Rebels in Kabardino-Balkaria on October 13 tried to seize all of the buildings of the republic’s power structures in the capital, Nalchik. The attack was carried out by a large group of what the authorities called “religious extremist-Wahhabis.” According to official estimates, 150-300 rebels were involved the attack. Kavkazky Uzel website reported, however, that up to 600 were involved in the raid. The separatist Daymohk website reported that the raid was carried out by “mujahideen” of the “Caucasus Front.” As newsru.com noted, the “Caucasus Front” was established along with five others—the Dagestani, Eastern, Western, Northern, and Grozny fronts—on the orders of Chechen separatist leader Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev.
According to official reports, as of approximately 5:30 PM Moscow time on October 13, a minimum of 50 rebel fighters and 12 civilians had been killed in the fighting, while another 88 people had been hospitalized with wounds. Chechen separatists claimed that some 110 law enforcement personnel were killed in the raid. At the same time, Russian media were reporting that seven rebel fighters were blockaded inside one police station while another two were blockaded inside a store in the center of Nalchik. Ten rebel fighters were reportedly killed in the center of the city near the Leningrad sanatorium, including two snipers who had been firing from the sanatorium’s roof. The remaining rebels reportedly retreated to the northern sector of Nalchik and were attempting to escape into the mountains. Various media reported that several people who had been taken hostage by the raiders managed to escape. The Regnum information agency reported that two female hostages had managed to escape from a building located across from the Kabardino-Balkaria branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) while their rebel captors were praying. One of the freed women said that rebels barricaded inside the building were holding a third woman hostage.
Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Chekalin met with President Vladimir Putin and reported that Putin issued orders for Nalchik to be completely blocked in order to prevent even a single rebel fighter from escaping the city, newsru.com reported. Putin also gave a shoot-to-kill order for anyone armed or mounting resistance.
Newsru.com, citing an unnamed staffer at the Chechenskoe obschestvo (Chechen Society) newspaper, reported that Shamil Basaev might have been among the rebels killed in the raid. Citing a source in the republican Federal Security Service (FSB) branch, the website reported that while the Chechen rebel warlord had not been officially identified among the dead, he was part of a rebel unit that attacked the Nalchik Airport in an attempt to seize a plane. The attack on the airport, apparently the opening act in the Nalchik raid, was reportedly beaten back and Basaev’s group the blockaded the site. Viktor Ilyukhin, deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Security Committee, claimed in an interview with Ekho Moskvy that the Nalchik raid was organized by Basaev and that he had been in Nalchik three days earlier and discussed the plan with fighters there. Ilyukhin cited “operational information,” but did not specify his source, saying that the information was still being verified. He added, however, that the raid was a “rebellion with goal of seizing power in the region.”
The president of Kabardino-Balkaria, Arsen Kanokov, who was appointed as the republic’s leader a month ago, said that 12 rebel fighters had been captured alive and that they were “members of the jamaat,” according to Ekho Moskvy radio. Kanokov did not specify whether they were members of the “Yarmuk” Jamaat, which claimed responsibility for the December 2004 attack on a regional branch of the Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) in Nalchik that killed four of that agency’s employees (see Chechnya Weekly, January 13, February 2, May 4). Late last month, Kanokov said that religious extremism in the republic is not a mass phenomenon and has no deep roots (see Chechnya Weekly, October 6).
Sergei Goncharov, head of the association of veterans of the “Alpha” elite commando unit, wrote in a piece posted on the Ezhenedelny zhurnal website, ej.ru, that there is not a single republic of the North Caucasus in which the law enforcement system functions properly. The situation in these republics is characterized by “complete corruption” and generalized “treason,” he wrote. “Therefore it is laughable to talk about any kind of system for confronting the militants. I would not want in this regard to come off like a prophet and say that such instances are possible every day, but the system is obvious here.” Kabardino-Balkaria, said Goncharov, is a region with active political power struggles. “Today a battle is underway for the financial flows coming from the federal center,” he wrote. “A clan-teip war is going on…If the central authorities wanted to impose order, they would have done so a long time ago…But whether the center is able or wants to do this—this is not a question for me. As for the actions that are necessary to take now in Nalchik: of course the militants have to be destroyed and those heads of the republic’s law enforcement system who allowed this to happen must be punished. But if these people simply transfer from one position to another, this will be completely useless.”
Russian media reported that an October 9 raid in which law enforcement personnel in Kabardino-Balkaria discovered 500 kilograms of explosives along with a large number of grenade launcher projectiles and cartridges at an idle concrete factory in Nalchik was a “alarming signal” that militants were planning a large-scale attack. Law enforcement officials reported on October 10 that the cache contained 245 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, 320 kilograms of a mixture of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder, eight kilograms of hexogen, five TNT blocks weighing 1.4 kilograms, 14 grenade launcher projectiles, five grenades and about 1,000 cartridges of varying calibers. On October 8, a spokesman for Kabardino-Balkaria’s Interior Ministry told Interfax that two “religious extremists” who had been arrested earlier, Anzor Zhamgurazov and Zaur Shogenov, confessed that they were planning to carry out a terrorist attack at Nalchik Airport at the behest of Anzor Astemirov, who is the target of a federal arrest warrant issued in connection with the December 2004 attack on the FSKN regional office in Nalchik. According to the Interior Ministry source, Shogenov resisted arrest, ramming his car into a police vehicle, and was shot in the leg as he was trying to throw an RGD-5 grenade at his captors.