The past weeks have witnessed an escalation of the situation in Chechnya, with the start…
The past weeks have witnessed an escalation of the situation in Chechnya, with the start of a new phase of Islamist terrorism and guerrilla warfare through two suicide operations. This marked the first time this Modus Operandi was used in Chechnya by Islamist rebels.
Suicide operations in Chechnya
On June 7th two suicide bombers—an unknown man and a young Chechen Muslim woman by the name Hawaa’ Barayev—blew up a truck loaded with explosives at a checkpoint on the grounds of the Omsk elite OMON (Russian Special Forces) unit at Alkhan-Yurt in Chechnya.
According to official Russian information agencies the operation caused the death of two policemen, while five others were wounded. The truck crashed through a perimeter fence and stopped outside a building where the elite unit was housed. After the explosion, the building was fired at from a nearby forest. This means that other rebels watched the suicide bombers, and may hint at the possibility that the explosives were blown up by remote control rather than by the suicide bombers themselves.
“A message to the Muslims”
It should be noted that the official website of the rebels (www.qoqaz.net), affiliated with the website of Osama bin Laden and his supporters (www.azzam.org) claimed that the operation was carried out only by Barayev, and caused the death of 27 Russian elite soldiers. Barayev was a cousin of Arbi Barayev, one of the prominent rebel field commanders.
The rebels noted that the operation was a message meant not only for the Russians but “a message to the Muslims” as well. “It was a cry that said no to the crimes against the Muslim Ummah, but will the people of the Ummah heed to this call and rush to support their brothers and sisters who are in need? Will the hearts of the believers come alive with this example of pure faith and courageous sacrifice?”
A rash of bombings
On June 11th a former Russian soldier, who converted to Islam and joined the Islamist Chechen rebels, carried out another suicide operation at a checkpoint in Khankala. The soldier, named by the Islamist rebels as Abdul Rahman detonated a vehicle filled with explosives only a few minutes after a federal convoy had passed through the checkpoint. The checkpoint itself was destroyed and two OMON senior sergeants were killed in the operation.
According to ITAR-TASS, the main Russian information agency, the driver was named Sergey Dimitriyev, and upon his conversion to Islam he adopted the name Jabrail. He was a fighter in the detachment of field commander Mazman Akhmadov and came to Chechnya in early 1999, where he received military training at “Khattab’s school of sabotage.” He set off the device when asked to allow inspection of the car.
On June 12th rebel forces in Grozny, the Chechen capital, under the command of Ramadan Akhmadov, succeeded in planting explosives in an army vehicle without the knowledge of the Russian soldier who drove it. The vehicle blew up at an army position. An additional explosion occurred on the first of June at an army base in Volgograd on June 1st.
To date, as was the case with the explosions of civilian houses in Moscow in September 1999, no one has taken responsibility for the attack. It seems that the rebels are cautious not to admit any terrorist activity outside of Chechnya, in order to preserve their image as guerrilla warriors and freedom fighters rather than terrorists.