Ingushetia in the near future, with local policemen being terrorized and any new kidnappings by security forces threatening to provoke mass street protests.