Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 21

Security forces in Dagestan on May 29 discovered 23 152- and 125-milimeters artillery shells near the entrance of the Gimri tunnel, which links the valley and mountainous part of the republic’s Buinaksk region. Earlier in the day, the head of the Buinaksk Regional Criminal Investigations Department, Asker Askerov, was killed in a shootout with militants after he and other police officers went to the Gimri tunnel to investigate a report that militants planned to blow it up. The police came upon three men who opened fire when they were asked to show their passports. One of the men, an inhabitant of the village of Gyumri, was captured but the other two escaped. The captured gunman was identified as Derbishgadzhi Gazimagomedov, the Regnum news agency reported on May 29.

Meanwhile, police in the town of Buinaksk arrested a suspect in the murder of Major Magomedkhan Gitinov, head of the Buinaksk branch of the Interior Ministry, Itar-Tass reported on May 26. A source in the press service of the republic’s Interior Ministry told Itar-Tass the name of the detainee was not being made public “in the interests of the investigation” and that police had established the names of two other people involved in the attack on Gitinov and were searching for them. Gitinov was shot at point black range on March 24 when he went to a garage to collect his car.

A meeting of Dagestan’s ruling State Council on May 27 reported that 29 “terrorist crimes” have been committed in the republic since the beginning of 2004 and that more than 20 of the attacks have not been solved, Itar-Tass reported. “Unfortunately, the best and most worthy sons of Dagestan and Russia are dying in the war declared against society by terrorists and bandits,” State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov told the meeting. The heads of the republic’s law-enforcement agencies told the meeting that the May 20 murder of Zagir Arukhov, who was Dagestan’s minister of nationalities, information and external affairs, had not yet been solved (see Chechnya Weekly, May 25).

Dagestan and Chechnya, meanwhile, signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation, Itar-Tass reported on May 26. Dagestani leader Magomedov hailed the treaty, vowing: “We will forge friendship between the peoples, just as our ancestors have done for many centuries.” He also said that the 1999 invasion of Dagestan by Islamic militants operating from Chechnya had “nothing to do with the Chechen people.” Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, for his part, declared: “I am glad to sign the first friendship and cooperation treaty with our age-old neighbor. No Basaevs or Maskhadovs can sever our friendship. Our ancestors never made any distinction between our republics, calling the whole area simply ‘Dagestan’.”

Tensions between the neighboring republics were raised earlier this year after Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov led an armed convoy into Dagestan to free his sister, who had been detained by police in Khasavyurt. There have also been complaints that Chechen security personnel operate in Dagestan with impunity.