Reports of fighting on the streets of Grozny during the night of December 17-18 are fragmentary and contradictory.
The Chechen authorities claim to have killed in a shoot-out in central Grozny late on December 17 six people who had appropriated a police vehicle and run down a police officer who sought to stop them. City residents, however, say several exchanges of fire took place in different locations.
Initially, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov said four people who had stolen a police vehicle in Grozny's Oktyabr district had been killed in a shoot-out, and two others wounded and hospitalized. He said a young woman was with them. Police, however, later said six people were killed after barricading themselves into a house on Grozny's central Lorsanov Street.
Three of the dead have been identified as Islam Altemirov, Said-Ibragim Ismailov, and Magomed Ilyasov. Their relatives and close friends have been detained for questioning. Police have also launched a search for three more young men, Ibragim Mazhayev, 20, and Istamul Mamayev, 18, and Khamatkhan Mintayev, 18, who are said to have taken part in "an attack on police," RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service reported.
According to the Russian website Life.ru, Mazhayev and Mamayev had joined "an illegal armed formation" (when is not clear) and pledged allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State.
The news portal Caucasian Knot quoted Grozny residents as saying that there were at least two intensive exchanges of machine-gun fire during the hour before midnight local time between security personnel and armed attackers, including one on March 8 Street and another close to the Vaynakh Telecom building. The agency also quoted city residents as saying that police "were in a state of panic," which implies there were more than just six attackers.
Fighters from the now moribund Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate) killed at least 14 police and security personnel and wounded a further 36 in multiple nighttime attacks on Grozny in early December 2014.
On the other hand, Grozny residents reportedly said armed men were going to the homes of police officers and threatening to kill them unless they surrendered their handguns. Such incidents were reported at two separate locations (the northern Staropromyslov district and Stary Posyolok).That suggests that the young men involved had only limited access to weaponry, which would not be the case if they were aligned with either the Caucasus Emirate or IS.
It is thus conceivable that they were angry, desperate, and unwilling to tolerate Kadyrov's vindictive and heavy-handed rule any longer, and were either seeking to augment their arsenal in preparation for a large-scale assault, or simply targeted police as the most vulnerable of Kadyrov's forces.
The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL