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Attack On Ingushetia President Latest In Troubling Trend

The site of an attack on President Yunus Bek Yevkurov near Nazran, 22Jun2009
The site of an attack on President Yunus Bek Yevkurov near Nazran, 22Jun2009
By Liz Fuller
*Correction appended

The president of Russia's troubled North Caucasus region of Ingushetia is in critical condition after his convoy was hit by an explosion this morning near Nazran.

Yunusbek Yevkurov is the fourth official to be wounded or killed in Daghestan and Ingushetia during a bloody three-week span in an incident that bears signs of an assassination attempt by the North Caucasus resistance.

The 45-year-old career military intelligence officer, whom Russian President Dmitry Medvedev named eight months ago as president of the Republic of Ingushetia, was injured when a car bomb exploded as his cortege was driving from Nazran to Magas.

Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, told journalists in Moscow that "an explosive device equivalent to 70 kilograms of TNT went off as the [Ingush] president's motorcade passed through Nazran."

He said preliminary findings indicated the explosive was "planted in a foreign-made vehicle, where a suicide bomber might have been sitting, which was parked by the side of the road."

Yevkurov's younger brother reportedly died in the attack and two bodyguards were injured.

'Year Of Offensives'

Both the timing of the assassination attempt -- five years to the day after Ingush and Chechen militants staged multiple attacks on the republic's Interior Ministry, killing up to 80 people -- and the modus operandi suggest that it was the work of the North Caucasus resistance.

In a video address in late April, resistance commander Doku Umarov announced that the notorious Riyadus Salikhiin suicide brigade has been revived, and he warned that "this will be a year of offensives."

Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Aleksandr Bortnikov, who met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev after the attack, appeared to lay blame for the incident on Ingushetia and Chechnya rebels.

"The police forces of Ingushetia and Chechnya, in their joint special operations, have forced the bandits out into remote areas of Ingushetia and Chechnya, so naturally the bandits have started fighting back aggresively," Bortnikov said. "Today's act was most probably an attempt to influence and destabilize the situation. The bandits have made numerous threats against Yevkurov, and I believe this is an act of retaliation by the bandits."

Over the past two weeks, militants have killed Daghestan's interior minister, Lieutenant General Adilgirey Magomedtagirov, and two senior Ingushetian officials.

The resistance website kavkazcenter.com reported the attack on Yevkurov two hours after it occurred, but neither kavkazcenter nor the Ingush resistance website has claimed responsibility for it.

Daunting Task

As head of one of the most unstable and impoverished republics in Russia, Yevkurov was faced with a string of seemingly impossible tasks: to eradicate the corruption and inefficiency that pervaded government structures under his loathed and compromised predecessor Murat Zyazikov; to secure the cooperation of a small but vocal political opposition alienated by the murder on August 31 of Magomed Yevloyev, owner of the independent website ingushetia.org; to turn around the republic's moribund economy and reduce the unemployment rate, currently one of the highest in the Russian Federation; and, above all, to reduce the incidence of resistance attacks on police, army and security personnel.

Ingushetia President Yunusbek Yevkurov in Moscow on June 12
In 2008 alone, there were at least 61 acts of terrorism in which over 70 police and military personnel were killed and 167 injured. In retaliation for those attacks, police routinely target young men known as practicing Muslims on the street, and then brand them Islamic militants.

Yevkurov succeeded in coopting to his team several young opposition activists. He launched an energetic crackdown on corruption, even making public last week the number of his mobile phone and encouraging citizens to call him directly to report instances of corruption, unfair dismissal, or failure to pay salaries on time.

In stark contrast to his predecessor, he also met regularly with members of the public to discuss their grievances, and set up an e-mail account for that purpose.

He met with Yevloyev's parents, and in February convened a meeting of some 180 families mired in blood feuds, as a result of which 47 of them abjured any further blood vengeance.

Countering Insurgency?

Medvedev signaled his confidence in and support for Yevkurov. During a brief visit to Magas in late January, Medvedev announced 29 billion rubles ($878 million) in economic aid to Ingushetia to help revive the economy.

But Yevkurov proved unable to make any headway on the primary problem: neutralizing the Ingushetian arm of the North Caucasus resistance.

During the first four months of this year, 59 people have been killed, 18 of them police or military personnel.

Five weeks ago, Yevkurov agreed to the proposal by his Chechen counterpart, Ramzan Kadyrov, that the two republics' interior ministries should coordinate their efforts to track down and destroy resistance fighters.

Medvedev announced after the Yevkurov attack that he was sending South Federal District envoy Vladimir Ustinov to Ingushetia to represent the federal authorities "in a more concentrated manner."

But the fresh attack appeared to cast doubt once again on the efficacy of Moscow's counterinsurgency strategy in the North Caucasus.

* An earlier version of this story put Yevkurov's age at 48. He is 45.
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ray from: Lawrence, KS
June 23, 2009 02:30
The report I watched on Zvezda News hinted that perhaps some of the corrupt officials within the local Ingush government may have had a hand in this. We ought to be wary of immediately ascribing these types of attacks to a Muslim/Islamic resistance.

by: Mike from: UK
June 23, 2009 02:38
Why is Russia desperatly holding on to these areas (Ingushetia, Dagestan and Chechnya) when it recognised the separation of South Ossettia so quickly because of the Georgia dispute?

by: Ivan from: Spain
June 23, 2009 09:46
Hi Mike.<br />What do you think about the human rights violation carried out by UK soldiers on Argentinian POWs during the Malvina's war?

by: Andrew from: Auckland
June 23, 2009 12:10
@Ivan, surely you mean the human rights violations carried out by the Argentine military against its own troops?<br />They were pretty happy to surrender to the Brits, as they got fed and nobody beat them.<br /><br />@Mike.<br /><br />The reason is that the Russians are the same imperialist scum they always have been, and are hypocrites to boot.<br />Russia sees the Caucasus (including Georgia, Azerbaijhan and Armenia) as its rightful imperial property.<br />Recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is simply a prelude to outright annexation.<br />God help anyone in the Caucasus who actually dreams of freedom.

by: Jake from: WI
June 23, 2009 20:28
Good point, Ivan, and completely relevant. Over the last 25 years, Islamist Falklandista rebels have killed 26,000 people in their ongoing struggle against the hated British occupiers, culminating in the savage murders of 300 students and teachers at Stanley School #3 in 2004.<br /><br />Oh, wait...

by: Koba from: Washington, DC
June 24, 2009 02:39
Mike,<br />What are you talking about? Russia has no moral authority to scold GB for human rights violations. <br /><br />Mike's argument is solid. After recognizing Abkhazeti and Samachablo as independent states, Russia has no political legitimacy to force the North Caucasian republics stay in the federation. <br /><br />And what happened during the Falklands War does not justify Russian colonialism in Caucasus. Got it, balvan? Doubt it.

by: Amir from: France
June 27, 2009 10:08
Ray<br />The car which was used for the attack was driven by a suicide-bomber.<br />Obviously, the operation was carried out on the fifth anniversary of the famous large-scale raid on the Interior Ministry in Nazran. <br />The report on Zvezda News is wrong. There are other versions : implication of &quot;foreign private military companies&quot;, a version reported on Utro website ; an operation ostensibly beneficial to Kadyrov, &quot;who can now take the situation in Ingushetia under his control&quot; ; etc.<br />

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