FSB Accuses Georgia of Aiding al-Qaeda in the North Caucasus

By: The Jamestown Foundation

Insurgent violence has continued unabated in the North Caucasus this week, with five federal servicemen dying in a shootout with insurgents in Chechnya yesterday (February 4) and Russia’s security services again accusing Georgia of aiding militants in the North Caucasus.

A source in Chechnya’s security apparatus told Kavkazsky Uzel today (February 5) that five federal troops were killed yesterday during a firefight with insurgents in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district. The source said the battle between members of a unit of interior ministry internal troops and a group of militants numbering up to 15 took place several kilometers to the south of the village of Komsomolskoe. Four servicemen were killed and another four wounded, including two officers. The federal forces then ordered an artillery strike on the area in which the rebels were blockaded, after which another shootout occurred when the rebels tried to break out of the encirclement. Another serviceman was killed and two wounded during this second shootout.

Yesterday’s battle in Urus-Martan coincided with the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s announcement that a special operation had been successfully carried out elsewhere in the republic –in a wooded area near the Grozny district village of Dachu-Borzoi. According to Kadyrov, during that operation, which was conducted by members of the republican security forces, the republican branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the interior ministry’s “Sever” special operations battalion, six insurgents were killed, including a man described by the Chechen leader as an “Arab mercenary.” Kadyrov met with State Duma deputy Adam Delimkhanov, the man he handpicked as his successor and put in charge of counter-insurgency operations in the republic, and praised him for the “very successful” operation near Dachu-Borzoi. Kadyrov said the operation was part of the push he announced last month to locate and eliminate the Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov and his inner circle (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, February 5; Interfax, February 4).

In Dagestan, Gapiz Isaev, the head of the republican interior ministry’s inter-regional department for the fight against extremism, was killed today in a bomb blast in the Dagestani city of Izerbash. ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed representative of the Dagestani interior ministry’s press service as saying that unidentified persons detonated an explosive device near a market place as Isaev’s Niva car was passing. Isaev died at the scene of the attack (ITAR-TASS, February 5).

On February 3, the head of the FSB directorate for Dagestan, Vyacheslav Shanshin, told Russia’s Vesti-24 state television channel that security forces in the republic had killed an Egyptian militant who was “one of the founders of the al-Qaeda network in the North Caucasus.” RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed FSB spokesman as saying that the 49-year-old Egyptian national, Makhmoud Mokhammed Shaaban, was killed in a shootout with police in Dagestan’s Botlikhsky district on February 2, and that a Dagestani militant and a police officer also died in the gun battle. The FSB spokesman said that Shaaban, aka Seif Islam (the sword of Islam), had seen action in Afghanistan in the 1990’s, and “was also in Sudan, Somali, Libya and Georgia,” as well as arriving in Chechnya in 1992 “to take part in operations against federal forces.” The spokesman added that Shaaban had organized the North Caucasus branch of al-Qaeda with Saudi-born Islamic radical Ibn Al-Khattab, and that he had been behind a series of bombing attacks targeting railway tracks, electricity lines and energy pipelines on the instructions of Georgian secret services (RIA Novosti, Reuters, February 3).

On February 4, a spokesman for Georgia’s Interior Ministry, Shota Utiashvili, denied the allegations that his country had assisted Shaaban. He called the charges “anti-Georgian propaganda” and said Georgia has nothing to do with the violence in Russia’s North Caucasus (Interfax, February 4).

Three policemen were wounded in Ingushetia on February 4 when their vehicle came under fire. The incident took place on the Kavkaz federal highway in the Nasyr-Kortovsky municipal district of the city of Nazran. The attackers reportedly fired automatic rifles and grenade launchers from a VAZ-2110 car and escaped (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, February 4).

A source in Ingushetia’s interior ministry told ITAR-TASS on February 4 that a terrorist attack had been averted in the city of Karabulak that day. The source said that an improvised explosive device (IED) had been found in an area where military convoys frequently travel near the city’s market and that the IED was defused by bomb disposal experts (ITAR-TASS, February 4).

On February 3, a UAZ truck carrying police K-9 teams came under fire in the village of Barsuki in Ingushetia’s Nazran district. No one was hurt in the attack (Interfax, February 3). On February 2, an unknown attacker fired a grenade launcher at Nazran’s railway station. The grenade landed on the second floor of the building, where the offices of the railway police and other security forces are located. No one was hurt in the incident (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, February 2).

On February 1, a booby-trapped grenade launcher went off on the grounds of a kindergarten in Nazran. The grenade launcher had been aimed at a building nearby housing a unit of the FSB border guard service and an explosive device attached to it detonated when bomb disposal experts tried to disarm the grenade launcher. Six people were injured in the blast, including four police officers, an investigator and a civilian. One of the policemen later died. RIA Novosti quoted an interior ministry official as saying that a grenade was launched from the weapon during the blast, but is not thought to have caused any damage (RIA Novosti, February 1).