On September 1 Russian troops occupied the Dagestani villages of Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi, the main centers of the republic’s Islamists–the so-called Wahabbis (NTV, RTR, ORT, September 1). If the Russian mass media is to be believed, all the villages in Dagestan’s Botlikhsk region have been retaken from the Islamists.
However, even if these reports are credible, it is premature to say that Moscow has reasserted full control over Dagestan. The Dagestani guerrillas have, as before, bases in the republic’s mountainous regions, and the Russian forces are simply unable to drive them out of these areas. More important, Wahabbism has rather wide support among the republic’s population. As the press secretary of Dagestan’s State Council told the Monitor’s correspondent, from 5 to 10 percent of the republic’s population supports this variant of Islam. In the wake of the current conflict, the number of radicals among the Wahabbis–those who support a violent separation from Russia–will undoubtedly rise. To train and arm new fighters is no problem. Next door is Chechnya, and recent experience shows that the federal forces simply cannot close it off. The Dagestani Wahabbis are strongly supported by the Chechen opposition, which is well armed and possesses excellent military experience.
LUKASHENKA PUTTING HIGH PRICE TAG ON UNION WITH RUSSIA.