Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 190

On October 10, a suspected was arrested in connection with an attempt to bomb the Prikumsk hotel in the southern Russian town of Budennovsk. No details have yet been made available about his identity. At around 2 PM that day, the Budennovsk police received an anonymous phone call warning that a bomb was set to go off in the city’s bus station. The police managed to establish that the call had been made from a payphone in the Prikumsk hotel. A police investigator discovered a plastic box with a characteristic electronic watch mechanism inside the hotel, just near an exit. The bomb was subsequently defused (Russian agencies, October 10). Budennovsk, a small town in Stavropol Krai located 100 kilometers from Chechnya, has symbolic significance. In June 1995, guerrillas led by the Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev attacked the town, taking several hundred hostages and seizing the city’s hospital. More than 100 civilians died during that raid, which marked the start of a wave of terrorist acts in Russia carried out by Chechen rebels.

It is noteworthy that on October 6, several days before the latest attempted terrorist act in Budennovsk, three powerful explosions took place in two other Stavropol Krai towns, Nevinnomysk and Pyatigorsk. Four people were killed and more than thirty wounded in the blasts. The Russian law enforcement organs apprehended a suspect in those blasts at Pyatigorsk’s railway station, and the suspect confessed. The name of the suspect has not been released, and law enforcement officials have not commented on the blasts, except to say that they are several possible explanations for who was behind them (Russian agencies, October 6, 11).

It is also worth noting that at the end of April 1997, a bomb went off in the Pyatigorsk railway station, killing two people and injuring thirty. Two Chechen women, Fatima Taimaskhanova and Aiset Dadasheva, were arrested and confessed to being responsible. They were tried and found guilty, and in 1999 were sentenced to sixteen and nineteen years, respectively, in a maximum-security prison. The two later recanted their confessions, saying that they had been extracted under threats and torture.

In Chechnya itself, meanwhile, the situation remained unstable. There has been no let up in the guerrilla war in the breakaway republic. Russian positions were fired on seventeen times on October 10. The following day, two Russian servicemen were killed and three wounded when a troop transport truck hit a mine near the village of Beloreche, in Chechnya’s Kurchaloevskoe region. The same day, a column of Russian soldiers was ambushed in the southern Chechen town of Dzhani-Vedeno, the hometown of Shamil Basaev. Four Russian servicemen were killed and seven wounded. Russian bomb disposal experts defused nine explosive devices around the republic, including a one-and-a-half kilogram mine in the Oktyabrsk region of the Chechen capital. The Russian air force, meanwhile, hit rebel positions in the southern mountainous region of Chechnya. The entire republic remains under tight security, and twenty-eight people suspected of participation in “illegal armed formations” were detained earlier this week (Radio Liberty, October 11).