With the approach of the 15th anniversary of the Islamic militants’ incursion into Dagestan in 1999, it appears that the militants have only grown stronger since then, and their activities have become a daily routine in the republic.
August in Dagestan began with a bombing aimed at a favorite target of the militants—the Center for Combating Extremism. According to investigators, on the morning of August 1, unidentified individuals in a black, VAZ Priora car approached the Center for Combating Extremism of the republic’s Ministry of Interior and fired a Shmel (“Bumblebee”) rocket-propelled infantry flamethrower at it, and then fired several shots from a handgun and fled. No one was hurt, however, because the Shmel rocket got stuck in the roof of the building and did not explode (dagpravda.ru, August 1). The official version of what happened was that the rocket did not reach the Center for Combating Extremism building at all and failed to detonate, which is why no one was killed and no buildings were destroyed (sevkavinform.ru, August 1).
Since investigators assert that the rocket malfunctioned and failed to explode for unknown reasons, it only means that a fortunate coincidence kept officers of the Center from being injured (mahachkala.bezformata.ru, August 1). Although the authorities and law-enforcement agencies focused on the fact that no one was harmed, this plays down the actual significance of the attack. A group of young people in the center of the capital of Dagestan openly shot at the headquarters of the Center for Combating Extremism in the morning hours, using handguns to fire at the building. They did so not in order to kill anybody—pistols do not serve that purpose well—but rather to intimidate their opponents. This has become the hallmark of the militants—conveying the message that they can openly strike at their opponents in their headquarters.
A few days later, on the evening of August 3, unidentified assailants fired shots at the police car near the village of Novy Chirkey in Dagestan’s Kizilyurt district. As a result, one police officer was killed and four others were hospitalized in the city of Kizilyurt with various injuries (vz.ru, August 5).
On August 5, there was a shootout on Imam Shamil Boulevard in downtown Makhachkala, according to the police. The incident took place when police asked two men who resembled criminals on the wanted list to show their IDs, and they opened fire (Kavkaz Uzel, August 5). The police responded with gunfire and the attackers were killed. The investigators identified the two slain men as 32-year-old Magomedgadzhi Bagamaev and 23-year-old Kazbek Arslanbekov. Both men were reportedly on the police list of accomplices of members of illegal armed groups. Last spring, they formally joined the Makhachkala rebel group.
It is surprising that the suspects were able to fire at the police officers but missed, given that, since the police asked them to show their IDs, they must have been particularly close to the officers. How is it they were unable to hit the police officers when shooting from such a close distance? Such stories are typical of the way the authorities in the North Caucasus explain away the murder of any suspect, claiming the police officers asked for IDs, the suspects opened fire and were killed by return fire.
Also on August 5, unknown attackers fired shots at a police vehicle and an officer was killed, the republican interior ministry reported. The attack on the police SUV (Russian-made UAZ) took place in the afternoon on the road connecting the villages of Golotl and Teletl (terrorunet.ru, August 5).
A brazen criminal act took place on Akushinski Boulevard in Makhachkala on the morning of August 8. “The killers were waiting for the victim by the entrance of (his) apartment block. As soon as the police officer stepped outside, he was immediately shot dead with an automatic weapon. The attackers fled in a Lada Priora car. The republican Investigative Committee reported that the victim was Temirkhan Salikhov, deputy head of the Makhachkala Road Police Department (riadagestan.ru, August 8). Investigators believe the murder of the police officer was connected to his job, and the Investigative Committee’s Directorate in Dagestan said that members of the so-called Makhachkala jamaat were involved in the killing. “Investigators think that the killing of Salikhov and the attack on the Center for Combating Extremism were carried out by the members of the same terrorist group, which operates on the territory of Makhachkala. In both incidents, a group of three unidentified persons and a black Lada Priora were observed (Kavkaz Uzel, August 8). The militants’ message to the authorities in carrying out such attacks is that they can reach the police officers both at their work places and their homes, so that no one is safe from a sudden attack by Makhachkala’s jamaat. Its attacks are becoming increasingly brazen.
This is by no means a complete account of the incidents that occurred during the first ten days of August—arrests, kidnappings and prison sentences handed down to people connected to the militants were not included, for example. Still, these events indicate that the situation in Dagestan is tense and there are no signs of improvement on the horizon. On the contrary, there is no doubt that the republic is become increasingly radicalized despite the fact that 15 years after Chechen militant leader Shamil Basaev crossed over into Dagestan, “victory” for Moscow still remains as elusive as ever.