In a brazen operation executed early Thursday morning in Grozny, Chechen rebels stormed their way into the province’s capital and attacked schools, police checkpoints, and a media office. The raid killed left at least 16 people dead and 21 injured. Nine militants linked to a Chechen Islamist group and three police officers died as a result of these attacks.
The BBC reported on the supposed grievances which inspired this attack:
In a grainy video posted on YouTube, a gunman said he and a group of others had attacked the city in a “revenge operation” to avenge Muslim women harassed by the security forces.
He said the attack had been carried out on the instructions of Chechen rebel figure Aslan Byutukayev, an associate of Doku Umarov, the rebel leader believed to have been killed earlier this year.
The attack on Grozny came hours before President Putin gave his annual state of the nation address at the Kremlin.
Dmitry Trenin, who heads the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote in a Twitter post that the night attack in Grozny looked “senseless except as an attempt to embarrass Putin hours before his annual address”.
A publishing house was set ablaze during the terrorist raid and a local school, both shown below, was also captured and besieged by Russian forces.
Both Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who was in Moscow on Wednesday, and Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed confidence that local authorities could handle the outbreak of violence, and it would be unnecessary to escalate the situation with the introduction of Russian forces. Violence of this scale, however, is reminiscent of incidents which sparked the first two Chechen Wars.
Nor is this the first outbreak of violence in the relatively pacified provincial capital of Chechnya in recent days. “In October, five policemen were killed and 12 were injured in Grozny when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive device when officers approached him asking for identification papers,” Reuters reported.
Grozny has made a remarkable recovery from the devastation of the late 1990s.
It would be tragic if this region once again descended into war, but this ill-fated semi-autonomous region is no stranger to tragedy.