Five people were killed and four wounded in Dagestan yesterday (May 13) when a convoy of telecommunications workers accompanied by police was the target of twin bombs and gunfire. The incident took place near the village of Vanashimakhi in Dagestan’s Sergokalinsky district, where the previous evening unidentified persons had set fire to the local radio-television broadcast center and retransmitting tower, which was also the site of amplifiers and antennas for the Beeline and Dagsvyazinform cellular phone companies. As a result of that incident, two districts were left completely without telephone and television service, while the connection was partially disrupted in two other districts.
Yesterday morning, telecommunications workers accompanied by Magomedsaid Ibragimov, the head of the district communications center and director of the local TBS television station, and local policemen, were driving to the scene of the arson attack when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated under Ibragimov’s car near the village of Aylizi, killing him and a telecommunications worker, Ramazan Ramazanov. Simultaneously, unidentified gunmen opened fire on the convoy from a nearby wooded area, killing two other telecommunications workers, Magomed Magomedov and Magomed Musaev, and fatally wounding an inhabitant of the Sergokalinsky district village of Urakhi, Khalimat Saisaeva, who happened to be in a car that was passing by at the time the attack occurred.
The policemen accompanying the telecommunications workers returned fire, and a short time later a second explosion occurred approximately 500 meters from the first. One policeman and three OMON police commandos suffered shrapnel wounds as a result of the blast. All four were hospitalized, but according to doctors, none received life-threatening wounds. ITAR-TASS identified one of the wounded as commander of the republican OMON-1 force, Maka Kurbanov.
Initial reports had put the number of people killed in the attack at eight, not five. Russian Interior Minister, Rashid Nurgaliev, called the attack a “well-planned action by the militants” (Kommersant, May 14; ITAR-TASS, May 13).
As Kommersant noted, yesterday’s attack was not the first targeting transmission towers in Dagestan. On May 3, unidentified attacks fired on cellular phone towers and communications equipment belonging to the republic’s interior ministry and emergency situations ministry in Karabudakhkentsky district. According to the newspaper, in the May 3 attack, seven armed men in masks burst into the premises of the Karabudakhkentsky district communications center, took equipment outside and burned it, after which they shot up transmission towers for the Gazprom Transgaz Makhachkala energy company, the MegaFon, Beeline and MTS cellular phone operators and the republican interior and emergency situations ministries.
The gunmen reportedly declared at the end of the attack that as soon as the communications center was repaired they would attack it again. Kommersant reported that, according to communications workers, the militants regularly target transmission towers because the towers are also equipped with surveillance equipment that makes it possible to establish the location of people with a high degree of precision and is used to search for rebels, as well as track their telephone traffic and use that information to “pin” crimes on them (Kommersant, May 14).
Fral Zul-Karneyevich Shebzukhov, an aide to Boris Ebzeyev, the President of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, was murdered on May 12 in the republic’s capital, Cherkessk. Three unidentified attackers beat Shebzukhov with bats, after which they shot him. Ebzeyev said that he was convinced that the murder was not an “ordinary” one: “This was not a murder connected with business, inasmuch as I know with certitude that he had no such business,” said the president, adding: “It is up to the investigators to build theories. As for myself, I am convinced that this murder had a political motive” (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 12).
On May 9, unidentified attackers fired on a police checkpoint on the Kavkaz federal highway near the city of Baksan in Kabardino-Balkaria. Seven policemen were on duty at the checkpoint at the time of the attack, during which the gunmen fired from a nearby wooded area. One police officer, identified as Alimbek Tetov, was wounded in the shooting and later died in the hospital. A short time later, an IED was found in an apartment building in Baksan. The device, which was made of ammonium nitrate and metal shards and would have detonated with the force of one kilogram of TNT, was apparently defused. Earlier, on May 9, an IED detonated near the entrance of a shop in Kabardino-Balkaria’s capital, Nalchik. No one was hurt in the blast, which caused little damage (www.newsru.com, May 9-10).