Russian paper sees priorities of counterterrorism efforts in Dagestan changed

Text of report by the website of heavyweight Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 6 July

[Report by Vladimir Mukhin: "Dagestan Is Becoming Increasingly Similar to the Gaza Strip. The Significant Growth of Rebel Terrorist Activity Has Been Recorded in the Republic"]

Another 800 law enforcement personnel will be sent from Chechnya to Dagestan before September due to the continuing tension there. More than 1,771 security and law enforcement personnel have already been sent to the republic in the last three years and have been working in the parts of Dagestan where police have to work under the worst conditions. More crimes related to terrorist activity were committed in the first six months of 2012 than during the same period in 2011, and more servicemen, policemen, and special services personnel have died. Two major counterterrorist operations, in which six militants were killed and a spetsnaz officer was mortally wounded, came to an end a few days ago in Kaspiysk and Khasavyurt.

We must point out that the deceased law enforcement personnel often were not killed in big battles, but were hunted down by members of illegal armed formations (NVF). A highway patrolman was killed by a sniper and another police officer was killed in an exchange of fire with militants just last Wednesday in Makhachkala. Shots fired at a highway patrol detail a day earlier in Khasavyurt wounded two MVD [Ministry of Internal Affairs] personnel and three civilians. A precinct policeman was shot at pointblank range from a passing car in the early hours of Thursday morning. A source in the republic’s law enforcement agencies reported that "116 crimes related to terrorist activity were committed in the past six months in Dagestan, killing 67 people, including 60 security and law enforcement personnel (41 policemen, 5 FSB [Federal Security Service] personnel, 10 soldiers of the Internal Troops of the Russian MVD, 3 MChS [Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies, and Natural Disasters] personnel, and a staffer in the prosecutor’s office) and 7 civilians." During that period, 212 individuals were injured, and 75 of them were civilians.

These figures are much higher than the statistics Dagestan’s MVD published last year. According to the updated official data reported by Kavkazskiy Uzel, citing the republic MVD, there were 46 bombings and terrorist acts in which 26 people died, including 3 security and law enforcement personnel, 6 members of the insurgent underground, and 17 civilians, in Dagestan in January-June 2011. Another 64 people were injured, including 30 security and law enforcement personnel and 24 civilians.

There evidently is a good reason that militant activity in Dagestan was one of the main topics of discussion at the meeting of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAK) in Makhachkala last Tuesday. Furthermore, the capital of Dagestan certainly was not chosen at random as the location for this meeting. According to Russian FSB Director Aleksandr Bortnikov, "problems connected with rebel activity and with preventive work are most acute here, in Dagestan." The conference was held behind closed doors and there was very little coverage of it in the central news media.

Dagestani political analyst Ruslan Gereyev believes the reason for the FSB head’s arrival in Makhachkala "was the deterioration of the situation in the republic’s western territories, particularly Dagestan’s Tsuntinskiy Rayon, where events took a turn clearly not in the republic’s favour in the last few days, similar to the scenario in the Palestinian Gaza Strip." NAK is planning to intensify the fight against terrorism, however. According to the Dagestani news media, Bortnikov described how the special services and government would be fighting terrorism in the North Caucasus in the future. He said that "the deciding factor in the prevention of terrorist threats is comprehensive work to eliminate the causes and conditions promoting the aiding and abetting of terrorists, the recruiting of youth to augment the insurgent underground, and the spread of the terrorist ideology. This is now becoming the chief priority in the suppression of the terrorist menace because it will be impossible to stop these destructive processes only with the use of force. They will continue until the system reproducing the key elements of terrorism – the ideology of violence and the people promoting and instigating it – has been destroyed. " The FSB will focus on preventive work, on the consolidation of the ethnic groups living in the region, and on the organization of religious dialogue "by members of various Islamic currents, members of the Muslim clergy, people respected in the society, elders, religious authorities, etc."

We have to point out that this kind of work was already being done before. It has not produced any tangible results to date, however. Why is the crisis in Dagestan escalating? Political analyst Ruslan Gereyev named several reasons. He feels that the causes are economic and financial. A significant rise in unemployment has been recorded in the republic. Dagestan, according to the expert, is "a republic of intangible investments and regular conferences, forums, congresses, roundtables, festivals, and other events eroding an already meagre budget." Another reason for the destabilization of the republic, according to Gereyev, is the fact that in Dagestan, "seeking justice is futile. The absence of justice motivates young people to join the armed underground. I am referring to religious young people in this case," he said.

Source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta website, Moscow, in Russian 6 Jul 12

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