The last week of 2013 was dominated by the news about three terrorist attacks—one in Pyatigorsk and two in Volgograd. These attacks overshadowed the tense situation in the North Caucasus itself.
The last week of the year was the same as many previous ones and apparently did not correspond with the festive mood of the country’s residents. With the North Caucasus becoming increasingly radicalized, calls proliferated there to reject the New Year’s celebrations because they contradict Islamic traditions (www.novayagazeta.ru/news/241557.html; www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236199/).
On the eve of Christmas, the Russian Antiterrorist Committee reported that 260 rebels, including 42 militant leaders, were killed in the North Caucasus in 2013 (http://newsland.com/news/detail/id/1297523/). Overall, government anti-terrorist forces prevented 78 crimes, including 12 terrorist attacks.
The question is: what is considered a terrorist attack? For example, is a blast caused by a suicide bomber a terrorist attack or not? It all depends on how such a crime is defined by the republican police that supplies the figures to Moscow. Any terrorist attack can be covered by a variety of the articles of the Russian criminal code—for instance, article 105 (murder), article 317 (attempt on the life of a law enforcement officer), article 222 (illegal possession of weapons and explosives), article 30 (preparations for a crime), article 277 (attempt on the life of a statesman or public figure) and article 223 (illegal production of weapons). For example, a suicide bombing attack in the Chechen city of Sernovodsk last September 15 was a terrorist attack (http://expert.ru/2013/09/16/ataka-na-rovd/). Not for the Chechen police, however. The Chechen interior minister stated the following month that the republic had not experienced any terrorist attacks in 2013 (http://www.rosbalt.ru/federal/2010/11/10/788548.html).
The authorities avoid calling attacks terrorist acts in order to improve the region’s image (http://www.echo.msk.ru/blog/cknot/1158438-echo/). Therefore, the real situation in the North Caucasus is concealed behind the official statistics.
The situation in Dagestan has been particularly tense. On December 25, unidentified assailants murdered an investigator from the Investigative Department of the Derbent district police (http://moidagestan.ru/blogs/45183/38104). The attackers shot the investigator as he was leaving a fitness center, and the official died later of his injuries. The same day in Khasavyurt region, on the other side of the republic, an 11-year-old girl died in an armed attack on a shop selling alcohol in the village of Mutsal-aul. The girl’s mother and a man were wounded in the attack (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/235770/). Attacks on facilities selling alcohol have become routine in Dagestan.
The next day, December 26, a suspected militant, 27-year-old Madrid Babakhanov, was killed in his own home during a special operation in a rural settlement in Dagestan’s Suleiman-Stalsky district. Before he was killed, the police allowed the suspect’s parents and sister to leave the house (http://ria.ru/incidents/20131227/986785587.html).
During a special operation in the village of Petrakovskoe in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district, an explosion took place in a house where three suspected militants were holed up. Islam Atiev, who was suspected of involvement in several murders in the district, was killed in the explosion. According to some sources, Atiev died as he tried to escape from the house, which was surrounded by the police (http://rbctv.rbc.ru/archive/main_news/562949990150146.shtml).
On the evening of December 28, unknown assailants attacked the Khasavyurt city police station with a grenade launcher, according to local residents. Police officials said their personnel suffered no casualties in the incident (http://u-f.ru/News/u198/2013/12/29/667488).
On December 29, two grocery stores were bombed at two locations in the central part of the city of Derbent. The blasts took place a half an hour apart. Both stores sold alcohol (http://www.echomsk.spb.ru/news/kriminal/dagestana-postradavshikh-derbent.html). Six people were injured in the attack (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236042/).
On December 30, police killed two people in a car. According to the police, the suspects refused to show their IDs and attempted to shoot at the police officers. The slain men were subsequently identified as militants (http://www.echomsk.spb.ru/news/kriminal/boevika-ubity-dagestane.html).
Meanwhile, a police patrol came under attack on the Karlanyurt-Mogilyovskoe highway in Khasavyurt district. The officers managed to defend themselves and killed two militants (http://novayagazeta-ug.ru/news/u2802/2013/12/30/32155).
Also on December 30, unidentified attackers shot a police officer in Olimpiysky, a suburb of Khasavyurt city. The policeman, who later died of his injuries, managed to kill one of the attackers (http://itar-tass.com/proisshestviya/866239). The slain insurgent was identified as Zakir Magomedov, a member of the Aukhovskaya militant group (www.rosbalt.ru/federal/2013/12/31/1217520.html).
In another incident in the city of Khasavyurt on December 30, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded as a police car was passing by. The blast wounded four police officers and killed one passerby (http://www.newsru.com/russia/30dec2013/dagestan.html).
The intensification of rebel attacks at the end of December forced the head of Dagestan, Ramazan Abdulatipov, to hold an extraordinary meeting of the republic’s Security Council. Officials discussed ways to prevent attacks during the holiday celebrations in Dagestan (http://rgvktv.ru/news/22980).
However, on December 31, the aide to the prosecutor of the city of Buinaksk, Rasul Gasanov, was killed in a car explosion. The incident took place as Gasanov was coming out of his house (http://itar-tass.com/proisshestviya/867543).
On December 31, another IED exploded in the city of Khasavyurt, injuring a police officer (http://rus.r uvr.ru/news/2013_12_31/Vzriv-proizoshel-v-Hasavjurte-ranen-policejskij-1224/).
The news from Dagestan hardly resembles reports from a peaceful region: indeed, the only place in the vicinity that appears to be peaceful at the moment is the territory around Sochi, where the Winter Olympic Games will soon be held and where unprecedented security measure have been taken. As the Olympiad approaches, tensions across the North Caucasus are likely to increase further.