Casualties Mount in North Caucasus as Violence Spreads in April-May

The North Caucasus experienced a dramatic spike in violence in April as shootouts and suicide bombers claimed dozens of lives in the restive region.

The majority of the attacks took place in the Scotland-sized republic of Dagestan on the Chechen and Azerbaijani borders.

At least nine people were killed and two others wounded in mid-April during intense weeklong clashes between armed Islamic insurgents and Russian security service troops in Dagestan, according to reports by independent North Caucasus news outlet Kavkaz Uzel.

Clashes occurred in a village in Dagestan’s mountainous Sograti Gunib district when a 25-year-old man identified as Akhmed Shamkhalov opened fire on local police officials during a routine documents check.

Shamkhalov was killed in the ensuing shootout and was later linked by Russia’s FSB security services to a local militant group that had repeatedly threatened attacks on Russian interior ministry officials in recent months.

A second deadly clash on April 14 in Dagestan’s Dzhengutay Buinaksk district – an area closer to the regional capital Makhachkala – broke out when traffic police operating in the area were fired upon by a driver and passenger who were later identified by local pro-Moscow officials as members of an indigenous insurgent group.

Officials in Dagestan also reported on April 29 that a retired police chief from the region’s Shamil District had been shot and killed by militants.

Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee said on May 4 that three gunmen had been killed in an operation in Dagestan's central Kizilyurt District. The committee identified one of the militants killed in the operation as Omar Sabuyev, the alleged leader of an organized crime group known as the Kizilyurt Gang.

In neighboring Chechnya, six local policemen were later wounded in an insurgent attack at a security checkpoint outside the capital Grozny on May 9. Chechnya’s Interior Ministry said the incident left three police officers severely wounded, though none was expected to succumb to their injuries.

Islamic insurgents fighting in the isolated Chechen mountains claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The incident took place on the 12th anniversary of the assassination of former Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, who was killed in a bomb blast in Grozny’s central stadium during a Victory Day parade.

Chechnya and Dagestan have been the epicenter of a low-level guerilla war between insurgents seeking to establish an Islamic state in the North Caucasus since the end of the brutal Chechen wars in 2001.

After Moscow re-established control over Chechnya, many former secular independence fighters turned to ever more brutal methods of combating their erstwhile enemy while embracing an imported form of radical Islamist ideology that had been brought by Arab volunteers in the early 2000s.

By Nicholas Waller

12 May 2016 16:48