In the four weeks since Daghestan Security Council Chairman Ali Magomedov was named
to head the republic's Interior Ministry, 16 police officers have been killed in 10 separate militant attacks in five towns or regions.
By comparison, the death toll among Interior Ministry personnel during the first six months of this year was around 30, the most prominent victim being Magomedov's predecessor as minister, Adilgirey Magomedtagirov.
Daghestan's Shariat jamaat has in the past sought to avoid civilian casualties. But on August 13, unidentified militants shot dead seven prostitutes employed at a sauna-cum-bordello in the town of Buynaksk, southwest of Makhachkala. The upsurge in violence, coinciding as it does with a series of official events to commemorate the successful repulsion of successive incursions into Daghestan 10 years ago by Islamic militants headed by radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev, has given rise to a wave of apocalyptic rumors in Makhachkala.
Addressing a session of the city's counterterrorism commission on August 18, Makhachkala's longtime mayor, Said Amirov, categorically denied
that girls who eschew Islamic dress are being killed. He cited persistent rumors that "terrorists" have seized hospitals or other public buildings.
Amirov characterized the overall security situation in the city as "difficult" and implicitly blamed President Mukhu Aliyev for failing to respond decisively to the deteriorating situation. At the same time, he noted that Magomedov's appointment as interior minister gives grounds for hope the situation will improve. He added that Magomedov has assured him of his determination to purge the ministry of unreliable personnel and reverse the steady deterioration in the crime situation.
In a televised address to the republic's population later on August 18, Magomedov affirmed
that his ministry is in control of the situation, and his men "remain on the forefront of the struggle with 'terrorists'" who seek to sow panic among the population. He also denied rumors (reported by the radical resistance website kavkazcenter.com
that demoralized police officers are submitting their resignations en masse.
President Aliyev for his part has stressed
the need for coordinated action by police to combat the resurgence of extremist violence. Meeting on August 15 with senior officials, Aliyev issued instructions to local officials to check out gaming parlors and other dubious establishments that might be targeted by the insurgency.
Makhachkala police chief Rasul Gazimagomedov complained in response that his department suffers from a manpower shortage and a lack of modern equipment, even patrol vehicles. Speaking three days later at the meeting convened by Amirov, Gazimagomedov cited one occasion when an ancient police patrol car broke down while pursuing suspected militants.
Such admissions are unlikely to reassure a population clearly alarmed and unnerved at the prospect of further violence.