Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 28

The Chechen rebels on July 19 capped an upsurge in activity with an attack in the village of Znameskoe in Chechnya’s Nadterechny district that killed 14 people, eleven of them police and security personnel. According to the Associated Press, the attackers opened fire on a UAZ minibus and then detonated a bomb when a second vehicle came to help. Vremya novostei reported on July 20 that ten policemen and a Federal Security Service (FSB) officer died in the attack. On July 19, Interfax quoted Akhmed Dakaev of the Chechen Interior Ministry as saying that three civilians, including teenagers aged 13 and 14, were among those killed, and that 19 civilians and five policemen were wounded. One of the youths was reportedly killed while riding a bicycle past the scene of the attack. The head of Grozny’s Center for Disaster Medicine, Umar Akhyadov, later told Interfax that 34 people had been injured in the attack, 20 of them seriously, with shrapnel wounds in vital organs and severed limbs. Kommersant on July 20 quoted an official with Nadterechny district Interior Ministry directorate as saying that the head of directorate’s criminal investigation department, Aslanbek Elmurzaev, and the head of its passport office Khazir Meitsaev, were killed in the bombing.

Kommersant quoted law-enforcement sources as saying that the Znameskoe police and security personnel drove up to the UAZ before it blew up after receiving a call that there had been a shootout and then a follow-up call telling them that someone had shot up a UAZ and that the body of someone wearing a camouflage uniform was inside the vehicle. According to these sources, rebels apparently stole the UAZ, fitted it with a bomb in Achkoi-Martan, drove it to Znamenskoe, put a captured federal serviceman behind the wheel and then shot him, after which the police were summoned to the scene. The newspaper cited explosives experts as saying that the device used in the UAZ was made from a 152-mm artillery shell, plastic explosives and a mixture of saltpeter and aluminum powder that was detonated by remote control.

Chechen President Alu Alkhanov accused Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basaev of ordering the attack, charging that “terrorists under Basaev’s command are trying to destabilize the sociopolitical situation in the republic,” RIA Novosti reported. “The situation is under the full control of the Chechen leadership.”

Chechenpress reported on July 19 that Chechens had “carried out a successful operation” in Znamenskoe. “First a UAZ with members of a punitive brigade was shot up on Lesnaya Ulitsa near Middle School No. 1, as a result of which one bandit was annihilated,” the separatist website reported. “After that, as a band from the so-called district police department pulled up to the shot-up vehicle, an explosion resounded. As a result of the explosion, the terrorists who had arrived at the scene were destroyed. There were no losses on the Chechen side. The resistance fighters returned to their base without any particular problems.”

Kommersant quoted Chechen Interior Ministry sources as saying that Basaev probably organized the bombing with the help of rebel field commander Doku Umarov, who is in charge of the rebels’ southwestern front, which includes the Achkoi-Martan district. The newspaper said these sources also noted that the truck bombing of a government compound in Znamenskoe in May 2003, which killed 60 people and wounded more than 300, was the first in a series of attacks organized by Basaev, including the bombing at an outdoor rock festival near Moscow, an abortive suicide bombing on Moscow’s central Tverskaya Ulitsa and the bombing outside of the National Hotel, also in central Moscow. The commander of Chechnya’s OMON special forces, Ruslan Akhmadov, told Kommersant he did not know who organized the bombing in Znamenskoe, but said he had “operational information” that the rebels have prepared 15 suicide bombers, both male and female. Akhmadov said the rebels are too weak for large-scale operations, but other Chechen Interior Ministry officials told Kommersant they expected that the rebels would soon try to carry out “large terrorist acts.” Chechen Prime Minister Sergei Abramov also charged that Basaev and Umarov were among those behind the attack in Znamenskoe, reported on July 20. Rudnik Dudaev, secretary of Chechnya’s Security Council, said that “specific individuals” believed to have carried out the attack had been identified, but he did not name them.