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Caucasus Islamists still thorn in Russia's side

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Caucasus Islamists still thorn in Russia's side


In Grozny, last 16 April, against a peaceful urban backdrop in a capital previously reduced to concrete crumbs by fighting, the Russian authorities announced an end to what they called their anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya. It had stretched for ten years, launched by Boris Yeltsin before he ceded power to Vladimir Putin.

It is now safe to come and go… and stay, said Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov: “We are rebuilding the city. This is accelerating, thanks to the help of investors who want to be with us in our republic. They are our brothers — Muslims from the Arab World, from Europe, the Middle East and Asia.” Insurgent violence in the Caucausus region has not disappeared. It has shifted across borders, notably into Ingushetia. On 10 June, the deputy head of this country’s supreme court was murdered in the capital Nazran. The Ingush president linked the attack with the trial of a dozen people accused of carrying out an armed raid in the republic in 2004. For a few hours on that night five years ago, a force using automatic weapons and grenage launchers took control of Ingushetia. When Chechen warlord Chamil Bassaiev led the assault on an arms depot, 48 local people were killed. After resupplying, the attackers withdrew, suffering no losses. Ingushetia — one of the poorest Caucasus republics — continues to feel the backlash of the war in Chechnya. There were refugees — some 150,000 for a population of 300,000, kidnappings and disappearances. The northern Caucauses are still a battleground. Radical Islamists bent on statehood on their terms fight Russian troops. Human rights groups say illegal killings and torture are on the rise. Early this month Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the neighbouring Republic of Dagestan days after a sniper killed the minister of the interior at a wedding celebration. Mevedev promised: “to liquidate the terrorist scum” along Russia’s turbulent southern flank.

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