ROAR: Terror crime rates halved in two North Caucasus republics

The case of the deadly September car bomb attack in North Ossetia has been solved, Russian security officials have reported.

Suspects in the attack, at a market in Vladikavkaz, have been arrested, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) Aleksandr Bortnikov said on Tuesday. Nineteen people were killed and over 200 injured in the blast.

Among the three suspects arrested is Isa Khashagulgov, the man security officials believe masterminded the attack. They claim he is a close ally of the Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov.

According to the spokesperson for the investigation committee, Vladimir Markin, the suspects were detained as a result of joint efforts by the committee, the Interior Ministry and the FSB.

The gang belonged to a sector of the so-called Imarat (Emirate) Kavkaz, controlled by Doku Umarov, Markin said.

Khashagulgov’s gang organized more than ten blasts in Ingushetia, Bortnikov claimed, speaking at a meeting of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee on Tuesday.

Those directly involved in the blasts were active members of the gang, Daurbekov, Latyrov and a brother of warlord Khashagulgov, said Bortnikov. They were arrested, while two others put up armed resistance and were killed, he added.

It took the security services a month to investigate the terrorist act in Vladikavkaz, the daily newspaper Vremya Novostei reported. “Issa Khashagulgov has been called the head of the gang,” the paper said, noting that the same name was mentioned in reports two weeks ago. He has been described as one of Umarov’s accomplices, but “his relatives and human rights activists doubted that he could be linked to militants”.

Khashagulgov had already been detained several times, but released without charge, the daily said. He became known after the so-called “hijab case,” it noted. According to media reports, several months ago Khashagulgov’s daughter was not allowed to wear a hijab at school in Karabulak, a town in the Republic of Ingushetia. Her mother filed a complaint to the prosecutor’s office, and the girl was later permitted to wear the hijab, the paper said.

“After his latest arrest there was no information about Khashagulgov’s possible involvement in the terrorist act in Vladikavkaz,” the paper reported. It is thought that one of those detained, as mentioned by Bortnikov, could be Khashagulgov’s brother Yakub. In 2004 he was detained for an alleged attack on a servicemen’s car, but later freed after the investigation, the paper said.

Khashagulgov, “a former police officer and successful businessman,” was arrested on September 25 in Ingushetia “for organizing illegal armed groups and for the illegal possession of weapons,” Kommersant daily said.

The latest special operations, as part of the investigation into the Vladikavkaz bombing, were conducted in Ingushetia on October 7 and 8, the paper said. In the village of Yandari of the Nazranovsky District “160 kg of explosives were found in plastic barrels,” the paper said. It is not clear if the barrels belonged to Khashagulgov’s distant relative Islam, who was detained during the operation, Kommersant said.

“On the day of Isa Khashagulgov’s detention his spouse wrote a letter to Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov,” online newspaper said. Khashagulgov’s relatives do not believe he is involved in the actions of armed groups. They assume that he was detained for “his activity in the legal sphere,” referring to his complaints about earlier arrests.

“It is unpleasant that people of our republic have allegedly become involved in terrorist acts,” Yevkurov said, commenting on Bortnikov’s statement. “Their guilt is yet to be proved by the investigation and court,” he told Kommersant. “But I should note that thanks to the activities of FSB officers who neutralized the top bandit underground, the situation in the republic has become more stable.”

“The main thing is that people’s attitude to militants is changing,” Yevkurov said. “All the successful operations have been conducted thanks to information received from local people.”

The terror crime rates almost halved in the republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia during this year, the FSB chief said on Tuesday. But illegal armed groups remain active in Dagestan, he said, adding that the situation in the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria is complex as well.

More than 300 militants have been killed and 400 detained during security operations in the North Caucasus since the start of the year, Bortnikov stressed. Security services carried out more than 50 counter-terrorism operations and over 4,500 combat ones, in the North Caucasus Federal District.

Meanwhile, head of the Chechen republic Ramzan Kadyrov on Tuesday accused self-exiled militant envoy Akhmed Zakayev of being involved in the August attack on the village of Tsentoroy in Chechnya.

Russia is seeking Zakayev’s extradition from Britain, on charges of terrorism. He was granted asylum status in the UK in 2002.

Kadyrov alleges that the attack on his home village was organized in the run-up to the so-called congress of Chechens in Warsaw. This could have elevated the authority of warlord Khusein Gakayev, whose men conducted the attack, Kadyrov said.

Zakayev has reportedly dismissed the so-called “government of the Republic of Ichkeria” and has sworn allegiance to Gakayev.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT