The Russian authorities have accused an Islamic separatist guerrilla leader of masterminding last week’s terrorist bombing in Kaspiisk, Dagestan, and detained three men they accuse of having directly carried out the attack. The death toll from that blast, which took place during a May 9 Victory Day parade, now stands at forty-two, including seventeen children.
Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov yesterday accused Rapani Khalilov, a 30-year-old native of the Dagestani town of Buinaksk and leader of an armed unit of Dagestani “Wahhabis” (Islamists), of being behind the Kaspiisk bombing. Magomedtagirov alleged that Khalilov, who belongs to the Laks ethnic group, and his unit, were responsible for all terrorist acts carried out in Dagestan in recent months (KMnews.ru, May 12). Khalilov was earlier blamed for the bombing in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital, this past January 18 of a truck carrying members of the 102d Brigade of Internal Troops. Seven servicemen died in that explosion (see the Monitor, May 10, January 21).
Meanwhile, three men suspected of having directly carried out the Kaspiisk attack–Artur and Zaur Mamaev, who are brothers, and Shamil Mamaev, who is not related to the other two–were arrested in St. Petersburg on Saturday (May 11) and sent back to Dagestan on a special flight. All three men, who are Makhachkala natives and were previously shoemakers, admitted that under Khalilov’s influence they had moved to Chechnya and trained in a guerrilla training camp run by Abu-Djafar, the right-hand man of Khattab, the Saudi-born commander of Islamist forces in Chechnya who was recently killed. All three suspects, however, denied any connection with either the May 9 bombing in Kaspiisk or any of the other major terrorist attacks attributed to Khalilov’s group (NTVru.com, May 12; Kommersant, May 13).
Although Khalilov’s terrorist group is reportedly based in Chechnya’s Nozhai-Yurt district, Deputy Prosecutor General Kolesnikov yesterday would not confirm reports that Khalilov was currently hiding out in Chechnya. He said only that the Dagestani Islamist had long been on the wanted list as “the organizer of terrorist acts” but was constantly changing his location. Asked about Khalilov’s connections to the Kaspiisk blast, Kolesnikov said simply that he was “the inspirer of very many terrorist attacks.” And while Kolesnikov said investigators had extensive information on the mechanism and methods used in the Kaspiisk attack, he refused to go into detail, citing the need for confidentiality in the ongoing investigation. He did say that those who ordered the May 9 bombing are based not only in Chechnya, but abroad, and that the attack’s goal was to destabilize the situation in Dagestan. He claimed that Wahhabi-influenced terrorist units made of members of various Caucasus ethnic groups are operating today in Chechnya and that the Wahhabis have been exploiting the high unemployment rate in North Caucasus mountain villages to attract new recruits. Meanwhile, Rapani Khalilov’s father denounced his son during a televised press conference held yesterday at the Dagestani Interior Ministry’s headquarters. Abdullah Khalilov, who called his son a “traitor” and vowed to burn him alive if he is caught, said Rapani had left home three years ago and that the family had heard nothing about him since except in the media. “He was a normal person; I don’t know what kind of pressure he is under and who is doing it,” Abdullah Khalilov said (RBK, NTVru.com, May 12).
One Russian newspaper, it should be noted, expressed skepticism over whether Khalilov’s unit was capable of carrying out the Kaspiisk blast and thus raised doubts about whether the authorities had caught the real perpetrators of that attack (Moskovsky Komsomolets, May 13).
Meanwhile, the chairman of Dagestan’s government, Khizri Shikhsaidov, said today that the May 9 bombing was allowed to happen because of a loss of vigilance and responsibility on the part of the republic’s law enforcement structures. The chairman of Dagestan’s People’s Assembly, Mukhu Aliev, went further, claiming that “traitors” within the ranks of the republic’s law enforcement organs were working with the terrorists and that they should be punished even more harshly than the terrorists themselves (NTVru.com, May 13). Both Dagestan’s State Council and People’s Assembly today called on President Vladimir Putin and the State Duma to lift the country’s moratorium on the death penalty. State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov, who is Dagestan’s leader, said that “criminals who commit terrorist acts like the one carried out in Kaspiisk do not have the right to leniency and deserve the harshest punishment–the death penalty” (NTVru.com, May 13).
DID THE FSB THWART A “WAHHABI UNDERGROUND”?