Highway from Makhachkala to Buynaks
Today there were two well-executed terrorist attacks against government officials in Dagestan, a southern province of Russia. Dagestan is Russia's southernmost republic and borders the war-torn province of Chechnya. Although Chechnya is more peaceful than at any time since 1994, a few separatists still want to shatter the fragile peace in the region. Terrorist gunmen ambushed two state officials and their bodyguards in two separate roadside attacks. As a result, the General Prosecutor (prokuror) of the city of Buynaks is dead, the head of the Dagestan's police force was severely injured, and several policemen and innocent civilians were killed.
The first attack began a few minutes after Bitar Bitarov, the general prosecutor for the city of Buynaks, left home for work. Terrorists detonated a roadside bomb near Bitarov's Mercedes 600 sedan and two other cars carrying his bodyguards. After detonating the bomb, terrorists opened fire on the convoy with machine guns. The general prosecutor lost his arm in the explosion and was shot several times. Mr. Bitarov died from his wounds a few hours later in a nearby hospital. Mr. Bitarov's driver and bodyguards were also treated in the emergency room.
When he heard about the first attack, Adilgerey Magomedtagirov, Dagestan's chief of regional police (MVD), immediately left the regional capital of Makhachkala to personally investigate the crime scene. The main highway from the capital of Dagestan to Buynaks is under construction, so the police chief's convoy took a detour.
A few minutes after getting to the highway, the police chief found himself under attack. Terrorists planted an estimated 150 kilograms (320 pounds) of explosives under the road and set them off with devastating effect. The police chief's lightly armored vehicle was blown off the ground, crashing back to the shattered pavement. Again the terrorists raked the highway with machine gun fire to kill the survivors. Fortunately, most of the blast was absorbed by the rear of the police chief's vehicle, so the driver was able to floor it and get out of the "kill zone". Unfortunately, several police vehicles, a large truck, and a car filled with civilians were shot up by the terrorists. Two policemen and a woman were killed. Several more officers and civilians were wounded. Thirty minutes later, reinforced police unitsand MVD SWAT teams arrived at the scene of the second attack, but all they found were shell casings on both sides of the road and leftover wiring from the bomb. The terrorists had escaped.
A BTR armored personnel carrier at the crime scene
With air support from three helicopters, Russian security forces began a manhunt for the attackers. No suspects have been caught yet; the search continues today. For Russia this a painful reminder that in spite of the successful counterinsurgency in Chechnya, the terrorists can still launch deadly attacks in the rest of the Caucuses. The rugged Pankisi Gorge that borders Chechnya in the independent former Soviet republic of Georgia is a well-known hide-out for terrorists, largely due to the fact that it isn't secured by Georgia and isn't under Russian jurisdiction. Since 2002, U.S. Special Forces and Marines have been training the Georgians, but more cooperation between Georgia, Russia and the U.S. is necessary to stop the terrorists throughout the Caucuses.