On the morning of May 24, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) reportedly carried out a special operation jointly with police near construction sites in the village of Sagopshi in Ingushetia’s Malgobek district. According to eyewitnesses, however, the special operation looked more like the indiscriminate shooting of everyone who happened to be in the home of police officer Umar Korigov. The government forces opened fire without any warning (http://slonus2012.livejournal.com/174991.html).
First, the government forces mistakenly set fire to the house belonging to Korigov’s neighbor. Only after they realized their error did they switch to attacking Korigov’s house. The government forces did not give anyone the chance to surrender. As a result, the spouse of the head of the household also died, and the police were forced to claim that she had also been a rebel. The law enforcement agencies apparently had no intention of taking anyone in the house alive. After they ascertained that everyone in the house was killed, they rammed the walls with heavy machinery, and then mined and blew up the remains of the house several times. The government’s account of the events was different: it declared that “explosives were found in the house of the police officer where the special operation was carried out [and] were destroyed on the spot” (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/243160/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter).
Russian law enforcement agencies also had their own version of how the operation started. “A 30-year-old employee of the 3rd police battalion, Umar Korigov, along with his wife, hid five militants in their house,” a law enforcement source said. “The militants were suspected of involvement in the murder of the secretary of the Security Council of the republic, Akhmed Kotiev, and attempts on the lives of police officers. After being offered the chance to surrender, Korigov fired shots” (http://www.gazeta.ru/social/news/2014/05/24/n_6178037.shtml).
According to eyewitnesses, however, the operation was carried out in the most barbaric fashion. The home was first fired upon by all types of weaponry, including the latest grenade launchers, as a result of which the house burned down (http://slonus2012.livejournal.com/174991.html). Officials emphasized the fact that the militants lived under the protection of Korigov, a police officer, raising questions about the reliability of the local police (http://itar-tass.com/proisshestviya/1212046). In fact, the reliability of the local police has been in question for quite some time. The FSB does not share information with the local police, relegating it to the role of organizing the outer ring of defense during special operations.
The leader of Ingushetia’s militants, Emir Abdallah, was identified among those killed in the special operation. The rebel leader, a.k.a. Artur Gatagazhev, was 39 years old and believed to be from the village of Sagopshi in Ingushetia’s Malgobek district, where his ancestors had lived, although he was actually born in the city of Mary in Turkmenistan. Gatagazhev became the leader of Ingushetia’s jamaat, the Velayat Galgaiche, after the previous emir of the republic’s rebels, Jamaleil Mutaliev (Emir Adam), was killed in May 2013 (http://lifenews.ru/news/114104).
Emir Abdallah was officially introduced by the leader of the North Caucasian resistance movement, Doku Umarov, who himself was killed in 2013 (http://ummanews.com/news/last-news/12011-2014-01-16-13-38-42.html). Umarov’s statement was interesting both for its timing and its message. The video address was leaked only this past January, after Umarov’s death. In it, Umarov urged the Ingush rebel rank and file to refrain from discussing Gatagazhev’s candidacy and accept him as the envoy of the Caucasus Emirate. This means that there was opposition among the insurgents to the appointment of Emir Abdallah, and the video was broadcast to bolster his position in Ingushetia.
Timur Bokov, a spokesman for the governor of Ingushetia, confirmed Gatagazhev’s death, saying that he had been positively identified as one of the seven slain militants by his fingerprints. Bokov hastily declared that the organized underground movement had been destroyed: “We can say with certainty that the days of the organized bandit underground in Ingushetia are over, the centralized structure of the bandit underground has been destroyed” (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/243160/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter). The statement was quite optimistic and probably also quite irresponsible, given the history of changes in the leadership of the North Caucasian insurgents over the past 15 years. In a republic as small as Ingushetia, reorganizing the local cells will not take that much effort. The militants’ websites have not yet confirmed the death of Emir Abdallah (http://kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2014/05/25/104800.shtml).
Russian law enforcement agencies stated: “Gatagazhev and his gang’s involvement in the murder of the secretary of the Security Council of Ingushetia, Ahmed Kotiev, the murder of the Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Magomed Korigov in Malgobek, suicide attacks in the village of Sagopshi during the funeral of a police officer, a suicide attack at the checkpoint Kizlyar and others, has been established” (http://www.rg.ru/2014/05/24/reg-skfo/gatagazhev-anons.html). Also among the slain militants was Ahmed Yevloev, who reportedly also led the Malgobek district rebels. Yevloev was suspected of involvement in the killing of Ingush Security Council secretary Ahmed Kotiev and several other crimes (http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2479293).
The operation in Sagopshi was also noteworthy because it marked the first time that Ingushetia’s Security Council demanded that residents of the village surrender if they had cooperated with the insurgents. The authorities apparently had information that local residents were supporting the militants (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/243160/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter). Moreover, the Security Council’s demand suggests that the supporters of the insurgency in the village were from influential local circles that have substantial sway across the republic.
Thus, even though the Ingush rebels suffered significant losses in the Sagopshi operation, the militants will undoubtedly regroup, meaning that the killing of Ingushetia’s rebel chief will lead to few substantial changes in the militant underground.