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19 Oct, 2010 10:19

Militants launch attack on the parliament of Chechen Republic

A group of gunmen has attacked the parliament of Russia's republic of Chechnya leaving at least three people killed in the assault.

According to Russia’s Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, who is in the Chechen capital at the moment, the victims are two militiamen and one civilian. The latest reports say that at least 17 people have been wounded. The injured include six police officers and 11 civilians.

According to investigative committee on Tuesday morning cars with deputies entering the territory of the parliament were followed by a car carrying terrorists. At least one suicide blast followed and up to three gunmen managed to break into the building and open fire. According to the country’s law enforcement agency all of them have been killed.

Kadyrov said the families of those killed will receive compensation of 300,000 rubles (about $US 10,000) and the injured will each receive 100,000 rubles.

The incident occurred as the Chechen parliament prepares to celebrate its fifth anniversary.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says that the fight against the terrorists will be strengthened. “Starting from this day our sole task will be to sweep away these bandits. Sooner or later they will get punishment they deserve,” he said.

Kadyrov also criticized Europe for not giving up alleged terrorists. “Authorities and special services in London, Warsaw and other places are hiding bandits who killed people and committed crimes in Chechnya. Where is justice? Where is democracy? We will lay our hands on Zakaev, Gakaev and Doku Umarov,” said Kadyrov.

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio station, Akhmed Zakayev said he had nothing to do with either today’s attack on the parliament or militants operating in Chechnya in general.

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev said Tuesday’s attack was unexpected.

“An operative situation like the one today happens very seldom. It’s stable and safe here,” he said, adding that the Chechen police are very professional and experienced, while the militant forces have been “nearly decapitated.”

The chief of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee, Aleksandr Torshin, says he cannot exclude the possibility that the attack was timed to coincide with Rashid Nurgaliev’s visit to the republic.

“It was a so-called PR stunt on the part of the militants,” explained Torshin.

He also noted that the incident requires special attention as the terrorists have apparently chosen a new goal for their raids.

“They are now attacking the legislative branch of power, whereas before they only targeted the executive branch,” Torshin said.

The assault was co-ordinated from abroad believes the head of the Chechen parliament Dukuvakha Abdurakhmanov.

“Whatever foreign centers, whatever foreign sites give the orders, I, as a supporter of the republic’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov, as a Chechen, firmly state: we will not succumb to fear and we will not swerve from the chosen route,” Abdurakhmanov said.

Abdurakhmanov was in the parliament at the time of the attack. Earlier there were reports that the gunfight had broken out near his office, however he was successfully evacuated.

The head of the parliament said there was no panic among the deputies during the attack. He even managed a joke: “There were few militants, so not every one of us had a chance to take part in the anti-terrorist operation.”

Meanwhile, Vladimir Vasiliev, the head of the Russian State Duma’s Security Committee thinks the main goal of the low number of the militants involved in the assault indicates the goal was local.

Irina Kobrinskaya, a political analyst from the Institute of world economy and international relations, says that despite the more-or-less stable situation in Russia, economic and social problems in the Northern Caucasus make this region more susceptible to terrorist activity. She says that what is happening in Russia, particularly in the Northern Caucasus, and in Europe shows there is some sort of global terrorist pandemic, and it can be tackled only at an international level.

It is very difficult to say how many terrorist groups there are, what is national and what is international, because this is a network. It is a form in which these killers are acting. To follow them, to catch them is a particular problem for security forces, and that is why they are co-operating all over the world in a networking format. Otherwise that does not work,” Kobrinskaya says.

Speaking about international character of terrorism Aleksandr Nagorny, a political analyst and vice president of the Association of Political Experts and Consultants, pointed to a particular interconnection between the situation in the Northern Caucasus and the situation in other regions of the world.

The borders between Afghanistan and Central Asia and Central Asia and the Northern Caucasus are not totally controlled, and the same thing is between the Middle East and the Northern Caucasus. That is why all sorts of terrorist revolutionary movements are interconnected, and of course if the pressure of the US forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq is lessened, of course we will see the upsurge of terrorist activities in the Northern Caucasus. We may say that these phenomena are interconnected closely.

Political analyst Igor Khokhlov says that terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and Pakistan see Chechnya, Ingushetia and other Russian republics as the gateway to the greater Caucasus and further expansion into Europe. “In this context the ongoing war in Afghanistan – and Americans are likely to lose this war quite soon – could have disastrous consequences all over the world. And what we have seen today in Grozny is actually one of the consequences of the instability in the whole region,” he said.

The Chechen Republic has been relatively safe from terrorist attacks in cities, with militants mostly hiding in rural areas and targeting villages from time to time. One of the largest-scale of such incidents this year was the attack on Ramzan Kadyrov’s hometown Tsentoroy in August.

Some 20 to 30 militants armed with assault rifles, grenade launchers and explosives stormed the settlement. The attack and the subsequent police operation resulted in six policemen being killed and 18 wounded. Seven local residents were hurt too. 12 attackers were killed by police, with the remainder retreating into the mountains.

The most recent bombing attack in the Chechen capital Grozny was in late June, when a suicide bomber set off an explosion near a police car. Several people were wounded by the shrapnel, but the terrorist himself was the only fatality.

The last hostage situation Chechnya was in late August, when a militant lost his nerve during an identity check. He managed to barricade himself in a nearby house, taking three people hostage. Police lost one officer during the rescue operation, but no civilians were hurt.