Ingushetian leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov claimed in a recent interview that the North Caucasus insurgency in Ingushetia had been "defeated," and currently numbered just 14 men. At the same time, he said, "there is still a long way to go" before it can be said to be completely destroyed.
Yevkurov cautioned that the 14, who he claims were trained by foreign intelligence services, can draw on a network of support personnel and relatives. In addition, he said, they had their own excellent counterintelligence network, maintained strict radio silence, and avoided the use of mobile phones in order to minimize the likelihood of capture or killing. In that respect, according to Yevkurov, "they are technologically ahead of the game."
Casualty statistics for 2014 complied by the news agency Caucasian Knot indicate that there has indeed been a decline in insurgent activity in Ingushetia, with the total number of casualties falling by more than 60 percent, from 94 to 37. Two civilians, four members of the security forces, and 15 militants were killed, and 16 security personnel wounded, according to the statistics.
One of the militants killed was Artur Gatagazhev, aka Emir Abdullah, head of the Ingushetia insurgency wing, who police believe was responsible for the killing in August 2013 of Republic of Ingushetia Security Council head Akhmed Kotiyev. The identity of Gatagazhev's successor as insurgency commander is being kept secret for security and operational reasons, but the decline in militant attacks over the past year may in part be a direct consequence of his death.
In addition, Yevkurov said that 80 young fighters had been persuaded over the past four years to lay down their arms, and had been amnestied.
There is, however, a further possible reason why neutralizing the insurgency in Ingushetia -- a small North Caucasus republic sandwiched between Chechnya and North Ossetia -- is proving an uphill struggle. Addressing the republic's parliament two months ago, Ingushetia's interior minister, Aleksandr Trofimov, disclosed that the insurgency wing and its support personnel included "several" police officers. He said one of the five men killed together with Gatagazhev in May 2014 was a policeman who had previously helped his fellow fighters and sheltered them in his home.
The comparative lull of the past year may, moreover, be drawing to an end. According to a recent blog post reposted on the Ingush website Galgayche.org, the commander of Ingushetia's insurgents will soon release a video clip in which he will pledge his allegiance to the Islamic State militant group.
-- Liz Fuller