Murder of Dagestani District Chief and Top Police Official Raises Tensions in Republic

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 178

Aftermath of the attack (Above) and a photo of Alimsultan Alkhamatov, Head of the Dagestan's Khasavyurt district (Below)

The head of the administration of Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district, Alimsultan Alkhamatov, was shot to death on Moscow on September 27. His driver-bodyguard, Nadzhmutdin Mitikov, was wounded in the attack, which took place in the southwestern part of the Russian capital. The head of the investigations unit of the Investigative Committee for Moscow, Anatoly Bagment, said that at least four weapons were found at the scene of the attack, including two Kedr machine-pistols. According to other reports, a Kalashnikov automatic rifle used in the attack was also found at the scene (ITAR-TASS, September 27).

The attackers reportedly fled the scene of the shooting in a Mitsubishi Pajero and a Mercedes S350. Police managed to stop the Mercedes and apprehend its driver, Khabib Budaikhanov, a native of the village of Artlukh in Dagestan’s Kazbeksky district. Another two suspects were reportedly detained in western and southern Moscow (ITAR-TASS,,,, September 27).

Alkhamatov had reportedly gone to Moscow to be with his 19-year-old son, who was undergoing another operation for injuries sustained in a car accident. Alkhamatov, who had been the target of previous attacks, maintained three armed bodyguards together with his armored Mercedes while in the Russian capital, but the security measures ultimately failed (Kommersant, September 29).

Law-enforcement sources were quoted as saying that Alkhamatov had been the target of three earlier attacks in Dagestan, and investigators reportedly believe the murder was related either to his commercial or political activities (Interfax, September 27,, September 28).

The first attack on Alkhamatov occurred at the beginning of 2005, after the then Dagestani President Magomedali Magomedov named him acting Khasavyurt district head. Some observers say Magomedov picked Alkhamatov as a counterweight to the mayor of the city of Khasavyurt, Sagidpasha Umakhanov, who led a group of anti-Magomedov officials known as the Northern Alliance. Alkhamatov was an ethnic Kumyk -the majority ethnic group in Khasavyurt district- while Umakhanov is an ethnic Avar, and tensions between the two groups are high in the district. The roles reversed when Dagestan’s current president, Mukhu Aliev, came to power in the republic in 2006: Aliev enjoys friendly relations with Umakhanov, and Alkhamatov therefore found himself on the outside with the republican leadership.

Tensions between the Khasavyurt city and district authorities worsened, reaching a peak in April of this year, when Umakhanov’s nephew, Magomed Umakhanov, was shot to death. Members of Alkhamatov’s inner circle were questioned in connection with the murder, but subsequently released. Magomed Umakhanov was buried in Dagestan’s Kazbeksky district, the native district of both the Umaknaov family and the man detained in connection with Alkhamatov’s murder in Moscow, Khabib Budaikhanov (, September 28).

Meanwhile, at almost the same time that Khasavyurt district head Alimsultan Alkhamatov was murdered in Moscow, the deputy head of the Dagestani interior ministry’s criminal investigation department, Lieutenant-Colonel Alim-Sultan Atuyev, was killed along with his nephew, Lieutenant Abdulla Magomedgaziev, by unidentified gunmen in the village of Starye Miatli in Dagestan’s Kizilyurt district. The two murders occurred on September 27 within an hour of each other, and Russian news agencies quoted an unnamed law-enforcement source as saying that the two incidents may have been related. The source said "it is impossible to rule out that the crimes might be connected and that it was not a coincidence they were committed on the same day and practically at the same time." The source added that both shootings involved "professional killers" and were meticulously planned (ITAR-TASS, September 28).

Dagestani President Mukhu Aliev’s press secretary, Rasul Khaibullaev, said Aliev held a meeting with the republic’s law-enforcement and security officials yesterday (September 28) to discuss the Alkhamatov and Atuyev murders. The press secretary said that the meeting’s participants agreed that Atuyev had been murdered by members of "illegal armed formations" -meaning rebel groups- and that Alkhamatov was killed by "Dagestanis, not Muscovites." Aliev said he was called just before the meeting by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who inquired about the situation in Dagestan in light of the murders and asked what aid the federal center might provide.

Aliev said that the situation in the republic is under control, but added: "Certain persons are making attempts to impart a political and ethnic coloring to the crime committed [in Moscow] and thereby destabilize the situation in the Khasavyurt district [and] put pressure on the power structures." The Dagestani president ordered law-enforcement officials in the republic and local administration heads in Khasavyurt district and city to take extra security measures. Kommersant wrote that Alkhamatov’s murder "could give rise to a new round of armed conflict in the republic" (Kommersant, September 29).