Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov reported on March 18 that one of six suspected militants killed in a special operation in the village of Khazhi-Yurt in Chechnya’s Vedeno district was the Arab militant Abu Khaled, who was in charge of providing security for Doku Umarov, the Chechen rebel leader and “emir” of the self-proclaimed Caucasus Emirate.
The slain militants were part of a group that was surrounded by security forces during the operation, which began on March 17. Russian news sources, citing “operational information,” reported that Abu Khaled had arrived in Chechnya 13 years ago and was involved in “technical and psychological training of terrorists.” Kadyrov, who briefed reporters from the site of the operation in Vedeno, said of Abu Khaled: “Having special training, he managed to hide in the mountains for many years.” Kadyrov called the killing of Abu Khaled a “big result,” adding that in recent years, Abu Khaled and two other apparent Arab fighters, Mukhanad and Yasir, had played the main role in “preparing terrorist acts.” Kadyrov said measures are now being taken to “liquidate” Mukhanad and Yasir. The Chechen president had said earlier in the day that the rebels blockaded in Vedeno, estimated to number up to 20, were part of a group led by Mukhanad, which he described as a “representative of al-Qaeda.”
Russian media reported that a rebel explosives expert, Ismail Kusaev, was also killed during the Vedeno district special operation. Again citing “operational information,” Russian news sources reported that Kusaev had gone through rebel training camps and was a bodyguard of the “Arab mercenary” Yasir. In addition, documents in the name of another militant slain during the special operation, Shamil Saltakhanov, were found at the scene of the operation.
The operation in Vedeno is reportedly ongoing and being conducted by the No. 2 police special tasks regiment of the Chechen interior ministry, supported by policemen from the Kurchaloi, Vedeno and Shali police departments and servicemen of Yug battalion of the Russian interior ministry’s internal troops. Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Magomed Daudov and Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov are on the scene, but the field commander directly in charge of the operation is the commander of the Police Special Tasks Regiment (PMSN) No. 2, Vakhit Usmaev. The security forces have employed helicopter gunships during the operation and the area where the militants are believed to have been hiding came under artillery fire (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, March 18).
The operation is part of a broader offensive that Kadyrov launched in January with the aim of killing Doku Umarov.
For its part, the rebel Kavkaz Center website claimed that the “mujahideen” involved in the fighting in Vedeno killed 7-10 “Kadyrovite murtads [apostates] and Russian kafirs [infidels]” and wounded many more “occupiers and puppets. The rebel website also reported that security forces were using helicopters and artillery, but said that only two “mujahideen” were killed, not six, as claimed by Kadyrov and other officials (www.kavkazcenter.com, March 18).
RIA Novosti reported on March 18 that three policemen were killed on the previous day, marking the start of the special operation in Vedeno. The news agency quoted an unnamed police source as saying that the first shootout took place near the village of Khazhi-Yurt on the afternoon of March 17. “A police officer was killed and another injured,” the source was quoted as saying, adding, “One of the militants was killed when police returned fire.” In a second shootout five hours later, two policemen were shot dead and a contract soldier was wounded.
A Russian interior ministry internal troops serviceman was wounded by an explosion while conducting a reconnaissance and search operation in the village of Bamut in Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan district on March 15. On the same day, a policeman was wounded when the car in which he and other officers were traveling in the village of Yandi-Kotar, also in Achkhoi-Martan district, came under fire (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, March 16).
Two members of an interior ministry internal troops special tasks unit from Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, were shot by suspected militants while conducting a security operation in a mountainous wooded area near the Chechen town of Bamut on March 14. One of the officers reportedly died instantly while the other died on the way to the hospital. Four other members of the interior ministry internal troops special tasks unit were killed in a shootout with militants in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district in February (Interfax, March 15; EDM, February 11).
Meanwhile, violence continues in other republics of the North Caucasus. A police investigator was killed in Dagestan on March 18. The investigator, identified as Senior Lieutenant Vagap Shekhabov, was shot as he was returning to his home in the village of Batayurt in the republic’s Khasavyurt district (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, March 19).
Four suspected militants were killed in the Dagestani village of Zubutli-Miatli on March 13 (ITAR-TASS, March 13).
In Ingushetia, three policemen were wounded when their post, located on the Kavkaz federal highway in Nazran, came under fire on March 18 (www.newsru.com, March 19). On March 15, a police officer identified as Girikhan Nalgiev was injured when his car was blown up in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya.<iframe src=’http://www.jamestown.org/jamestown.org/inner_menu.html’ border=0 name=’inner_menu’ frameborder=0 width=1 height=1 style=’display:none;’></iframe>