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Rebel car bomber brings more carnage to Dagestan

Rebel car bomber brings more carnage to Dagestan
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A suicide attacker has detonated a massive car-bomb in the capital of Dagestan, Makhatchkala, bringing more carnage to the troubled North Caucasus republic.

At least seven police were killed and more than 20 people were wounded.

The car-bomb is the weapon of choice for the terrorists – there have been around 50 attacks in the last two months.

Russia is dealing with an Islamist rebellion in the Northern Caucasus that has grown in momentum throughout 2009.

It is fuelled by inter-clan warfare, poverty and corruption and has its roots in two wars in neighbouring Chechnya over the past 20 years.

It was in Dagestan – literally ‘country of mountains’ – that the second Chechen war began in 1999.

Fundamentalists led by Chamil Bassaïev triggered an insurrection, drawing in Russian forces who pushed the rebels back into Chechnya to stamp it out completely. Ten years on, and the war in Chechnya is officially over. Last April, Moscow announced the end of its anti-terrorist operation in the republic.

But, although life appears on the surface to have returned to normal, 160 violent deaths have been recorded, and there is no sign of a major Russian troop withdrawal.

In reality, the insurrection has shifted to neighbouring republics – Ingushetia, Dagestan and North Ossetia. And the rebels’ cause has shifted too, from a demand for independence, to the establishment of an Islamic state.

After Dagestan’s Interior Minister was assassinated last June, President Dmitry Medvedev visited, echoing the sentiments of his predecessor to liquidate what he called “the terrorist scum.”

More recently, he recognised that poverty and despair were driving youngsters into the ranks of the rebels.