Russia Adds Poison to its Counter-Insurgency Arsenal in the North Caucasus

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 147

The Rosbalt news agency reported yesterday (July 29) that the Russian special services have killed at least 17 Chechen rebels, including rebel “leaders,” over the last seven months by poisoning their food. Noting that Russia’s special services reportedly carried out a successful operation to poison the Arab rebel field commander Khattab in Chechnya in 2002, Rosbalt quoted an unnamed special services source as saying that it is difficult to find the rebels where they are hiding in the mountains and woods of the republic, and that the rebels are putting up stiff resistance resulting in the death of federal servicemen. It is thus easier, said the source, to find the local inhabitants who are supplying food to the rebels.
“With the aid of a network of agents we uncover several such suppliers per week,” Rosbalt quoted the special services source as saying, adding “Before, they were simply detained for colluding with the gang formations, but later it was decided to use them for the destruction of the most dangerous militant leaders.” The source said the suppliers are either “very convincingly” persuaded to participate in special operations to poison the rebels, or Russian counter-intelligence simply poisons the food that the suppliers plan to take to the rebels without the suppliers’ knowledge.  According to Rosbalt, the special services use poison that takes effect some time after it is ingested, in order to allow the supplier to get away. Chechen law-enforcement agents then search the area where the targeted rebel was believed to be located and, if they find his body, report that the operation has been a success.
Rosbalt’s source claimed that in October 2009, the special services put poison in food that was to be delivered to two rebel field commanders, Magarbi Temiraliev and Abubakar Pashaev, in a wooded area of the mountains in Chechnya’s Nozhai-Yurt district. According to the source, Pashaev was a veteran field commander who would have been very difficult to locate and eliminate without losses to the federal side. The bodies of Pashaev and seven other rebels were subsequently found, but Temiraliev and other rebels managed to survive and escape despite having been poisoned as well. Officially, it was announced afterwards that Pashaev had been killed in a firefight with security forces who were carrying out a special operation in Nozhai-Yurt (, October 2, 2009).
Rosbalt’s source also claimed that the special services had arranged to deliver poisoned food to Doku Umarov, the Chechen rebel leader and “emir” of the Caucasus Emirate, and that the special services received information in November 2009 that Umarov and his inner circle had been poisoned and were dying off. According to the source, federal forces determined roughly where in Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan district the ailing rebels were hiding and rocketed the area. The bodies of a group of rebels were found after the attack, but Umarov was not among the dead. The source claimed, however, that Umarov was seriously poisoned and, as a result, developed several illnesses.
According to Rosbalt, in May of this year, Yasir Amat, an Arab field commander who had participated in preparing suicide bombers, was killed along with eight other rebels by means of a slow-acting poison. Their bodies were found in Chechnya’s Vedeno district, and it was officially announced that they had been killed in battle.
“Operations with the use of poisons will continue,” the special services source told Rosbalt, adding “Even knowing the approximate location of militants, it is difficult to destroy them –they are very mobile [and] know the locality well. After the poisons act, the bandits cannot run anywhere. Furthermore, it allows [us] to avoid losses” (, July 29).
Meanwhile, the cycle of rebel violence and government counter-violence continued in the North Caucasus this week. A resident of the village of Komsomolskoe in Dagestan’s Kizilyurt district, Magomed Magomedov, told Kavkazsky Uzel yesterday (July 29) that a group of armed men in camouflage uniforms had abducted six residents of the village from their homes and drove them away. Magomedov told the website that two Federal Security Service (FSB) agents from Moscow were among the raiders (, July 29).
On July 28, the head of the police department of the Kirov district in Dagestan’s capital Makhachkala, Lieutenant-Colonel Kamil Dzhabrailov, was wounded by an improvised explosive device that detonated near or underneath his car. He later died in the hospital. On July 27, three armed men in masks set fire to a restaurant in Makhachkala and shot a guest who tried to stop them. The guest died on the way to the hospital (, July 28). There have been a number of attacks in Dagestan and Ingushetia on shops, restaurants and other establishments that sell alcoholic beverages.
On July 28, two roadside bombs detonated as two armored police cars were passing by near the village of Galashki in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district. One policeman, identified as Bagaudin Matsiev, was slightly wounded in the attack (, July 29).
On July 27, an explosion took place near the building housing the district prosecutor’s office in the Staropromyslovsky district of the Chechen capital, Grozny. In a separate incident late that evening, someone in a passing car threw a hand grenade at the entrance of the same building. No one was hurt in either blast (, July 28).
On July 26, two federal servicemen participating in a special operation targeting rebels near the village of Tangi-Chu in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district were wounded when a landmine detonated (, July 26). On July 23, two interior ministry internal troops servicemen were killed in a shootout with gunmen near the village of Chishki in Chechnya’s Grozny district (, July 24).