Early on the morning of September 26, fierce fighting broke out between a detachment of separatists under the command of Abdul Malik–a Russian convert to Islam reporting to the legendary Chechen field commander, Ruslan [Khamzat] Gelaev–and Russian federal forces near the village of Galashki in Ingushetia. As is often the case with such incidents, the accounts of what had happened were murky and confused. The following is what Memorial, a leading Russian human rights organization, reported: “According to preliminary information, on September 26, at dawn, at about 5:00 a.m., in the village of Galashki in the Sunzhensky District of the Republic of Ingushetia, from the west, from the territory of North Ossetia, there entered a large detachment of armed formations from the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (local residents speak, perhaps in exaggeration, of several hundred men).”
“When it was already in the village,” Memorial’s account continued, “the detachment was spotted from a Russian [military] helicopter, upon which the rebels opened fire. The helicopter was shot down and crashed in the vegetable garden of one of the inhabitants of the village of Galashki. Units of the Russian army and MVD began to move up to the village. After a certain time, a confused battle broke out between the Russian soldiers and the fighters of the detachment; a Russian armored vehicle was knocked out of action and several soldiers in it were wounded…. The rebels succeeded in departing from the village and in moving off in an eastern direction toward the forest. The [Russian] soldiers did not pursue them, limiting themselves to an artillery barrage of the forest and to rocketing the forest from the air” (Hro.org, September 27).
In comments reported by Chechenpress.com, leading Memorial representative Aleksandr Cherkasov noted: “First, the separatists did not arrive from the direction of Georgia, but from the direction of North Ossetia, whose territory is monitored by parts of the Fifty-eighth Russian army. And they moved to Chechnya almost without difficulties, without having met noticeable resistance from the Russians while moving through the Assinovsky Gorge. Apparently, the border with Georgia remains uncontrollable not only for the Georgians, but also for the Russians” (Chechenpress.com, September 27). Fierce fighting in the region was reported to be continuing on September 28 (New York Times, September 29).