The North Caucasus insurgency perpetrated a series of terrorist attacks in Grozny last night, killing at least eight people and injuring 22. No faction has yet claimed responsibility. The modus operandi suggests the attacks were the work of the Gakayev brothers, rather than of the Riyadus Salikhiin suicide squad commanded by self-styled Caucasus Emir Doku Umarov’s naib (deputy) Aslan Byutukayev (aka Emir Khamzat).
Russian media report that one militant blew himself up on the street in Grozny when police approached him to check his documents, killing two of them. A second militant blew himself up half an hour later when more police had gathered at the site of the first blast.
The Caucasus Emirate’s main website, kavkazcenter.com, gives a slightly different version of events, quoting its own unidentified sources. It denies that any attempt was made at checking the identity of the first suicide bomber and claims that a third fighter opened fire on police after the second blast. What happened to him is unclear. Kavkazcenter gives a far higher death toll, of at least 20.
The deployment on suicide missions directed against pro-Moscow Chechen police and security personnel of a small group of fighters who coordinate their activities is the hallmark of the Gakayev brothers, Khusayn and Muslim.
Muslim Gakayev told RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service in June 2009 that the southeastern Shali sector he commands had trained 20 militants to carry out suicide missions.
By contrast, the Riyadus Salikhiin suicide battalion, originally established by renegade field commander Shamil Basayev, operates primarily against targets outside Chechnya, elsewhere in the Russian Federation, such as the January suicide attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport.
Khusayn Gakayev was one of the four senior commanders who split with Umarov in August 2010, accusing him of acting autocratically without ever consulting second-echelon commanders. He has since realigned with Umarov for reasons that remain unclear.
It was Gakayev’s breakaway faction who were behind the audacious attack exactly one year ago on Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov’s home village of Khosi-Yurt, and on the parliament building in Chechnya on October 19, 2010. Dozens of pro-Moscow Chechen police and security personnel died in those two attacks. Since then, however, Gakayev’s men have carried out only sporadic low-level attacks and ambushes on Russian and pro-Russian Chechen forces in southeastern Chechnya.