Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 6

On February 5, two servicemen were killed in a shoot-out with three militants in Dagestan. The shoot-out occurred as Dagestani OMON police commandos and subunits of the 102nd Brigade of the Russian Interior Ministry’s special purpose troops carried out a special operation on the outskirts of Dagestan’s capital, Makhachkala, in search of militants believed to be hiding in a wooded area on the slopes of Tarki-Tau Mountain, Russian news agencies reported. An OMON commando was killed and an Interior Ministry special purpose serviceman was wounded in the battle, while the gunmen managed to escape. According to Interfax, the wounded serviceman, Mikhail Snezhko, identified one of the militants from a photograph as Rasul Makasharipov, head of the Jennet (“Paradise” in Arabic) group believed responsible for the murders of some 40 Dagestani law-enforcers. Jennet’s members were involved in a 15-hour shootout with security forces on the outskirts of Makhachkala on January 15-16. Five militants and an officer of the elite Alfa anti-terror commando unit died in that battle, and officials initially reported that Makasharipov was among the dead. Makasharipov subsequently posted a statement on the Chechen separatist Kavkazcenter website announcing that he was alive and well, identifying himself as the “Amir of the Islamic Jamaat ‘Sharia'” and vowing to continue to fight “the regime of infidels and tyranny in Dagestan” (see Chechnya Weekly, January 19 and 26).

On February 6, Kavkazcenter posted a statement by the “Shura of the Islamic Jamaat ‘Sharia'” concerning its “military clash with occupiers and collaborationists” the previous day. In it, the group claimed it was the second time its fighters had been surrounded by reconnaissance units operating under the guise of being hunters – the first incident occurring last September, when five “mujahideen” were killed. The message warned Dagestani hunters to refrain from hunts and visits to the woods until the “complete liberation of Dagestan” or risk being treated as “occupation” reconnaissance troops. On February 4, the Sharia group declared via Kavkazcenter that Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov’s cease-fire order made public the previous day concerned “offensive military operations only on the territory of Chechnya and Russia” and that no order had been received suspending hostilities in Dagestan. “In this connection, the Sharia Islamic jamaat will continue hostilities in accordance with the plan that has been approved until it receives an order from the commander-in-chief, Maskhadov,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, on February 5 Dagestani Interior Ministry bomb disposal experts defused an explosive device that had been placed near the Mozdok- Kazimagomed gas pipeline in the vicinity of the village of Uchkent. Twenty-one people were hurt as a result of an explosion on the Mozdok-Kazimagomed gas pipeline last December, RIA Novosti reported.