Interfax reported on August 1 that three officers from an Interior Ministry mobile unit who were wounded in an attack in Ingushetia remain in grave condition in a hospital in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia. The attack took place on July 31 in the village of Nizhniye Achaluki in Ingushetia’s Malgobeksky district when unidentified gunmen fired on a bus carrying 10 police officers. Newsru.com reported that the bus carrying the policemen was escorting a truck carrying goods through Malgobeksky district to Mozdok, North Ossetia. According to the website, platoon commander Sergei Mankaev, an ethnic Kalmyk, was killed in the attack. It reported that the three other police officers wounded in the attack were also from the Interior Ministry’s Kalmykia branch. Investigators found 86 7.62mm shell casings at the site of the attack. The separatist Kavkaz-Center website, on July 31, posted what amounted to a claim of responsibility. It declared that Ingush “mujahideen” had attacked “a bus with kaffirs [infidels] of the so-called ‘mobile detachment of the Interior Ministry of Russia’” in Nizhniye Achaluki earlier that day and that “the ‘platoon commander’ was eliminated and three other kaffirs were wounded.”
The ambush in Nizhniye Achaluki was the second attack in Ingushetia’s Malgobesksky district in as many days. In the early hours of July 30, an unidentified attacker threw a grenade at a police patrol in the city of Malgobek, slightly wounding one policeman. According to ITAR-Tass, the attacker escaped in a white GAZ automobile. Also on July 30, Interfax quoted a police source in the town of Karabulak as saying that a hand grenade had been thrown into the courtyard of a policeman’s house but that no one was hurt in the attack.
Perhaps the most sensational of the latest spate of rebel attacks in Ingushetia took place on July 27, when gunmen fired on the regional Federal Security Service (FSB) directorate’s headquarters in the republic’s capital, Magas, killing an Interior Ministry serviceman who was guarding the building. Russian news agencies initially reported that the attackers had also fired at the presidential administration building in Magas, but Ingush Prosecutor Yury Turygin subsequently denied those reports. Kommersant reported on July 30 that the attackers fired on the republican FSB headquarters with automatic rifles, machine-guns and grenade launchers. The newspaper quoted an unnamed Ingush FSB directorate employee as saying that the attack on the building lasted for around ten minutes. “Initially, several grenades exploded right near the gate,” the source said. “It later turned out that they had fired from an RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher. Then, after a short break, they fired from automatic rifles.” According to the source, the Interior Ministry serviceman who was killed died from shrapnel wounds.
Kavkaz-Center claimed on July 28 that “Ingush mujahideen” had attacked both the FSB headquarters and presidential administration building in Magas and that “several Chekists” had been killed and many were wounded. The separatist website reported that the attack lasted for around 30 minutes and was “conducted from the direction of the village of Ali-Yurt, Nazran district.” Ali-Yurt is located several kilometers from Magas. Kavkaz-Center reported that following the attack, security forces blockaded and launched a “punitive action” in Ali-Yurt, and did so despite the fact that, in the website’s words, “many years of experience in military actions has taught that the mujahideen never remain in the villages after conducting diversionary operations, but prefer to escape to their bases in the woods and mountains.” The website claimed that security forces had seized four Ali-Yurt residents and taken them off in an unknown direction.
Kommersant reported on July 30 that personnel from the Ingush FSB directorate, along with federal Interior Ministry forces and units of the Unified Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, had entered Ali-Yurt and that the village was completely blockaded. “It was a routine passport-check regime, which the inhabitants of the village were informed of in advance,” a source in the Ingush prosecutor’s office told the newspaper, adding that four people suspected of having participated in the attack on the FSB headquarters had been detained.
Kommersant, however, quoted Ali-Yurt residents as saying that there were no militants in the village and that federal forces had “harassed harmless people.” One Ali-Yurt resident, Magomed Khamkhoev, told the newspaper: “The military burst into homes and beat everyone indiscriminately. They beat even those who were sleeping, teenagers, who didn’t understand what they wanted of them.” He reported that the military had even beaten an 85-year-old man, Ramzan Nalgiev, who was walking to the local mosque to pray. The elderly man received broken ribs and a broken hip from the beating, he said. According to the locals, 30 people, including 10 elderly people and 7 women, were hurt during the zachistka. “They should not have searched for the militants from among us, but in the woods: that’s where they attacked the FSB from,” Kommersant quoted local residents as saying. The Regnum news agency on July 28 quoted an Ali-Yurt resident as saying that many of the Russian servicemen who were carrying out the security sweep in the village were drunk and had insulted elderly people, women and children and even beaten several young people aged 12-15. The news agency reported that Ali-Yurt residents were “in fear” and “asking for help.” Ingushetiya.ru reported on July 28 that the servicemen were threatening local women, saying they would kill them and their children.
Moskovsky komsomolets correspondent Vadim Rechkalov reported in the newspaper’s July 30 edition that according to the federal Interior Ministry, three “coordinated underground groups” are operating in Ingushetia. One, called “Barakat” (which, according to Rechkalov, can be roughly translated as “Paradise”), is headed by 43-year-old Magomed-Bashir Dobriev; the second, called “Nazran,” is headed by 30-year-old Ibragim Mankiev; and the third, called “Taliban,” is headed by 47-year-old Umar Tsechoev. These groups are under the command of Magomed Yevloev, a.k.a. Magas, the field commander and close associate of the late Shamil Basaev, whom Chechen rebel leader Dokka Umarov recently named to be the top commander of all the rebel groups in the North Caucasus (see Andrei Smirnov’s article below). Rechkalov reported that, according to “operational information,” there are no more than 50-60 rebel fighters in Ingushetia, but that recent attacks in the republic were carried out by a well-prepared and well-equipped group “whose military capabilities should not be minimized.”
Rechkalov concluded: “The militants now have few possibilities in the Chechen Republic. All of the power in Chechnya is now concentrated in the hands of their former colleagues, and the Chechen militants…can hide out in their homeland only if they are not especially active. Whatever [Chechen President Ramzan] Kadyrov’s power may be, it is sufficient to make the republic quiet. But it is not possible to say that about the power of [Ingush President Murat] Zyazikov. The militants are striking at the weakest point, forcing the federals to begin a total zachistka of Ingusehtia. In the event of such a zachistka, the militants will find somewhere to hide; there are many places in the mountains. And the direct actions of the law-enforcement bodies hit above all…the civilian population. That happened in Ali-Yurt a day after the bombardment of the republican FSB headquarters. And this is already a platform that is being used to train for a revolt and to recruit neophytes into the resistance. The clever Ingush militants are drawing the federal center’s fire onto the republic.”