Russia to try out new tactics in fight against terrorism in Dagestan

Russia is to try out new approaches and tactics in fight against terrorism in the southern republic of Dagestan. Addressing a session of the National Antiterrorist Committee in the Dagestani capital, the Russian FSB boss said that "this direction is now becoming a staple in the suppression of terrorist threats, as it is impossible to stop the destructive processes only through the military operations," the weekly said. The following is the text of Mairbek Agayev report by Russian weekly newspaper Chernovik on 6 July headlined "On 12th of July"; subheadings as published:

"The venue of the meeting has not been chosen accidentally, as in Dagestan, the problems associated with the activities of the bandits are identified most sharply," the director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), Aleksandr Bortnikov, said when opening the thirty-fourth session of the National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC), held in Makhachkala last Tuesday.

Aleksandr Bortnikov, who also chairs the NAC meetings, is not a frequent visitor in our republic: in our memory, this is his second working visit to Makhachkala. Naturally, the second visit, as well as the first, was associated with increasing activity of the subversive underground and the searches for options to minimize terror threats. Perhaps, for this reason, the newly-appointed interior minister, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, who also arrived in Dagestan to attend the meeting of the NAC, remained in the shadow of Bortnikov.

Apart from them, the president of the republic, Magomedsalam Magomedov, the leaders of the antiterrorist commissions and operational headquarters of the republics of the North Caucasus Federal District, heads of several regions of the North Caucasus Federal District, led by the plenipotentiary representative of the Russian President to the district, Aleksandr Khloponin, discussed problems of terrorism.

Bortnikov was absolutely right about the non-randomness of the choice of the venue for the meeting. At a time when he was announcing plans of special services on combating extremism and terrorism at the White House, on the other end of Dagestan, his subordinates blocked a large group of rebels; Kolokoltsev’s subordinates uncovered an organized criminal group in Khasavyurt engaged in extorting money from businessmen, robberies and kidnapping for several years. We’ll return to those events below…

Bortnikov’s speech must have surprised many of the attendees. He began by saying that along with targeted military operations to neutralize the subversive groups and their leaders, the priority direction in countering terrorism is a purposeful preventive work. "This direction is now becoming a staple in the suppression of terror threats, as it is impossible to stop the destructive processes only through the military operations. They will persist as long as the system of reproduction of the key elements of terrorism – an ideology of violence, its bearers and masterminds are not destroyed," said the FSB director. The decisive factor in the prevention of the terror threats, he believes is comprehensive offensive operations and moreover, directed at removing the causes and conditions conducive to the formation of supporters of the militants, the reinforcement of the underground at the expense of recruiting young people, and the spread of the ideology of terrorism.

Next, the FSB chief made public, perhaps, the most unexpected point of view for the attendees. He said that the commission to adapt ex-combatants into civilian life is playing a major role in normalizing the situation in Dagestan: "The accumulated experience of Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Chechnya suggests that the commission on the adaptation will be a key element in the prevention of terrorism and the exposure of criminal ideas of its bearers with proper attention to them by heads of the constituent parts."

The last point in Bortnikov’s speech was a twist towards corruption. "We should pay attention to the work on decriminalization of the situation in the district, aimed at radically reducing illicit trafficking in arms, ammunition and explosives. We should step up efforts to fight corruption and organized crime groups which are increasingly being drawn into religious extremist underground for terrorist activities," the head of the FSB concluded, before the meeting continued behind closed doors.

Closer to the battle

Let us return briefly to the event in Kizlyar. On Tuesday morning, units of the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service for the Republic of Dagestan besieged a private house in the village of Zhdanovo. Initially it was assumed that up to eight members of the underground were in the house. Apparently, this was due to the density of the security forces in the cordoned-off area. According to local residents, there were at least 150 power-wielders in the village. The assault was at hand after the militants refused (under the NAC version) to lay down their arms and surrender…

As a result, four members of the Kizlyarskiy subversive and terrorist group were killed. Two of them were identified in a few minutes. They are Bagavudin Bagayev (Guseyn Apandi) and Magomed Magomedov. According to security officials, two native brothers of Bagayev, who had also belonged to the sabotage group, were neutralized last year. The fighting also continued the next day. In the suburban village of Zarechnoye (Khasavyurt), security forces blocked a private house where two members of the underground were Eldar Muziyev, Sharapudin Nimatulayev and a woman – Diana Kamavova. After the negotiations, she left the house, and the gunmen, firing, went on break, but were shot. On the same day, a real battle involving over one hundred special forces, died down in a relatively quiet Kaspiysk. According to the NAC, prior to the fight, the house owner and his wife, two of their daughters with two grandchildren went out of the house. According to the operational headquarters, the ringleader of the Kaspiysk sabotage group Murad Abdurakhmanov, as well as active members of this group Kurban Dzhapayev, Ulubek Nutsalov and Mevludin Misrikhanov were killed in the attack.

Apparently, both Bortnikov and Kolokoltsev were briefed on the outcome of the effective operation in Zhdanovo. However, they had what to think and talk about with the leaders of the Dagestani law-enforcement agencies. Only after four days, an unprecedented for over the recent two years, a wave of armed confrontation of militants and members of the security agencies swept through the third of the republic.

Going back to the first sentence of the lead paragraph of this article, it seems that the chief of the FSB and the interior minister of the country could not come up with arguments against holding such a meeting exactly in Dagestan. Neither neighbouring Chechnya, Ingushetia, nor even Kabarda-Balkaria can be compared with Dagestan on the indicators of the criminal pressure.

It is not worth to speak on the size of the territories and the populations of these constituent parts (on both measures, they are far inferior to our republic). Judging by the number of the assigned forces, not to mention the current 17,000-strong army of the Dagestani Interior Ministry and the other law-enforcement agencies, there is hardly a comparable region in the country. Where is the result, then? The same, for example, is about Karabudakhkentskiy District, where the presence of the power-wielding units at least reminds us a curfew regime. On 4 June, a summer dugout of militants containing two explosives, amounting to 25 kg of TNT was discovered near the village of Kakamakhi.

When thinking about the capacity of various law-enforcement agencies, Aleksandr Bortnikov probably feels much more comfortable than Vladimir Kolokoltsev. And it’s not about the experience or other personal qualities. For several years now, the main burden of conducting special operations against militants lay on the FSB, while the Interior Ministry (not including special units of the Internal Troops) plays the role of blocking the perimeter of the area of counter-terrorist operations. Nothing more. We’ll know soon whether or not the ambitious new minister Kolokoltsev to break this tradition. In the meantime, he is faced with another, not less important task – to make sure that the spinning flywheel of reforms in the Interior Ministry also incorporate the North Caucasus Federal District police structures, in particular, Dagestan. We should frankly admit that the ex-Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev did not manage to fully cope with this problem, if not to say that he did not cope with it at all. The first visit of Kolokoltsev to Dagestan will be of great importance.

Only over the last year of his tenure as the interior minister, Rashid Gumarovich visited our republic three times. But his trips were of implying nature. During one of the visits to Makhachkala, a suicide bomber blew himself up. According to some reports, he was planning to sabotage the minister himself at a time when he was supposed to visit the hospital for the Interior Ministry personnel. However, even after such an act, Nurgaliyev preferred not to make any dramatic statements, not to mention, personnel changes in the command of the Dagestani police. The next day, after the last visit to Makhachkala, Nurgaliyev was altogether dismissed. It is hardly that Kolokoltsev would want to work in the Caucasus in this way. However, there are new threats. A week ago, a video was posted on the Internet in which a group of well-built armed men in masks, calling themselves Robin Hoods, sent an ultimatum to the leader of the Kizilyurtovskiy militant groups, Temirbek Temirbekov (Abu Muaz).

In doing so, they threaten to kill not only the ringleader, but all supporters of the militants in the district. The day before yesterday, the Interior Ministry website carried an appeal to the "Robin Hoods," in which they were asked to lay down their arms and warned against resorting to crime. But the matter seems to have gone, and it is unlikely that the "dry" request of the police would stop unknown avengers. By the way, our republic did show anything new and unknown to the world. Earlier this year, a similar group called the "Black Hawks" appeared in Kabarda-Balkaria. Militants of the group got down to business immediately. They threw Molotov cocktails at the home of the most odious insurgent – Astemir Mamishev.

It would be naive to believe that the actions of "Robin Hoods" in Dagestan will not cause a new round of tension in the already difficult socio-political and crime situation. To become known as the minister under whom tensions are only rising for Kolokoltsev will be the same as an imminent inglorious resignation. However, these are only fears, which have a chance of not coming true. To do so, threatening roars would not be enough at subordinates but also the strong will, including for taking radical decisions that are in conformity with the law…

Source: Chernovik, Makhachkala, in Russian 6 Jul 12

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