19 October 2020, 15:19

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 12-18, 2020

Fighting in the Karabakh conflict zone and a new violated armistice agreement; CTOs in Dagestan, Chechnya, Volgograd, and Ingushetia; return of children from the Middle East; heinous murder in Paris, of which a Chechen native is suspected, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of October 12-18, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Fighting in Karabakh conflict zone and new violated armistice agreement

Throughout the past week, the hostilities have been going on in the Karabakh conflict zone, which began at night on September 27. The parties to the conflict violated the ceasefire agreement: although it entered into force on October 10, the fighting at the front line and shelling attacks on villages, towns, and cities continued. The exchange of bodies of the killed was declared to be one of the main goals of the armistice, but it was also disrupted. The Azerbaijani cities of Ganja, Terter, and Mingyachevir, as well as the Karabakh cities of Stepanakert, Shushi, and Martakert, were subjected to missile attacks. On October 16, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Azerbaijan reported that a missile fired by the armed forces of Armenia exploded on the territory of the Ordubad District in the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, while no casualties or injuries occurred. However, the Ministry of Defence of Armenia refuted the information about the shelling attack on Nakhichevan.

At 11:00 p.m. Moscow time on October 17, a new armistice agreement entered into force in Nagorno-Karabakh. The first minutes after the declared truce passed calmly. However, at night, the parties to the conflict again accused each other of shelling attacks and offensive operations. Yerevan accused Baku of refusing to agree on the evacuation of the wounded from the battlefield through the mediation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Since the beginning of the conflict till October 18, the death toll of the military personnel of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army has reached 627. Furthermore, since the beginning of the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, 36 civilians were killed in shelling attacks, and 115 others were injured, Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan reported on October 17. The Azerbaijani authorities have not announced the number of combat losses. On October 16, the General Prosecutor's Office of Azerbaijan reported that 60 civilians had been killed and 274 injured as a result of shelling attacks.

CTOs in Dagestan, Chechnya, Volgograd, and Ingushetia

At night on October 12, law enforcers killed a driver and a passenger of a car in a shootout which occurred near the village of Kulzeb in the Kizilyurt District of Dagestan. According to the law enforcers' version, the suspects opened fire when the policemen tried to check their IDs. No policemen were injured. Instagram users who watched the video from the place of the incident considered the version announced by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) to be unconvincing. Users of the social network demanded to present evidence that the suspects were the first who had started shooting. The killed suspects were identified as Khasavyurt residents Azamat Alkhamatov and Timurlan Biymurzaev, an informed source reported. According to the source, the suspects were carrying a Kalashnikov submachine gun, a pistol with a silencer, and grenades. The described attack on law enforcers became the second incident in Dagestan since the beginning of 2020.

On October 13, for the first time since December 2016, a counterterrorist operation (CTO) legal regime was introduced in the Oktyabrsky District of Grozny. Law enforcers cordoned off a house in which, according to their information, the suspected militants were hiding. In a shootout, four suspected militants and two law enforcers were killed, while another law enforcer was wounded. According to the information of the law enforcement bodies voiced by Ramzan Kadyrov, the suspected militants arrived from abroad and were plotting a series of terror acts in Chechnya. The leader of Chechnya disclosed their names. The killed suspects were identified as 32-year-old Mairbek Imamurzaev, 24-year-old Magomed Tsuraev, 27-year-old Magomed Magomedov, and 28-year-old Ramzan Murtazaliev. After the special operation, an owner of the house, where the suspected militants were hiding, and his two wives, one of whom was pregnant, were detained. Relatives of the killed suspects were also summoned for questionings, sources from the law enforcement bodies reported. On the same day, the CTO legal regime in Grozny was lifted. The special operation became the second one in Chechnya within three days. On October 11, two suspected militants were killed during a CTO held in the Sernovodsk District of the republic near the border with Ingushetia. According to the law enforcement bodies' information, the suspects killed in Chechnya on October 11 and 13, were members of a grouping led by Aslan Byutukaev, who was involved in the terror act at the Domodedovo airport in 2011, as well as in the attack of Chechen militants on Grozny on December 4, 2014. Aslan Byutukaev is included on the federal wanted list and on the sanctions lists of USA and the European Union.

On October 15, the FSB announced that it had prevented a series of terror acts, which, according to the intelligence services, were planned in Volgograd by members of a unit of the "Katiba Tawhid wal-Jihad (Battalion of Monotheism and Jihad) (an extremist organization, banned in Russia by the court, – note of the "Caucasian Knot"). Two persons were killed in a shootout with law enforcers, and their alleged accomplices were detained also in the cities of Volgograd, Maikop, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Ufa. The killed suspects were identified as 23- and 27-year-old citizens of Uzbekistan. Analysts voiced their scepticism concerning the law enforcers' version about the preparation of terror acts in Volgograd.

In the evening on October 16, a shootout took place in Nazran, after which a car was blown up. According to the law enforcement bodies, a group of several militants had been cordoned off in the city. Later, it was reported that a person who was driving a VAZ-2106 car was killed. According to the law enforcement bodies, the killed suspect was identified as Yunus Vidzizhev, an owner of the network of outlets for renting demilitarized weapons, who was wanted in connection with a case on possession of combat weapons. Yunus Vidzizhev, who lived in one of the apartments in an 18-storey building in Nazran, was an active participant of the mass protests in Ingushetia in 2019 against the new borders with Chechnya. Earlier, the law enforcement bodies have reported that Yunus Vidzizhev, who was engaged in renting and selling demilitarized weapons, arranged a workshop to convert weapons into combat guns. In February 2020, law enforcers conducted a search in his house, but Yunus Vidzizhev himself managed to escape from the law enforcers when they tried to detain him. The special operation held in Nazran on October 16 became the seventh one in Ingushetia since the beginning of 2020.

Return of children from Middle East

At night on October 16, 27 children aged from 2 to 13 were brought from Syria to Moscow. Among them, there are 21 children from southern regions of Russia. After medical examination and quarantine, the children will be handed over to their relatives in the Volgograd Region, Dagestan, and Chechnya, reports Anna Kuznetsova, Children's Rights Commissioner under the President of Russia. This is the third flight with children from Syria since the start of the pandemic.

Heinous murder in Paris, in which native of Chechnya is suspected

On October 16, in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a school teacher who had shown his pupils in class the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad from the French satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo" was beheaded. During the detention, the alleged killer shouted "Allahu Akbar!" and was shot dead by the police. The assailant managed to post a photo of the cut-off head on his account in Twitter, where he was registered under the nickname of Tchetchene_270. The widespread unofficial information that the alleged killer was identified as 18-year-old Abdulak Anzorov, a Russian citizen of Chechen origin, who was born in Moscow but lived in France, was officially confirmed later. A French anti-terror prosecutor reported that the young man lived in the town of Evreux: he had been granted refugee status in France and received a 10-year residency permit. The man was known to the police for a number of offenses, but he was not known to the intelligence services as an Islamic radical. The murder is classified as a terrorist crime. Nine persons are detained in the case, six of whom are members of the Chechen Diaspora. Analysts argued about the possible consequences of the murder for people of Chechen origin. The French society is shocked by the crime, and this may lead to deterioration in attitude towards migrants from Chechnya, political analyst Alexei Malashenko and Islamic expert Leonid Syukiyainen have told the "Caucasian Knot". Meanwhile, Caucasian expert Akhmet Yarlykapov believes no deterioration will happen if there is no emphasis on the nationality of the criminal. Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, condemned the murder of the French teacher, while calling the disrespectful attitude towards Islam a provocation.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on October 19, 2020 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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