Kommersant reported on November 24 that an operation to destroy Chechen rebel leader Dokku Umarov that was carried out over the span of three days near the village of Yandy-Kotar in Chechnya’s Achkoi-Martan district had ended in failure. Citing “unofficial information,” the newspaper reported that Umarov was wounded but managed to escape.
Kommersant quoted Col. Nikolai Varavin, who heads the press center of the Regional Operation Headquarters of the Anti-Terrorist Operation in Chechnya, as saying on November 23 that a special operation aimed at rebels near Yandy-Kotar was in its third day and was being conducted by Defense Ministry and FSB forces without the participation of Chechen police. Asked whether Umarov was among the blockaded rebels, Varavin answered: “Maybe, but I cannot yet officially confirm that.” The newspaper quoted Ruslan Badalov, head of the Chechen National Salvation Committee, a human rights group, as saying that a member of his committee who lives in Yandy-Kotar reported that Umarov was wounded but managed to break out of the encirclement and escape into neighboring Ingushetia. Residents of Yandy-Kotar said that helicopters were deployed against the rebels. “We haven’t seen anything like this for a long time – helicopters have been patrolling over the village for days, all of the roads and trails have been closed and even cellular phone service has been cut off,” the source said.
According to Kommersant, the operation against the rebel unit believed to include Dokku Umarov was preceded by the surrender of 35 rebels, including several field commanders who were members of Umarov’s inner circle. The newspaper quoted sources in Chechnya’s Interior Ministry as saying that the surrendering militants had given up Umarov’s location and that if Umarov were caught or killed, the rebels who had surrendered would be amnestied and even materially rewarded.