Ingush militants respond to death of their leaders

Eurasia Daily Monitor
June 12, 2014 — Volume 11, Issue 106

Ingush Authorities Open Pandora’s Box by Calling for Blood Vengeance to Counter Insurgent Threat

As was previously announced, the leader of Ingushetia’s insurgents, Artur Gatagazhev (Emir Abdullah), was killed in the village of Sagopshi on May 24. Officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) blockaded and then attacked the house of a police officer where a group of militants were hiding, killing all seven of them. The militants were allegedly planning several terrorist attacks in Ingushetia, and were also tied to the assassination of the secretary of Ingushetia’s Security Council, Ahmed Kotiev (Interfax, May 24).

The head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, said the special operation in the village of Sagopshi “was carried out at a high professional level” and said the elimination of Gatagazhev’s bandit group would improve the crime situation in the republic (Kommersant, May 26). Moreover, some officials prematurely suggested that the militants would disappear from Ingushetia’s political arena altogether.

However, the Ingush militants did not wait long to retaliate for the killing of their leader. CCTV cameras captured the two young men who moved briskly toward the hospital guards’ building in Nazran, Ingushetia on the evening of June 6. The two men parked their car near the city morgue and opened fire on the checkpoint of the hospital with automatic weapons (lifenews.ru, June 7).

According to law enforcement officials, the police guards were having supper at the time. Through a strange coincidence, out of the 14 people who were packed into a tiny room, only four were affected. According to official sources, two officers, 32-year-old Alexander Belyaev and Valery Razuvaev, were seriously wounded. Two others, 32-year-old Mikhail Kraft and 31-year-old Ivan Chekalin, were slightly injured (kavkazpress.ru, June 7).

Official sources and rebel resistance sources gave different estimates of the number of casualties. According to the rebels, seven people were killed and four were wounded. All of the victims were officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Ministry of Interior. To avoid leaks after the attack, FSB officers reportedly confiscated the registration book at the hospital, in which the dead and wounded were registered. A video posted to the Internet showed a person escaping from the building at the time of the shooting, falling to the ground and then being picked up by his colleagues (06-ingushetiya.livejournal.com, June 7—Page Removed).

The attackers used up the magazines in their rifles, returned to their car in the parking lot and sped away (lifenews.ru, June 7).

According to the Russian press, which has invariably failed to learn anything about the traditions and customs of the people it describes, the attackers tried to steal the body of Ingush rebel leader Gatagazhev from the morgue. The Russian law on terrorism prohibits returning bodies of slain militants to their relatives, so the Russian media assumed that the insurgents had tried to snatch it. However, the jihadist militants are indifferent to what happens to the corpses of their slain comrades. According to their beliefs, what happens to the body is unimportant, because the soul of the slain person enters heaven with the status of a shahid, i.e. someone who died for the faith. Also, it would have been an unlikely endeavor for two people to attack a crowd of armed FSB and police officers at one end of the hospital and be able to take away corpses from the morgue, which is at the other end of the hospital.

In fact, it was an operation by Ingush militants that aimed not at taking something or someone away, but at striking and leaving the place without being harmed. The attackers chose the time of the changing of the guards for the attack, which explains why there were so many people in a small room. The room is not suitable for eating, so it is out of the question that 14 people were simply sitting there eating supper.

The attack also may have been in response to a speech made by Yevkurov on May 24, after the operation in Sagopshi was over, in which he attempted to pressure the families of the slain militants. “Until now we have acted with utter restraint and attempted to hold back relatives of the victims of the militants, who wanted to take blood vengeance against the relatives of the militants, but we will not do that anymore,” the Interfax news agency quoted Yevkurov as saying. “I ordered the Security Council to spread the information and pictures of all bandits on the wanted list and those who they killed. Let everyone look and know that” (newsru.com, May 29).

Thus, the authorities in essence pit people against each other and call on them to take blood revenge on members of the armed underground. The government’s attempts to deal with the insurgency through blood vengeance will result in a higher level conflict, as relatives of slain police officers seek revenge. The authorities are opening a Pandora’s Box. It will be difficult to close, given the spread and popularity of the blood vengeance custom among the Chechens and the Ingush, unlike elsewhere in the Caucasus.

The government’s threat to use the blood vengeance custom is unlikely to stop the militants, who attach little importance to ties between relatives. The brazen attack at the hospital in Nazran showed that the government was too hasty in declaring that the problem of jihadists in Ingushetia had been solved. In fact, it is even possible that the new, as yet unannounced leader of Ingushetia’s militants will be more active than his predecessor.

–Mairbek Vatchagaev

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