Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 203

The problematic political and law-and-order situation in Dagestan was given fresh confirmation on Friday (November 2), when, just days after the double murder of the republic’s deputy prime minister and a leading banker, an attempt was made on the life of Said Amirov, mayor of the republic’s capital, Makhachkala. Unknown assailants fired twice from a grenade launcher at the mayor’s white jeep as it traveled through the capital in a four-car convoy on Friday evening. While the grenades missed their apparent target and neither Amirov nor his bodyguards were injured, three passers-by were slightly wounded in the attack. According to the website, the attackers, who apparently fired from the third story of a nearby apartment building, most likely missed their target because the convoy was driving as fast as 125 kilometers per hour (75 miles per hour) through the city. The attack, according to some tallies, was the fourteenth attempt on Amirov’s life and not the first in which grenade launchers were fired at him. Amirov was injured in only one of the assassination attempts, when a bullet hit him in the spine, leaving him an invalid. The earlier attacks were the result of what called “a struggle for power” in the Dagestani capital. Investigators were quoted as saying that in this latest case, Amirov, whom the publication Literaturnaya Rossiya named the best Russian mayor in the year 2000, may again have been targeted by “criminal structures trying to take control of the city.”

Another theory is that the attack on Amirov may have somehow been connected with the October 31 drive-by shooting that claimed the lives of Arsen Kammaev, the deputy head of the People’s Assembly of Dagestan, and Abdulkhalik Musaev, head of the Dagestan branch of Promstroibank. Dagestani law enforcement officials confirmed on November 2 that they had arrested Dzhabrail Khachilaev, a Dagestani businessman and brother of former State Duma deputy Nadirshakh Khachilaev, in connection with the drive-by shooting (, November 3; see also the Monitor, November 2). In the early hours of Saturday (November 3), the Dagestani branches of the Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service arrested four persons whom anonymous law enforcement officials described as having directly carried out the shooting of Kammaev and Musaev. The four suspects were not named. Nor was any possible connection to Dzhabrail Khachilaev detailed (, November 3).

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 college students and teachers held a demonstration in Makhachkala on Saturday both to express dissatisfaction with the way the republic’s law enforcement agencies were fighting crime and terrorism, and to demand the removal of the head of Dagestan’s Interior Ministry, General-Lieutenant Adilgerei Magomedtagirov. Following the demonstration, which was sanctioned by the city authorities and appears to have been initiated by Amirov, the Makhachkala mayor invited journalists who had been at the demonstration back to his office for a press conference. There Amirov accused Magomedtagirov and the republic’s Interior Ministry of corruption, of protecting criminals and of having made the attacks on Arsen Kammaev and himself possible by failing to provide adequate protection for top republican officials. Amirov’s comments apparently degenerated into a diatribe against the Avar ethnic group, to which Magomedtagirov belongs. The mayor also demanded Magomedtagirov’s resignation, warning that otherwise protest demonstrations would be held on a constant basis in Makhachkala.

Magomedtagirov responded yesterday with a press conference of his own, during which he defended his ministry’s record of catching criminals–including the killers of Kammaev and Musaev–and promised that the republic’s law enforcement agencies would actively search for those who carried out the latest assassination attempt against the Makhachkala mayor. At the same time, he charged that Amirov had exaggerated the number of times he had been targeted for assassination, claiming the real number of attempts on the mayor’s life was “only nine,” not fourteen, and that in seven of the nine cases the attackers had been brought to justice. The Dagestani interior minister said that by law, only the heads of Dagestan’s State Council, its government and parliament had the right to state-provided bodyguards, and that, in any case, the Makhachkala mayor already had eleven personal bodyguards and more than 200 policemen who also protected him. As for the demands that he resign, Magomedtagirov said that this was up to the republic’s chief executive, State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov, not Mayor Amirov (Kommersant, November 5).