03 September 2012, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 27 to September 2

Murder in a suicide bombing in Dagestan of Sheikh Said Afandi and gunfire at the frontier post; special operation to free hostages in Georgia; pardoning of Ramil Safarov, found guilty of murdering Armenian officer, in Azerbaijan; commemoration of casualties of 2004 Beslan terror act, - look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of August 27-September 2, 2012, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Dagestan: murder by terror act of Sheikh Said Afandi and gunfire at frontier post

On August 28, an explosion occurred in the house of Sheikh Said Afandi in the village of Chirkey, Buinaksk District. The explosive device was triggered by a female suicide bomber, later identified as a resident of Makhachkala Aminat Saprykina, who managed to enter, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), the Afandi's house in the guise of a pilgrim. The blast killed eight persons: Sheikh Said Afandi, six people who were nearby and the bomber. Several victims of the explosion were taken to hospital. According to the Investigatory Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), their lives are out of danger. The power of the bomb was 1-1.5 kg of TNT (trotyl) equivalent.

Let us note here that experts predict deterioration of situation in Dagestan after the assassination of Sheikh Said Afandi. In their statement, the working group of the Russian Public Chamber called not to start a large-scale "witch hunt". The association of Ahl-Sunnah scholars has expressed the need to continue the dialogue between the trends in the Islam.

On the same day, on August 28, in the village of Belidji unidentified persons attacked and captured the building, which houses the armament storage of a special task force. According to different sources, 1-2 persons were killed and 1-3 others wounded. In the territory of a military unit deployed near Belidji, a soldier opened fire on his fellow servicemen. A shootout followed, killing eight persons, including the gunman himself; some 4-5 persons were wounded. According to a source from law enforcement bodies of Dagestan, the border guard Ramadan Aliev, who shot his colleagues dead, was a follower of Wahhabism (Salafism). Three times his commanders tried to sack him for this reason, but could not find formal grounds, said the source.

Georgia: hostage-taking and special operation in Lopota Gorge against suspected militants from Dagestan

On August 29, the Georgian MIA announced detection on August 28 of an armed grouping in the territory of Georgia. According to the MIA, in the course of a special operation, on August 28 five young people taken hostage by militants was released; and at night on August 29 another group of hostages was liberated. In the afternoon on August 29, the MIA announced release of the third group of civilians. During the operation three special agents of the Georgian MIA were lost, and five more wounded. Besides, 11 suspected militants were killed. Shota Khizanishvili, Deputy Interior Minister, said that some casualties were citizens of the Russian Federation-natives of Northern Caucasus. On August 30, the MIA reported the end of the main phase of the operation in Lopota Gorge. The EU and NATO expressed concern about the Lopota incident.

The official Tbilisi believes that Georgia was invaded by an armed grouping from Dagestan. Giga Bokeriya, Secretary of the Security Council of Georgia, said that the Dagestani section of the border by its relief is very difficult for observation, and it was not serious to speak that from the Russian side no illegal crossing of the Georgian border was registered. In his turn, on August 29, Vadim Shibaev, Deputy Head of the PR Centre of the Russian FSB, said that no crossings of the Dagestani section of the Russian-Georgian border had been fixed. Let us note here that Georgian experts do not rule out that the special operation in Lopota Gorge could be staged.

Azerbaijan and Armenia: Azerbaijan's pardoning of Safarov guilty of killing Armenian officer

In April 2006, the City Court of Budapest sentenced Ramil Safarov to life imprisonment for the murder on February 19, 2004, in Budapest of the Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan. Both officers were studying English in the Hungarian capital within the framework of the NATO programme "Partnership for Peace". On August 31, Safarov was extradited to Azerbaijan, where President Ilham Aliev signed a decree to pardon him and free from further imprisonment. On August 31, the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice of Hungary issued a statement saying that Safarov was given out to Azerbaijan in accordance with the European Convention.

The lawyer Nazeli Vardanyan, who is representing the interests of the family of the killed Margaryan, has treated Safarov's extradition to Azerbaijan as unacceptable. Armenian politicians have also expressed outrage with the delivery of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan. In response to the decision of the Hungarian authorities, to extradite Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan, Armenia has decided to suspend diplomatic relations with Hungary. NGOs of Nagorno-Karabakh demanded from the European Union to express their attitude to Safarov's liberation.

North Ossetia: mourning events held in memory of Beslan victims

On September 1, Beslan began a three-day-long Memory Watch, dedicated to the victims of the terror act committed on September 1-3, 2004, in Secondary School No. 1. The mourning events in memory of the eighth anniversary of the Beslan tragedy take place in the former gym of School No. 1, which is now a memorial complex. The "Caucasian Knot" correspondent ran his Twitt-reports about the first day of events from the venue. Let us remind you that the terror act killed 186 children and 148 adults, 728 Beslan residents and 55 power agents were wounded. In total, 1128 people were taken hostage by terrorists.

Special memorial plaques are now installed in the destroyed Beslan School No. 1 in the places, where in September 2004 agents of the special detachments "Alpha" and "Vympel" and two rescuers from the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) were lost. From August 29 to September 6 North Ossetia is under enhanced security measures.

Ella Kesaeva, the head of the organization "Voice of Beslan", has noted that eight years after the tragedy, the outcomes of the investigation cannot satisfy relatives and victims. According to her version, terrorists are not the only persons guilty of the Beslan events.

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