Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 154

The secretary of Dagestan’s Security Council, Akhmednabi Magdigadzhiev, claimed today that federal forces had taken full control of the villages of Tando, Ashino and Rakhata in Dagestan’s Botlikh region, and that police, internal troops and regular army troops were “cleaning” the area of remnants of Islamist insurgents, including snipers. The Russian Interior Ministry’s temporary press center, meanwhile, reported that the insurgents continue to hold the villages of Ansalt, Shodrod and Ziberkhali (Russian agencies, August 24).

Earlier this month, Islamist rebels led by Chechen warlords Shamil Basaev and Khattab seized several mountain villages in Dagestan. The Russian Defense Ministry said over the weekend (August 21) that 500-700 insurgents had been killed over two weeks of fighting. Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo claimed Sunday that mercenaries from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and other countries were among the insurgents (Russian agencies, August 22). Yesterday a military spokesman claimed that Russian forces had killed at least 168 insurgents over the weekend, reportedly capturing a strategic mountain pass and thus cutting off the rebels’ supply route from Chechnya (Russian agencies, August 21, 23). Rebel spokesman Movladi Udugov conceded the loss of the pass, but claimed that only thirty-two rebels–including three citizens of Turkey, four Arabs and eight Chechens–have been killed so far, while at least 800 Russian soldiers have died (Moscow Times, August 24).

Despite apparent setbacks, the Islamist rebels remain defiant, with Shamil Basaev announcing yesterday that they would move into “phase two” of their operation in Dagestan–the removal of Dagestani leader Magomedali Magomedov and President Boris Yeltsin, whom the rebels described in a press release as a “faithful servant of Zionist capital” (Moscow Times, August 24).

In an article published today, a newspaper correspondent reporting from the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, said that official figures of Russian losses have obviously been understated (Interior Minister Rushailo said last week that at least forty-four Russian servicemen had been killed), and that the war in Dagestan will be “long and difficult.” While Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has said that a new war with Russia must be avoided, the correspondent reported that 10,000 Chechen soldiers and various armor, including twenty tanks, are now concentrated on the Chechen-Dagestani border. He also reported that at least one Chechen tank brigade, based in the Chechen town of Shali, has already declared its allegiance to Basaev and is ready to join the fighting in Dagestan (Moskovsky komsomolets, August 24).