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Police Ambushed in Russia's Chechnya and Dagestan Regions


Rebels have mounted a series of deadly attacks in Russia's North Caucasus, killing at least nine policemen and officials.

Russian officials say several policemen were killed Sunday when militants ambushed their three-vehicle convoy in the mountains of southern Chechnya.

Also Sunday, authorities said a policeman was killed in an ambush in Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala. Another officer was wounded.

In another attack Sunday, rebels ambushed several workers from the Emergency Situations Ministry in the republic of Ingushetia.

All three republics, located in Russia's North Caucasus region, have seen a spike in attacks on police and local government officials in recent weeks.

A suicide bomber killed six people, including four policemen, near a concert hall in the Chechen capital Grozny on July 26th. Officials in the republic said Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov had planned to attend a performance at the venue and was saved by a late arrival.

Early last month, nine Chechen police officers were killed by militants just inside Ingushetia while taking part in a joint counter-insurgency operation.

In June, Ingushetia's president, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, was severely wounded when a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosivesas Yevkurov's convoy was driving by. Earlier that month, Dagestan's interior minister, Adilgerei Magomedtagirov, was killed by a sniper while attending a wedding in Makhachkala.

Independent military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer says that, while the insurgents in the North Caucasus were once mainly separatists motivated by nationalist goals, today they are for the most part Islamists motivated by religious radicalism.

Felgenhauer says the Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus is operating "rather effectively." He says it enjoys wide popular support in Ingushetia, and that, while it is less popular in Chechnya and Dagestan, it still has enough popular support in those republics to survive and continue to mount attacks.

Felgenhauer also says that what he calls "highly repressive measures" taken by local and federal authorities in the North Caucasus are pushing more and more people into the insurgents' ranks.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, himself a former rebel, of employing such repressive measures, including burning the homes of relatives of alleged militants.

In June, immediately after the attempt on the life of Ingushetia's president, Kadyrov announced following a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he had been tasked with coordinating joint operations between police in Chechnya and Ingushetia against rebels in the two republics.

Since that time, however, there has been a jump in the number of rebel attacks in Chechnya and Ingushetia, as well as in Dagestan.

Meanwhile, says Alexander Konovalov, president of the independent Institute for Strategic Assessments, officials in the republics that border Chechnya fear that Kadyrov's ambitions are growing.

Konovalov says he thinks Kadyrov will be able to keep the situation in Chechnya under control for a while, but adds that the Chechen leader's attempt to take control of the security situation in Ingushetia was "greeted extremely negatively" by officials in neighboring republics, including Ingushetia.

Konovalov predicts that the situation in the North Caucasus will remain difficult for a long time - all the more so given that, in his words, Moscow lacks "an intelligent policy" toward the region.

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