Eid terror in Ingushetia

At least seven police officers were killed Aug. 19 in a suicide bomb blast in the Russian Caucasus republic of Ingushetia. The blast occurred in Sagopshi village of Malgobek district in northwest Ingushetia, at the funeral of a police officer who was killed in a shootout with militants the day before. According to Ingush Security Council, all the dead except the bomber were police officers. The attack came hours after gunmen in Dagestan, another Russian republic of the North Caucasus, opened fire in a mosque, injuring several people who had gathered to celebrate Eid, the holy day marking the end of Ramadan. A bomb discovered at the site was deactivated. (Voice of Russia, RIA-Novosti, BBC News, Aug. 19) (See map.)

Tthe Kavkaz Center, voice of the Islamist resistance movement in neighboring Chechnya, issued this statement on the attack:

A brave martyrdom-seeking Mujahid of the Caucasus Emirate (a 34-year old resident of the Ingush village of Psedakh in Sunzha district, named Khamzat Aldiev, according to Russian invaders) killed at least eight Russian puppet policemen attending the funeral of another puppet policeman in the CE province of Ingushetia.

The reference to Ingushetia as a province of the "Caucasus Emirate" reflects a long and complicated history. There is still a disputed border between Ingushetia and Chechnya, and the Chechen-led "Caucasus Emirate" claims to rule over both. The "official" leadership of Chechnya have also periodically raised demands for a return to the border that existed before 1934, when Stalin merged the Ingush and Chechen autonomous oblasts into a unified Checheno-Ingush Autonomous Oblast. This was disbanded when Stalin had the Ingush and Chechens alike deported to Siberia in World War II, but was re-established when Khrushchev allowed the peoples to return to their homelands in 1957. Ingushetia and Chechnya separated again with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, when the Chechen leadership declared an independent republic. But the border was never clarified, and Sunzha district—part of the pre-1934 Chechnya, but traditionally a stronghold of Cossacks, who assert their own autonomy—was the primary contested area. To avoid further fragmentation of the region, in 1992 Boris Yeltsin declared a moratorium on border changes in the North Caucasus, and the issue was left unresolved. Sunzha appears to be under Ingushetia's de facto control.

A Sunzha Cossack Okrug (not quite conforming to the current borders of Sunzha district) existed from 1921 to 1929, when it was subsumed into the then-Chechen Autonomous Oblast. These years also saw the emergence of the separate Ingush and Chechen oblasts; before they were created by Lenin in 1922, they had both been a part of the Mountain People's Autonomous Republic—essentially the same geographic entity that Stalin revived 12 years later as the Checheno-Ingush Autonomous Oblast, although also incorporating other adjacent territories (e.g. Kabardino-Balkaria) and having at least a degree more genuine autonomy. Under Czarist rule, nearly the entire North Caucasus had been under the Cossack-dominated Terek Oblast, established in 1869, basically to keep the native Muslim population down following the insurgency of the Chechen Sufi warrior Imam Shamil. The contemporary Chechen resistance is trying to re-establish the Islamic state that Imam Shamil built in the region in the 1850s—but their ideology is Wahhabi, not Sufi. Wahhabi dogma that the more indigenous Sufism is heretical may explain the apparent willingness of the "Caucasus Emirate" militants to shoot up mosques during Eid ceremonies. (RFE/RL, Dec. 19, 2008; Kafkas Vakfi; World Statesmen.org; World History at KMLA; Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder)

  1. More clashes in Dagestan
    Russian security forces claim to have tracked down and killed six rebels suspected of involvement in a Feb. 14 suicide bombing that left four police officers dead at a checkpoint in Khasavyurt, Dagestan. Security forces surrounded the supposed accomplices near the village of Mironovo. In the gun battle that followed, six suspects and a special forces officer were killed, according to Russia’s Interior Ministry. (AP, Feb. 14)