New Year Brings No Peace to the North Caucasus
In one of the worst terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus in recent months, six policemen were reportedly killed and 19 wounded yesterday (January 6) when a suicide bomber detonated a jeep at a transport police base in the Reduktorny district of Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan (some reports put the death toll at five). The suicide bomber reportedly attempted to drive onto the base’s parade ground where members were receiving their daily briefing, and an even higher toll was averted because three guards in a UAZ jeep rammed the attacker’s vehicle. The three guards were killed instantly along with three transport policemen.
According to the Dagestani branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the blast had the force of 100 kilograms of TNT, and investigators found fragments of 122 mm and 152 mm artillery shells that were detonated inside the suicide bomber’s car. The explosion broke windows in a radius of 200 meters and seriously damaged around 100 cars parked around the base. The blast left a crater one meter deep and two meters wide.
President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the heads of the FSB and the interior ministry –Aleksandr Bortnikov and Rashid Nurgaliev, respectively– to carefully investigate the circumstances surrounding the suicide bombing in Makhachkala and to take all necessary measures to improve the security situation in the North Caucasus. He also ordered that assistance be given to those wounded in the attack and relatives of those who died, the Kremlin’s press service reported (www.newsru.com, www.svobodanews.com, www.echo.msk.ru, www.ntv.ru, January 6).
The suicide bombing was not the only terrorist-related incident in Dagestan yesterday. Bomb disposal experts defused an explosive device that was placed on a railway line not far from Makhachkala. The device reportedly consisted of a mixture of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder inside of a metal container and would have exploded with the force of 10 kilograms of TNT. In another incident in Makhachkala, unidentified attackers hurled two grenades of different types into the courtyard of the home of Ibadulla Mukaev, an adviser to Dagestan’s natural resources minister. Only one of the grenades detonated, and nobody was hurt in the incident (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 6).
Meanwhile, an unnamed Russian FSB spokesman was quoted today (January 7) as saying that two militants were killed in a counter-terrorist operation after being surrounded yesterday in a private house in the village of Kormaskala in Dagestan’s Kumtorkalinsky district (RIA Novosti, January 7).
On New Year’s Day, Dagestani authorities reported that three militant leaders, including rebel “emir” Umalat Magomedov, had been killed in a shootout with police. They claimed that they found among Magomedov’s belongings a record of funds the rebels had accumulated through extorting local businesses and from donations from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Azerbaijan (The New York Times, January 7).
The start of a new year has seen little letup in violence and insurgency-related incidents in other republics of the North Caucasus. In Ingushetia, unknown attackers yesterday (January 6) blew up a gas station in the city of Karabulak not far from the village of Plievo. The attackers apparently used a grenade launcher. No one was hurt in the incident (www.newsru.com, January 7). Also yesterday, a saleswoman died as the result of a drive-by shooting targeting a kiosk in Ingushetia’s main city Nazran. The saleswoman, identified as Aza Yandieva, was wounded when the attackers fired automatic weapons from the Lada Priora car in which they were driving into the kiosk where she was working. The Ingushetia.org website quoted local residents as saying she had been repeatedly warned by the republic’s Islamic militants to stop selling alcoholic beverages (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 6). A similar incident occurred in Plievo last October 22, when unidentified gunmen shot and killed the owner of a store that was selling alcohol (EDM, October 23, 2009).
In a separate incident in Ingushetia yesterday, authorities discovered an explosive device that had been placed on the Mozdok-Tbilisi gas pipeline in the village of Srednie-Achaluki in the republic’s Malgobeksky district. Bomb disposal experts safely removed the bomb and destroyed it in a controlled explosion at a different location. In yet another incident in Ingushetia yesterday, unknown attackers fired on the home of senior officer in the republic’s interior ministry in Nazran. No one was hurt in the attack (www.newsru.com, January 6).
On January 4, a bomb exploded on a railway line in Nazran as a freight train was passing by. The blast derailed the train and destroyed two meters of railway track, leaving a crater around one meter in diameter. No one was hurt in that incident (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 4).
Also on January 4, police in Kabardino-Balkaria found a half-buried 40-liter barrel filled with a mixture of white and grey powder and wires sticking out of it on the Baksan-Azau federal road in the republic’s Baksansky district. A law-enforcement source said the explosive device, which was taken to a safe place and destroyed, could have caused a blast equal to 50 kilograms of TNT (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 5).
In Chechnya, a federal serviceman and three Chechen interior ministry officers were wounded in separate explosions on January 5. The serviceman was wounded in a blast in the republic’s Urus-Martan district, while the Chechen policemen were wounded in an explosion in the mountainous Vedeno district of southern Chechnya (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 6).