ROAR: North Caucasus militants “should be physically destroyed”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
The fresh terrorist act in Dagestan has forced Russian authorities to act quickly not only in eliminating the militant threat, but also in improving the socio-political situation in the North Caucasus.

Police in Dagestan are investigating the terrorist act committed on January 6 in the republic’s capital, Makhachkala. A suicide bomber killed at least five police officers and wounded 24 others in the attack.

Two terrorists suspected of plotting the attack were killed in a counter-terrorist operation in Kumtorkalinsky District on January 7.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on January 8 that law enforcement agencies must maintain “a tough line against militant and criminal groups in the North Caucasus.” The criminals “should be physically destroyed,” Medvedev told Aleksandr Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev visited the site of the terrorist act in Makhachkala on January 8. He also met with the police officers wounded in the blast and presented them with awards.

Nurgaliyev is also discussing with the police of Dagestan measures that are being taken against militants in the republic and the results of the investigation of Wednesday’s blast.

Meanwhile, another police officer was killed in Makhachkala on January 8, when an assailant opened fire on him.

Analysts doubt that the measures that have already been taken against militants in the North Caucasus are effective. “The blast in Makhachkala is similar to that in Ingushetia on August 17, 2009,” Gazeta daily said.

Many analysts note that militants stepped up their activities in the republics of the North Caucasus last year.

Ismail Ichikaev, one of the militants killed in the operation in Dagestan, was one of the leaders of militants of the so-called “Kadar zone” that includes several villages of Buynaksky District, Regnum news agency noted.

“Buynaksky, Karabudahkentsky, Kumtorkalinsky and Sergokalinsky districts of Dagestan are united by a common forest land which is often called ‘the Bermuda Triangle’,” the agency said. “Presumably, the main forces of Dagestani militants are based there,” it added.

The attacks against police officers had been increasing steadily in 2009, Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Sydoruk said at the meeting of the Federation Council in October.

Militants pose the most dangerous threat in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, Sydoruk said. They use suicide bombers and intimidate the Russian-speaking population and moderate Islam leaders.

Militants extort money from small and medium-sized business, and these funds actually finance illegal armed groups, he said. Small groups of up to 20 militants operate in all republics of the North Caucasus, he added.

The armed groups work in secrecy and sometimes they consist of no more than three people, Sydoruk noted.

According to the official, during nine months of last year more than 250 militants were killed in the republics, a number of terrorist acts were prevented, more than 2.5 tons of explosives were seized and 260 hideouts containing arms were destroyed.

President of Dagestan Mukhu Aliyev described the situation as “difficult because of terrorist threats from a religious and extremist bandit underground.” Since the beginning of 2009, law enforcement agencies conducted 18 counter-terrorist operations and more than a hundred reconnaissance operations in the republic, he told local parliament.

Dagestani police said that six organized armed groups are operating in the republic, totaling 150 militants.

Aliyev believes that “religious extremists are now disorganized and losing people and sources of financing.” However, he recognized that militants are recruiting young people “who cannot realize themselves in society” and “fall under the influence of extremists.”

Analysts wonder if Aliyev will remain the republic’s leader as his term of office is expiring while the situation in Dagestan remains difficult.

The Russian president said in December that the key to a normal life in the North Caucasus was improving living conditions. “When there is destruction around, the only way [for someone] to improve his material situation is… to commit crime,” he told journalists.

The Russian authorities are trying to apply a new model of management for the region and destroy rampant corruption. Medvedev said that special development programs would be adopted for the North Caucasus republics similar to that already approved for Ingushetia.

The president also promised to appoint a special person to be responsible for the situation in the republics of the region.

Sergey Borisov, RT