A suicide bomber critically injured Yunus Bek Yevkurov, the President of the Russian Federation Republic of Ingushetia, today in a suicide bombing attack. This latest attack follows a recent wave of high-impact terror attacks in the North Caucasus, which began after the leader of the Caucasus Emirate revived the Riyad-us-Saliheen martyr brigade in late April and declared that this year would be the “offensive year.”
The bombing took place at around 8:30 a.m. local time as Yevkurov’s armored convoy was driving down the road leaving Nazran’s city center, heading toward Magas. A suicide car bomber drove out onto the road, rammed into Yevkurov’s convoy, and immediately detonated the explosives. Yevkurov was wounded and two of his body guards were killed.
There are a varying reports on the President’s condition, from statements by Yevkurov’s spokesman claiming he only suffered minor wounds, to reports from doctors that he is in critical condition with brain injuries and serious burns.
Today’s suicide attack comes on the fifth anniversary of the infamous raid on Nazran, when Chechen and Ingush insurgents poured into the city and executed approximately 88 officials from the Federal Security Service, border guards, and policemen.
The latest wave of attacks
The latest attack against President Yevkurov is the fourth high-profile assassination bid by Islamist insurgents in recent weeks, not including many other less prominent assassinations of government officials in the region. It is also the third suicide bombing attack in the north Caucasus since Doku Umarov officially revived the Riyad-us-Saliheen martyr brigade in April. There have also been an increasing number of attacks against security forces in recent months, and many of these attacks are showing greater use of various explosive devices.
These attacks signal a revival of terror tactics harking back to the era of the second Chechen war, when the now-deceased warlord Shamil Basayev led the movement’s overall military wing.
On May 15 this year a suicide bomber killed two policemen after failing to enter the Interior Ministry in Chechnya’s capital, Grozny. This attack came just a month after Russia had ended counterterrorism operations in the area and Chechen President Kadyrov had declared that the insurgency was crushed and defeated.
Among the most detrimental of the recent attacks until now was the June 5 sniper assassination that killed Lieutenant General Adilgerei Magomedtagirov, the head of the interior ministry of Dagestan. The sniper murdered Magomedtagirov as he was leaving a wedding. This prompted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to travel to Dagestan to showcase the Kremlin’s campaign to bring calm to the North Caucasus.
Another very high-profile assassination took place on June 10, when insurgents shot and killed Aza Gazgireyeva, the deputy head of Ingushetia’s supreme court. She was killed inside a public mini bus when it came under fire in the town of Nazran, Ingushetia. She had been heavily involved in the investigation of the June 2004 Nazran raid.
Three days later, gunmen shot and killed Bashir Aushev. He was the Ingush interior minister before becoming deputy prime minister. Aushev resigned the deputy prime minister position in late 2008. More recently he had worked for the regional government, according to Interfax news agency. His exact job title at the time of his death is not currently clear.
Doku’s recent decrees in relation to militant activity
Recent attacks in the Caucasus follow the late-April Internet video statements by Doku Umarov, the leader of the Caucasus Emirate. He signaled that the jihadist movement would revert back to the use of terror tactics, including suicide bombings. He even attempted to justify the killing of Russian civilians [See LWJ: Caucasus jihad: Terror tactics back on the horizon?].
The Caucasus Emirate’s return to terror tactics may be an attempt to portray the governing elites as illegitimate and incapable of effective rule over the region, in response to Moscow’s claims that the insurgency is officially defeated.
In Doku’s video statement of April 25, he extolled the re-emergence of the Riyad-us-Saliheen martyr brigade. “Insha’Allah, now there is a great number of Mujahideen among us, who are joining Jamaat of Riyad-us-Saliheen, who want to conclude, at the cost of their lives, the bargain with Allah, Who promised them Paradise in exchange for their Jihad.”
The Riyad-us-Saliheen brigade was commanded by the infamous warlord Shamil Basayev before his death in June 2006. This brigade carried out suicide attacks and the most deadly attacks in the Caucasus and in Russia, including the Beslan school hostage crisis, the destruction of commercial airlines, and the theater siege in Moscow. The Riyad-us-Saliheen brigade also conducted the assassination of the Russian-imposed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov in 2004. That attack mirrored today’s assassination attempt against President Yevkurov.
Doku stated that the revival of the infamous Riyad-us-Saliheen brigade signals this year will be “the offensive year.” Statements from mujahedeen leaders are often mere propaganda and exaggerations. Recent events demonstrate, however, that Doku’s decrees are a serious and sincere indication of an insurgency that is not only active, but potentially even more deadly in its logistical capabilities and more determined to employ suicide bombings and other terrorist tactics against civilian as well as other targets.
While joint counter-terror operations still taking place in the forests of Chechnya and Ingushetia show no signs yet of quelling the insurgency, the Kremlin may find it difficult to convince the public that the insurgency is indeed crushed. The recent claims that the war is “officially” over are starting to look no better than a hampered symbolic gesture to promote notions of stability and improved security that are simply not present.