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28 Jun, 2009 06:08

Anti-terror operation continues despite Ingush president assassination attempt

President of Russia's Southern Republic of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Yevkurov is still unconscious after a suicide bomber attack. Nevertheless, the assassination attempt will not disrupt the republic’s fight against terror.

Reports indicate that the president’s condition is stable and is expected to improve in the course of the next few days.

“Indeed, he is in a serious condition, but there is no threat to his life,” Kali Akhilgov, the spokesperson for the Ingush president told Echo Moscow radio on Wednesday.

The blast left Ingush president, his brother Uvais and the president’s driver wounded, while a bodyguard was killed.

At the moment Yevkurov is undergoing treatment in one of Moscow's top clinics for severe head and chest injuries.

Russian officials say the attack may have been in retaliation to a crackdown on militants, spearheaded by Yevkurov following his appointment last October.

“One must admit that Yevkurov managed to step up the activity of the republic’s law enforcement agencies which have taken an active part in neutralizing armed gangs lately. The attack was in response to Yevkurov's actions,” Federal Security Service head Aleksandr Bortnikov said on Wednesday.

“We managed to prevent the assassination attempts several times. To our deep regret this time we failed,” he added.

In his latest interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper – just two days before the assassination attempt – the Ingush President blamed corruption as a key contributor to the poor security situation in the region.

“Distrust towards the authorities and corruption are the main reasons for the current state of affairs in Ingushetia. Young men are joining militants and becoming criminals because our society, our families are suffering from a crisis. They see how government officials are building mansions and drive expensive cars, while the unemployment rate is more than 50%,” he said.

President Medvedev
visited Yevkurov in hospital and later, he told the country’s Security Council to take prompt action to regain control in Ingushetia.

Anti-terror operation set to continue

Since May, police in Ingushetia and neighbouring Chechnya have been holding joint operations against militants along the border between the two Russian republics.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has pledged that Chechen police will continue to cooperate with Ingush colleagues to tackle terrorism in the region.

“We will work to establish order in our brotherly republic of Ingushetia. We have a strategy and we have got enough force to implement it. We lost a lot of time as we were trying to minimize the number of casualties,” Kadyrov said. “President Medvedev instructed me to assist the acting president of Ingushetia. We’ll increase our efforts against extremists. And we’ll be praying that Yunus-Bek Yevkurov will recover as soon as possible.”

Political analyst Vladimir Kozin believes Kadyrov will make progress in fighting militants in the Republic of Ingushetia:

“[Kadyrov] was very successful in combating terrorism and separatism in his own republic, Chechnya. So he will no doubt be able to cooperate with Ingushetia on this matter.”

Ramzan Kadyrov also said that Chechen and Ingush authorities will conduct their own investigation into the assassination attempt according to “local traditions,” independently of the probe being conducted by the Interior Ministry and Investigative Committee, Interfax reported. The Chechen president announced the investigation after meeting the acting president of Ingushetia, Rashid Gaisanov.

However, Ingush officials are not rushing to accept the offer. Instead, there is a determination that the problem should be resolved from within.Police here are on high alert in case militants take advantage of the situation, which still remains tense seven days since the assassination attempt.

No unification in sight

Earlier in the week, Kadyrov dismissed speculations of a possible unification of Chechnya and Ingushetia, divided back in 1991 into two entities within the Russian Federation.

The speculations were fuelled by the recent announcement on the Chechen president’s website that Kadyrov is going to head the anti-terror fight in Ingushetia personally.

“I want to express my perplexity over the allegations that there are plans to unify Chechnya and Ingushetia. I wonder who might have such plans. I don’t. Yevkurov doesn’t. The federal center does not either,” the Chechen president was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying. “I would like to repeat that nobody in Chechnya and Ingushetia has brought up and is not planning to bring up the issue of unification of the two republics.”

The Chechen leader stressed that each of the republics has its peculiarities of economic development and conditions in the social sector.

“We presume that Russia is strong when its regions stand firm on their feet,” he said.

Kadyrov emphasized that it is necessary to develop the economy and turn the North Caucasus into a region appealing to most well-to-do investors and rich tourists.

“Then all this talk about where borderlines should pass and who should unify or separate will become irrelevant,” he said.