The Moscow Times reports that, despite the absurd Russophile propaganda spouted from some irresponsible sources (primarily Yuri Mamchur's "Russia Blog"), terrorist violence has remained unchanged over the past two years in Russia's southern regions and, while a brutal Russian crackdown in Chechnya (condemned widely by human rights organizations including multiple convictions in the European Court for Human Rights) has resulted in a reduction in rebel action there, rebel activity in areas outside Chechnya has dramatically increased. In other words, the Kremlin's policy is obliterating Chechnya, supposedly a part of Russia, as a place of human habitation while driving the rebels closer and closer to Moscow.
Chechen attacks against Russians in neighboring provinces are skyrocketing as law enforcement agencies in Chechnya crack down on rebels, forcing them to look elsewhere for targets.
There were 18 attacks in Ingushetia and 11 in North Ossetia from January through July of this year, 50 percent more than during the same period in 2005, Nikolai Patrushev, director of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, and chairman of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee, or NAC, said at a NAC session Friday in Rostov-on-Don.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, three riot police were killed and another was seriously wounded in Ingushetia after gunmen attacked their vehicle, The Associated Press reported. LR: See also RIA Novosti. Also on Saturday, in Dagestan's capital of Makhachkala, police and suspected militants exchanged fire, leaving four of the suspected militants dead and one wounded, the AP reported. The early-morning gun battle was the latest in a long string of similar police operations in the predominantly Muslim region, where attacks targeting police and government officials are common.
On Thursday, assailants shot and gravely wounded a member of an anti-terrorism unit as he was driving out of his backyard in the village of Nestervoskaya in Ingushetia, the AP reported.
The sharp spike in attacks outside Chechnya is due to the elimination of many Chechen rebel leaders, including Shamil Basayev, Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev and several less senior figures, Patrushev said.
The crackdown on Chechen leaders in Chechnya "has allowed us to significantly reduce the activities of the bandits operating underground in the territory of Chechnya," Patrushev was quoted by Interfax as saying. At the same time, he continued, "the terrorists have shifted their focus to the territory of the republics that neighbor Chechnya."
Ingushetia, Dagestan and other republics in the North Caucasus have been infiltrated by Chechen-based groups in the past, but these provinces have also seen indigenous insurgency movements emerge. These movements are comprised mostly of militant Islamists and individuals seeking revenge for abuse by local authorities.
Patrushev voiced concern about the growing number of crimes committed with firearms in the North Caucasus, noting that such offenses had more than doubled in North Ossetia in the first seven months of the year.
The FSB chief called on law enforcement to identify the causes of this increase in an effort to prevent future escalation of these crimes.
Patrushev also said the nation's law enforcement community, and authorities in general, must shift their focus from interdiction of individual terrorist attacks to "early warnings of the emergence and the spread of terrorism in society," Interfax reported.
Dmitry Kozak, President Vladimir Putin's envoy in southern Russia, agreed with Patrushev. "The prevention of terrorism should be the main subject of discussion for all government agencies" in the Southern Federal District, the envoy said at Friday's NAC meeting.
Putting the recent attacks in perspective, Kozak observed that while the number of attacks in some republics had increased, the whole Southern Federal District had seen no serious change between 2005 and 2006