The militant underground movement in the North Caucasus suffered large losses in Chechnya and Kabardino-Balkaria at the start of August 2015. On August 2, special forces of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the military and the police clashed with a group of militants in the area of the village of Dattykh, in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district. This area has repeatedly been the site of fighting between the government forces and militants. Dattykh has attracted militants because it has a population of only 250 persons and many houses there have been abandoned by people who moved to the Ingushetian lowlands. Dattykh is one of the most southernmost of Ingushetia’s villages located in the mountains, and militants have used the village as a location where they can obtain food and medical supplies. It is located on the administrative border between Ingushetia and Chechnya, which allows groups of militants to move from the mountainous part of Chechnya to Ingushetia and back. There are also many abandoned villages in Ingushetia’s mountains (Kavkazsky Uzel, August 3).
On the morning of August 2, government forces shelled the outskirts of the village, where militants were thought to be concentrated (Newsru.com, August 2). Next, the special forces of the FSB and police moved in, while the military guarded the outer ring. The police and FSB forces of Ingushetia were notably absent from the scene of the special operation. The rebels killed in the operation were later identified as members of the Chechen jamaat based in Chechnya’s Achkhoi Martan district under the command of Adam Tagilov, who was suspected of organizing the attack on Grozny, on December 4, 2014 (Top.rbc.ru, December 6, 2014). The slain suspects were identified as Rakhim Kasybaev, Muslim Mekhtiev, Gairbek Jamaldinov, Ramzan Magomadov, Magomed Zaurbekov, Imam Utsimiev and Adam Tagilov (Lifenews.ru, August 2).
Russia’s National Antiterrorist Committee (NAK) said the government had information “about a gang in the area of Dattykh and therefore the operation was preplanned in order to minimize losses among the government servicemen.” According to the statement, the security services laid mines in advance along all possible paths the rebels could use to retreat, which meant they were killed by the mines when they started to run away after the shelling began (Kommersant, August 3). The militants were most likely not ambushed, but lured into one of the villages’ abandoned houses. This is yet another example of how the FSB sets traps for the militants using moles planted among the civilians who provide supplies to the insurgency. The Russian media trumpeted the clash in Dattykh as one of the most significant victories over insurgents who have joined the Islamic State (IS). Thus, Russia has acknowledged that it is fighting a war against the IS in the North Caucasus (Interfax, August 2). This is, indeed, a significant victory for Russian forces, which did not simply strike at one of many groups, but eliminated an entire group along with its commander.
Russian government forces extended their successes the next day, this time in Kabardino-Balkaria, after police discovered a group of militants in an apartment block located in an area of the city of Nalchik called Aleksandrovka. The rebels refused to surrender, and a special operation was launched. Unlike the operation in Ingushetia, the operation in Nalchik was conducted by local FSB and police, a sign that Moscow trusts the local authorities there (Vestnik Kavkaza, August 3). The targeted militants were blamed for the murder of Takhir Guziev, the 45-year-old police colonel who was police chief of Kabardino-Balkaria’s Cherek district (Lifenews.ru, July 31).
The militants were surrounded when they were between the sixth and the seventh floors of the nine-story apartment block. They fiercely resisted the security forces’ call to surrender, throwing a hand grenade and attempting to break through the cordon. All the rebels were killed in the ensuing clash. The slain insurgents were identified as 23-year-old Zol district resident Bolat Likhov, 22-year-old Anzor Tengizov, 24-year-old Adam Shogenov, and 25-year-old Muaed Tyazhgov, as well as the owners of the apartment, 30-year-old Adam Nogerov and his 20-year-old wife, Zukhra. The official claim that the insurgents refused to negotiate is dubious, because it is unlikely that they would not have wanted to negotiate the surrender of Zukhra Nogerov.
Just two weeks earlier, an operation in Nalchik claimed the lives of six suspected militants (Kavkazsky Uzel, July 24). Thus, the local jamaat in Kabardino-Balkaria has lost 12 persons in the last two weeks, which is a significant blow to its combat capabilities.
These latest special operations show that Russia is trying to prevent a possible attack by those in the North Caucasus who have aligned themselves with Islamic State. Russia would like to be on par with the other members of the antiterrorist coalition in the Middle East. However, Moscow forgets that by supporting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, it helped create the conditions for the advent of the organization that is now known as the Islamic State.