Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 30

The death of Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basaev (Chechnya Weekly, July 14) and Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev’s offer of amnesty to Chechnya’s rebels (Chechnya Weekly, July 20) have been followed by a number of optimistic statements from federal and Chechen officials about the progress made against insurgents in Chechnya and the North Caucasus. On July 24, Interfax quoted Chechnya’s chief prosecutor, Valery Kuznetsov, as claiming that 46 rebels had surrendered since the start of July. On July 26, Caucasus Times quoted Chechen law-enforcement agencies as saying that 50 members of “illegal armed formations” had given themselves up since the start of July, with the largest group of these fighters personally surrendering to Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov in Gudermes. Federal Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev said on July 26 that the total number of “illegal armed formation” members in the Southern Federal District today does not exceed 800, down from the earlier number of 1,200-1,800. On July 18, Kadyrov told the board of the Chechen Interior Ministry that only 50 active rebels remain in Chechnya, with part-time rebels and rebel sympathizers numbering only 200-300. Kadyrov said that he believed that there would be “good results” by August 1, the deadline for Patrushev’s amnesty offer. “There was a den of the enemy in the republic; there were many visiting militants—Turks, Arabs, Azerbaijanis, Ingush, Dagestanis,” Itar-Tass quoted him as saying. “I think those remaining will come to us.” If not, Kadyrov added, they would face heavy sentences or “liquidation.”

Yet, as Nezavisimaya gazeta noted on July 26, despite the federal authorities’ amnesty offer, “members of the illegal armed formations in the North Caucasus do not intend to come out of the woods.”

On July 24, an explosion hit two border guard vehicles as they were driving past a local hospital in Nazran, Ingushetia, RIA Novosti reported. An Ingushetian Interior Ministry source told the news agency that one border guard was slightly wounded in the blast. On July 20, the administration building in the village of Ali-Yurt in Ingushetia’s Nazran district was fired on by a grenade launcher. No one was hurt in the attack. On July 19, two Ingush policemen were seriously wounded when a GIBDD (Federal Road Safety Service) traffic police post near Ingushetia’s administrative border with North Ossetia was shot up. That same day, the separatist website posted a claim of responsibility for the attack from “the mujahideen of the Ossetian ‘Jamaat Kataib al Khoul’” (Chechnya Weekly, July 20). One of the two traffic policemen later wounded in the attack later died in the hospital, Kavkazky Uzel reported on July 24.

On July 26, the separatist Chechenpress news agency posted a statement by the Jamaat Kataib al Khoul that reported that one of its fighters, Abu Dudzhana, had been killed in “an unequal battle” with members of the North Ossetian branch of the FSB and the anti-organized crime unit (RUBOP) as they were conducting a zachistka, or sweep, in Kartsa, an ethnically Ingush village in North Ossetia. According to the statement, Abu Duzhana was a “nominal” employee of the Ingushetia Interior Ministry who had been spying on it at the behest of the emir of the Jamaat Kataib al Khoul. The Jamaat Kataib al Khoul claimed that Abu Duzhana had also established links between the jamaat and “one of the autonomous groups of Ingush mujahideen.” According to the group, Abu Duzhana’s home was raided by members of one of the North Ossetian special services, and during the ensuing battle he wounded three of the raiders with a grenade—one of whom later died—before being killed himself.

Caucasus Times on July 26 reported that an employee of Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry, Abubakar Khamkhoyev—apparently Abu Duzhana’s real name—blew himself up on July 25, killing one policeman and wounding two, when they tried to detain him on suspicion of involvement in a terrorist group. The sweep and shoot-out near the outskirts of Kartsa came after North Ossetian law-enforcement personnel stopped a car on the outskirts of Vladikavkaz that was carrying 40 kilograms of TNT from Ingushetia to North Ossetia. According to Caucasus Times, the law-enforcers arrested two ethnic Ingush from North Ossetia’s Prigorodny district, who named their accomplices and gave information about caches of arms and explosives.

In Dagestan, meanwhile, reported that a policeman was killed in a wooded area on the outskirts of the city of Buinaksk on July 26 during an operation to capture an armed militant. According to the Dagestani Interior Ministry spokeswoman Angela Martirosova, the militant was killed during the exchange of fire. The separatist Chechenpress information agency reported on July 26 that the battle had taken place near the village of Verkhny Dzhengutai after “local national traitors” spotted two armed “mujahideen” and reported them to the police. On the evening of July 23, two police officers were killed and another wounded during a sweep operation in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district. “One police officer was killed on the spot and another was mortally wounded and died when a police squad came under fire in a wooded area outside the village of Endirei last night,” Interfax quoted a source in the Khasavyurt police department headquarters as saying on July 24. “The militants were blocked. Another police officer was wounded after the sweep operation resumed at dawn.” According to the source, one militant was killed in the exchange. The Dagestani Interior Ministry, it should be noted, reported that only one police officer was killed in the shootout outside of Endirei and another policeman wounded.

Violence also continued inside Chechnya. RIA Novosti reported on July 25 that a serviceman was killed when a roadside bomb exploded as a convoy of four cars and two armored personnel carriers (APCs) was passing near the village of Prigorodnoye in the Grozny rural district. “A contract soldier sitting on an APC at the rear of the convoy was killed,” a police source told the news agency. The Regnum news agency reported on July 21 that the previous day, 15 unidentified gunmen had stopped a car carrying four policemen—two officers of the criminal investigation department and two patrol-sentry service officers—in the Shatoi district village of Dai. According to Regnum, the gunmen disarmed all four policemen, after which they shot to death the two criminal investigation department officers and allowed the two patrol-sentry service officers to go. Interfax reported that the two policemen had been kidnapped in Dai and that their whereabouts were unknown.

Perhaps because of the ongoing attacks across the North Caucasus, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev on July 25 appeared to be playing down expectations of an impending victory over the region’s insurgents. According to Itar-Tass, during a meeting with the heads of the anti-terrorist commissions of the Urals Federal District held in Kurgan, he told them, “One cannot speak about the liquidation of a terrorist threat in the North Caucasus.” He added, “Our task at present is to take measures so as to forestall possible threats. It is important to organize secure preventive work in regions so as to prevent manifestations of extremism and terrorism.” It should be noted that, as he has done in the past, Patrushev called the attacks “incidents of international terrorism in Russia” and said that members of al-Qaeda are operating “in the territory of the Russian Federation.”