Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 38

A Ural car carrying Ingushetian Interior Ministry Internal Troops was blown up on the Kavkaz federal highway in the Gamurzievsky municipal district of the city of Nazran on October 11, Kavkazky Uzel reported. One of the servicemen was lightly injured. According to specialists, the blast had the force of two kilometers of TNT and was detonated by remote control.

Meanwhile, ingushetiya.ru and Ekho Moskvy radio reported that same day that a battle had broken out between security forces and rebel fighters in a wooded area near the village of Nesterovskaya in Ingushetia’s Sunzhensky district along the republic’s administrative border with Chechnya. A source in the Ingushetian branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) said the battle broke out as a joint group from the Prosecutor General’s Office branch in the Southern Federal District and the Ingushetian FSB carried out an inspection of an area named by a captured fighter during an investigation into “the activity of an anti-terrorist organization on the territory of southern Russia.” Shots and explosions could reportedly be heard in Nesterovskaya. RIA Novosti quoted Igor Kovalenko, deputy press chief of the Ingushetian branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB), as saying that two rebel fighters were killed in the battle. Itar-Tass quoted an FSB source as saying that one of the fighters had blown himself up.

Konstantin Krivorotov, an investigator for high-profile cases with the Prosecutor General’s Office, said that one of the dead rebels was Ruslan Mirzhoev, a member of a group headed by his brother, Alikhan Mirzhoev, which in turn was part of the “Jamaat Caliphate” headed by Abu Zeit, the Arab warlord reportedly killed in February of this year. Meanwhile, a source in the Prosecutor General’s Office North Caucasus directorate told RIA Novosti that the rebels involved in the Sunzhensky district fighting were directly subordinated to the leaders of al-Qaeda. Yet a representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office main directorate in the Southern Federal District later told Interfax that while the rebels were members of the “illegal armed formations,” it was “premature” to say they belonged to al-Qaeda.

Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov, for his part, told Ekho Moskvy on October 11 that no fighting was taking place in the Sunzhensky district. “Some people here, of course, would like to see fighting, but we have no such information,” Zyazikov told the radio station. “I don’t know, you’d better check your sources. We have a normal republic, it is developing, working to build things in accordance with its own plans. If some people want to see fighting, let them do it some place else—other regions, other countries. We have different aims, different ways, a different vision, and a different mentality.”

On October 12, Arkady Edelev, the federal Deputy Interior Minister who heads the regional operational staff for coordinating Russia’s anti-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus, claimed that that the aggravation of the situation in Ingusehtia was the result of “international terrorist forces.” Edelev, who was in London as part of a delegation of representatives of Russia’s power structures, said that “Above all, during the years of Ruslan Aushev’s presidency in the republic and his support for the leadership of the nationalist separatist forces of Ichkeria a ‘rest and rehabilitation base’ for the leaders and members of the illegal armed formations of Ichkeria was created in Ingushetia.” He further claimed that Shamil Basaev and Doku Umarov, on the orders of “international terrorist centers and centers of Chechen separatists headed by [Akhmed] Zakaev,” had promoted the activization of a “collaboration base” in Ingushetia in order to demonstrate that the Chechen-Russian conflict was growing into a generalized Caucasus conflict. Edelev said that the “friendly and industrious people of Ingushetia” had no reason for an armed campaign or separatist declarations. He also said that the federal Interior Ministry would send a special group to Ingushetia to organize work to identify and “neutralize” those responsible for aggravating the situation in the republic, strana.ru reported.