Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 222

On November 29, in the Kizlyar regions of Dagestan, which borders Chechnya, a group of Interior Ministry troops from Murmansk Oblast were attacked. Five of them were killed, one seriously injured. The group was ambushed on the outskirts of the village of Sterna, not far from the Dagestani-Chechen administrative border. A doctor on the scene said that, judging from the powder burns on the bodies of the victims, the attackers finished off the wounded troops. Law enforcement officials believe there were at least five attackers, and that two of them were seriously wounded, given that blood tracks were found several hundred meters from the site of the attack.

Attacks on Russian servicemen in border areas of Dagestan have become a regular occurrence, taking place almost monthly. A number of the more radical Chechen field commanders have declared openly that their war against Russia will be finished only when they have “liberated” the whole North Caucasus. Best known among these commanders is Salman Raduev, whose village is located in the Gudermes region of Dagestan, on the border with Chechnya. Shamil Basaev, Chechnya’s former premier and the main opponent of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, openly supports Dagestani separatism. He openly told “Nezavisimaya gazeta” that “the more actively we will support other peoples to liberate themselves from the Russian empire, the more peacefully we ourselves will live” (Nezavisimaya gazeta, August 6, 1998). In Dagestan there are also those who support the creation of an independent Islamic state. A group calling itself the “Front for the Liberation of Dagestan” took responsibility for the attack on Russian troops in the Dagestani city of Buinaksk in December 1997. The front announced in leaflets that it is planning to liberate Dagestan from the unbelievers and create an Islamic state. It is possible, however, that such leaflets were a provocation by the Russian special services. The goals announced by the mysterious front, however, are openly supported by Muslim fundamentalist groups in Dagestan, particularly in the village of Karamakhi in the Buinaksk region. In December 1997 these groups signed an agreement with Raduev concerning military cooperation (see Prism, March 20, 1998).