Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 15

A shootout between OMON special police forces and suspected members of the Sharia Jamaat in Makhachkala on April 10 killed two policemen and one gunman. The Associated Press, citing Dagestan’s Interior Ministry, reported a suspected militant was detained, as well as the dead gunman’s wife. The ministry reported that the battle broke out before dawn when police surrounded a suspected rebel hideout and that it lasted around three hours. The gunman was killed when he tried to break through the police lines surrounding the house, throwing grenades. According to Russian press reports, a third OMON officer was wounded in the shootout and two militants managed to escape. Kommersant reported on April 11 that security forces deployed armored personnel carriers around the two-story apartment building in which the militants were holed-up and managed to capture a Sharia Jamaat member, identified as Ruslan Magomedov, prior to the “active phase” of the operation.

Kommersant quoted Sergei Solodovnikov, deputy head of the federal Interior Ministry’s main directorate for the Southern Federal District, as saying that the militants were able to put up a fight because they had installed a security camera in the apartment in which they were staying, which allowed them to control the streets leading up to the apartment building and made it possible for several of them to escape. According to the newspaper, the OMON security forces were also confused by the fact that the militants wore camouflage similar to their own; indeed, eyewitnesses in nearby buildings said that some of the security forces fell under friendly fire. The Dagestani Interior Ministry’s press service reported that two automatic rifles, a pistol, 14 grenades, and six homemade explosive devices were found at the scene. Yet while Solodovnikov claimed that the militants had set up a bomb-making factory in the apartment and were making bombs for use in terrorist attacks in Makhachkala over the May holidays, Kommersant correspondent Yuliya Rybina said she saw no signs of such a factory in the apartment, which she described as “a small three-room apartment with minimal furniture, several inoffensive books and the remains of food on a napkin spread on the floor.”

Solodovnikov identified the dead militant as Makhach Rasulov – who, he said, was the “main ideologue” of the Sharia Jamaat—while Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov said that Rasulov had been planning terrorist attacks for the May 1-9 holiday period, the AP reported.

Kommersant described Rasulov as a “well-known religious extremist” who had written for local newspapers under the name Yasin and been in charge of a page in the weekly newspaper Novoe delo devoted to Islam. According to Kommersant, the Dagestani Interior Ministry called Rasulov the “emir of Makhachkala” and the successor to Sharia Jamaat head Rasul Makasharipov, who was killed by security forces in Makhachkala in June 2005 (see Chechnya Weekly, July 7, 2005). The newspaper reported that Rasulov was involved in at least 15 serious crimes, of which the overwhelming majority was either terrorist operations or attacks on law enforcement personnel.

Kavkazky Uzel on April 10 provided more details about Makhach Rasulov’s past and alleged crimes. According to the website, Makhach Magomedrasulovich Rasulov, a.k.a. “Murtuz” and “Yasin,” was born on February 7, 1975, in Makhachkala. He studied at a technical school for construction, worked at construction sites after graduation and then began studying at both the Imam Ash-Shafii Islamic Institute in Makhachkala and Dagestan State University, where he studied Arabic and French and received a degree. After graduating, he translated articles into Arabic for the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Dagestani Scientific Center and for a time was a post-graduate student in the center’s oriental studies department, but was kicked out for poor academic performance. Rasulov worked for a time on local television, where he did a program on religious themes, and was a stringer for the newspaper Novoe delo. More recently he was a member of the editorial board of the magazine Islamskaya tsivilizatsiya (Islamic Civilization).

Kavkazky Uzel noted that Magomedzagid Varisov, a well-known political scientist and journalist who was shot to death in Makhachkala last July (see Chechnya Weekly, July 7, 2005), was editor-in-chief of Islamskaya tsivilizatsiya, and that Zagir Arukhov, the Dagestani minister for national policy, information and external relations who was killed by a bomb last May, was a reviewer for the magazine. The Sharia Jamaat claimed responsibility for the assassinations of both men (see Chechnya Weekly, May 25 and July 7, 2005). According to the website, Dagestan’s Interior Ministry said Makhach Rasulov was involved in Varisov’s murder, as well as the murders of policemen and various terrorist bombings.

Kommersant noted that the report of Rasulov’s death was not the first of its kind. Indeed, Dagestani Interior Minster Adilgerei Magomedtagirov announced on October 25, 2005, that Rasulov and two other rebels had been killed by security forces in the Dagestani capital (see Chechnya Weekly, October 27, 2005). According to Kommersant, the Dagestani Interior Ministry announced that Rasulov had been killed in that battle with security forces despite the fact that the body of one of the three dead militants was severely burned, and a Sharia Jamaat member captured later reported that Rasulov was alive. This time, a high-level Dagestani police official told Kommersant that he had seen and recognized Rasulov’s body. “He was wounded twice in the face but it was possible to recognize him,” the source said. “I recognized him.”