Vladimir Putin says the “Chechnya problem” has been solved. The facts say something quite different. Not only is the problem not solved, it’s spreading.The Moscow Times reports:
The Interior Minister of the volatile North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, known for his brutal and indiscriminate fight against radical Islamists, was killed Friday afternoon in the republic’s capital, Makhachkala. The attack, the latest in a series of deadly assaults on North Caucasus police officers, removed the top regional law enforcement officer and demonstrated the continued strength and agility of the tightly-tied underground criminal and insurgent networks, Dagestani officials and political analysts said.
One of two unidentified snipers, firing from the window of a nine-story apartment building at 1:05 p.m. Friday, sent an armor-piercing bullet into the heart of Adilgirey Magomedtagirov, 53, who stood at the entrance of the luxury Marrakech banquet hall where he was invited to attend the wedding of a daughter of one of his subordinates.
The shooters, firing with automatic sniper rifles, also killed the head of the administrative department of Dagestan’s Interior Ministry, Abdurazak Abakarov, and wounded eight police officers who stood close to the minister, Dagestani police said. The second sniper took up a position at another nine-story apartment building across the street from the Marrakech banquet hall, Dagestani police said.
Magomedtagirov, who had narrowly escaped several attempts on his life since 1998 when he was appointed minister, was rushed to a hospital where he died while undergoing surgery.
The Investigative Committee opened a criminal probe into the attack, and its Dagestani officers questioned witnesses in Makhachkala Friday afternoon, committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.
“Several versions of the crime are being considered, the main one being the professional activities of the high-ranking officers of the republican Interior,” Markin said.
Federal Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev and the Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika said Friday that they would be taking the investigation under their personal control, while the head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, flew to Dagestan Friday to lead the investigation.
President Dmitry Medvedev’s spokeswoman Natalya Timakova told Interfax Friday that Medvedev had ordered Dagestani President Mukhu Aliyev to provide financial and moral support to the families of the slain policemen.
Senior Russian officials and politicians were quick Friday to blame political instability in Dagestan and express their concern over the strengthening of the Islamist underground in the republic.
The head of the Audit Chamber and a former director of the Federal Security Service, Sergei Stepashin, called for extraordinary measures to be taken by the Kremlin in response to the killing, including declaring a state of emergency in the republic, Interfax reported.
Several State Duma deputies described the murder of Magomedtagirov as a direct challenge posed by insurgents before the Russian law enforcement agencies.
A senior Dagestani government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, told The Moscow Times that Magomedtagitov’s murder marks a new stage in the cooperation between corrupt Dagestani politics and the criminal and insurgent networks.
“I saw many attacks on the officials and these were mostly random-luck bombings. Sniper guns is something new for Dagestan,” the official said, adding that Magomedtagirov was very cautious about his own security and that somebody who knew his schedule for Friday must have alerted the attackers.
“He was a very rough man, he had a lot of enemies,” the official said.
Magomedtagirov, a career policeman who joined the force in 1978 and climbed the ranks from street cop to Interior Lieutenant General, was famous in Dagestan for his harsh but effective methods of dealing with suspects and criminals.
In the mid-1990’s he was appointed chief of police in the Dagestani town of Derbent, with the task of stopping criminal pressure on the local diaspora of Mountain Jews. Magomedtagirov handled this formidable mission well, and in 1998, following a mob’s ransacking of the government and parliament buildings in Makhachkala, he was given the post of Interior Minister and the responsibility of leading the fight against extremism and radical Islamists.
The following year, Magomedtagirov made headlines in the national media by issuing and enforcing an order to the Dagestani police not to allow refugees from Chechnya — where a military campaign began in October 1999 — onto Dagestani territory.
The minister then spearheaded brutal police crackdowns on the religious dissenters in Dagestan, and in 2005 local Islamists made him No. 1 on a death list published on the Kavkazcenter.org web site run by Chechen rebels.
In 2006 and 2007, Magomedtagirov narrowly escaped attacks on his motorcades in which five police officers near him were killed.
Under Magomedtagirov, the Dagestani police became notorious for routinely resorting to torture of suspects, most often of religious radicals, in order to get confessions from them.
Magomedtagirov was repeatedly criticized by President Aliyev for his brutal and indiscriminate methods, particularly after the minister began ordering the demolition of houses and apartment buildings where rebels were reportedly hiding.
The minister seemed to have no political ambitions and occupied the post that suited him most as to a professional, said Enver Kisriyev, head of the Caucasus department at the Center for Civilization and Regional Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. These traits, said Kisriyev, combined with his unwillingness to seek compromises with Islamists, made him a thorn in a side of many in Dagestan.