Fresh on the heels of a series of attacks on police and a Muslim cleric in Dagestan during the second half of December and the first few days of January (Chechnya Weekly, January 4), security forces launched a special operation in the republican capital of Makhachkala on January 10, targeting a group of rebels hiding in a 12-story building located on Prospekt Gamidova, near the “Arizona” furniture store, in the center of the city. Citing Interfax, Kavkazky Uzel reported on January 10 that police spetsnaz had begun firing into the apartment in which the rebels were holed up. A source in the Makhachkala police department’s press service told Interfax that security personnel had surrounded the building and that the number of rebels inside was not known. Kavkazky Uzel reported that armored units and around 200 law-enforcement officers, including spetsnaz, had arrived at the scene and were firing at the building with automatic weapons. ITAR-TASS reported that all of the building’s residents had been evacuated. Nezavisimaya gazeta reported in the early hours of January 11 on its website—NG.ru—that police were firing at an apartment on the tenth floor of the building where the rebels were hiding. The website reported that security personnel were searching another apartment building on Prospekt Imama Shamilya, not far from the building on Prospekt Gamidova where the shooting was taking place.
Newsru.com on January 11 quoted the press service of the Makhachkala police as saying that up to five militants had been holed up in the apartment building on Prospekt Gamidova, and that four of them, including a wanted criminal named Shamil Gasanov, were killed during the special operation. But the website also quoted a source among those who led the special operation as saying that two to five gunmen had been blockaded in the apartment. Newsru.com also reported that the security personnel who searched the apartment building on Prospekt Imama Shamilya had discovered a garbage can filled with explosives and screws and bolts; another improvised explosive device with a timing mechanism; a bag filled with ammonium nitrate; a bag filled with bolts; an F-1 grenade; a camouflage uniform; and unidentified “outfits” for six people. They also found “Wahhabi literature” and a map of Makhachkala marked with the location of police guard-posts, the website reported. It also quoted the head of the press service of the Makhachkala police, Snezhana Topuzlieva, as saying that the apartment on Prospekt Imama Shamilya where the explosives were found had been rented by the militants blockaded in the apartment building on Prospekt Gamidova.
On January 3, a shootout took place near the “Arizona” furniture store on Prospekt Gamidova when police tried to stop a car for a document check and someone inside the vehicle fired on them. One of the gunmen was killed in the ensuing gun battle while the three others in the car managed to escape. One of the escaping gunmen may have been wounded. Two local residents were slightly injured in the gunfight (Chechnya Weekly, January 4). On January 8, RIA Novosti identified the gunman killed on January 3 as Suliman Elmurzaev, a 28-year-old resident of the village of Avtury in Chechnya’s Shali district. The head of the Dagestani Interior Ministry’s press service, Angela Martirosova, told the news agency that the police in Western Siberia’s Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous District had charged Elmurzaev with murder, and he was on the federal wanted list.
The Caucasus Times reported on January 9 that a suspected rebel had been detained the previous day in the village of Manaskent in Dagestan’s Karabudakhkentsky district. The website quoted law-enforcement sources as saying that the suspect, who was in possession of four Makarov pistols and ten 9-mm cartridges when he was captured, had been trained in a rebel camp in Chechnya in 1998-99.
Meanwhile, RIA Dagestan reported on January 10 that residents of the Dagestani village of Talgi had gathered in front of the Dagestani Supreme Court in Makhachkala to protest the detention of another village resident, Dzhabrail Ibnukhadzharov. His brother, Ramzan Ibnukhadzharov, told the news agency that Dhabrail, who is in a remand prison in the Dagestani capital, had been illegally arrested. Other relatives of the detained who participated in the protest said that he had not yet been charged with a crime even though he was arrested on December 26. The protesters demanded that Ibnukhadzharov be freed and that the republic’s Supreme Court immediately take up the case and overturn the sanction for his arrest, which was authorized by the Leninsky federal court. No officials met with the protesters. This was the second time that Talgi residents gathered outside the Dagestani Supreme Court in Makhachkala to protest the arrest of Dzhabrail Ibnukhadzharov. The first time was on December 27, one day after he was taken into custody. That gathering, however, was dispersed by police.
According to the protesters, another member of the Ibnukhadzharov family, Umar Ibnukhadzharov, was also kidnapped by law-enforcement personnel, but was taken to Chechnya. Ramazan Ibnukhadzharov alleged that some Dagestani police officers “sold Umar for ten thousand [dollars], and the Chechens, for their part, are demanding twenty thousand [dollars] in ransom from the relatives.” No charges have been brought against Umar Ibnukhadzharov.