ACPC Weekly News UPDATE August 17 – August 23, 2009
Chechnya: Double suicide attack kills 5 in Grozny
Just days after last week’s deadly attack on a police compound in neighboring Ingushetia, which killed 25 and injured more than 200 people, a double suicide attack on August 21 killed 4 police officers and one bystander in separate incidents in Grozny. The suicide bombers approached a group of police officers on patrol and detonated an explosive device within 30 minutes of each other. Security in the Chechen capital had been heightened after the Ingushetia attack, but the measure, largely aimed at screening vehicles traveling in and out of the capital, was ineffective; both of the attackers were traveling on bicycles. The militants’ ability to adjust to enforced security measures demonstrates a high degree of organization and adaptability. These two incidents marks four suicide attacks to occur in Chechnya since the Kremlin officially ended the counter-terrorist regime (CTO) in April 2009 on the grounds of improved security and stability in the republic.
Two days prior to the attack, Vladimir Ustinov, Kremlin’s special envoy to the Southern Federal Region, held a meeting with Ramzan Kadyrov in Grozny after which he praised the progress achieved in the realm of democracy and dismissed criticism directed at Kadyrov as “fictitious.”
In another alarming development, on the night of August 17, gunmen killed 5 members of an ethnic Russian family in Chechnya. Authorities blamed militants for the killing of the family, suggesting that the murders were repercussions for a family member having had identified a militant in video footage obtained by police.
Medvedev calls for tough measures in Ingushetia, dismisses police chief
After dismissing Ingushetia’s police chief in response to last Monday’s suicide attack in Nazran, President Medvedev sent the Deputy Minister of the Interior and a veteran of the Chechen military campaign, General Arkady Yedelev, to the volatile republic to oversee all aspects of the security apparatus in Ingushetia, effectively wresting control from local authorities. The terrorist group Riyad-us Salihin, formed in the course of the second Chechen campaign and infamous for carrying out large scale terrorist and suicide attacks in Russia, claimed responsibility for the Nazran attack. The recently reactivated group also claimed responsibility for the assassination of Dagestan’s Interior Minister in June and last month’s suicide attack at a theatre in Grozny.
Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, still recovering in Moscow from last month’s suicide attack, has returned to Ingushetia to address an increasingly deteriorating security situation in the republic.
On August 19, Medvedev held an emergency meeting with the Security Council and proposed implementing “cardinal” measures to improve the situation in the North Caucasus. Medvedev, acknowledging the difficult state of affairs in the North Caucasus, stated, "Some time ago, we got an impression that the situation regarding terrorism in the Caucasus has significantly improved [...]. Regrettably, recent events have shown that’s not the case."
One of the key proposals was to forego jury trials in terrorism cases and move the trials under the jurisdiction to other regions in Russia, citing among the reasons intimidation of jurors and incompetence on the part of the judges. The measure was strongly criticized by Russian human rights activists who denounced it as “unconstitutional.”
Arson suspected in Dagestan human rights organization office fire
The office of “Mothers of Dagestan,” a local human rights organization in Dagestan, burned down on the night of August 20. No one was hurt, but the organization’s equipment and sensitive documents were destroyed by the blaze.
Svetlana Isayeva, director of “Mothers of Dagestan,” said that the blaze could have been an arson attack meant to intimidate the staff, citing recent persecution and threats by authorities directed at the organization, which deals with highly sensitive cases of abductions and extra-judicial executions in the republic.