Dagestan suicide bombing targets Russian military
A Dagestan suicide bombing that struck a Russian military base Sunday underscored the difficulties Moscow faces in stamping out violence in the restive republic.
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It is only the latest attack in the North Caucasus, where Russia has been battling a growing insurgency for years that has challenged the legacy of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who as president vowed to wipe out the unrest (See map of region here).
Russian officials say a car packed with explosives rammed through the gate on a military base in the city of Buinaksk, reports the Associated Press. The driver was headed for an area where soldiers sleep, but crashed into a truck after soldiers opened fire. Russian officials say three soldiers were killed and 32 wounded in the explosion, while Agence France-Presse reports that law-enforcement officials said five were killed and 35 wounded.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Previous attacks in the Northern Caucasus have been blamed on a militant group led by Chechen rebel Doku Umarov. who also claimed responsibility for bombings of the Moscow metro in March that killed 39 people.
A second bomb struck police heading to the scene of the first explosion, but no one was reported hurt in the attack.
State-owned news agency RIA Novosti reports that Dagestan’s president, Magomedsalam Magomedov, said the attack shows militants in Dagestan are still strong.
“The republic's law enforcement agencies have held a range of successful operations against militants within the [p]resent time. But they still have to augment efforts to eliminate militant bands entirely," Mr. Magomedov told the news agency.
Sunday’s double bombings follow a car bomb Saturday that targeted a government minister. Dagestan’s minister of national policy, information, and external relations was wounded in the attack, and his driver was killed, reports CNN.
AFP notes that Dagestan is particularly violent, even in the violence-prone North Caucasus.
Dagestan has become arguably Russia's most violent region hit not only by growing Islamic militancy but also deep-rooted mafia problems, clan rivalries and socio-economic stagnation. […] Analysts say poverty and corruption create a fertile ground for violence and help Islamist militants recruit young people in the region, where Russia fought two wars against Chechen separatists since the 1991 Soviet collapse.
The violence in the region received more attention after it spread to Moscow, where a devastating attack on the subway system killed 39 people in March. It was one of five attacks in one week that killed 60 people in Moscow, Dagestan, and Ingushetia, leading to fears that an insurgent network was preparing a new wave of assaults.
In May, a bomb exploded in the southern city of Stravopol, which had previously been spared the violence of the Caucasus.
The Christian Science Monitor reported in March that the spate of attacks was bringing pressure to bear on Putin, who built a reputation on wiping out the insurgency in Chechnya and committed Russia to host the 2014 winter Olympics in a city that borders the violence-prone region. The Russian government declared victory in Chechnya last year.
The Associated Press points out that Sunday’s attack came almost exactly 11 years after a car bombing that killed 64 people and began Russia’s latest war in troubled Chechnya.
The Sept. 4, 1999 attack was the first of four apartment bombings in Russia over a two-week period that killed a total of more than 290 people and that Russian officials cited as justification for launching the second war against Chechen rebels. All the 1999 bombings were blamed on Chechen insurgents, who had recently launched an incursion into Dagestan to try to establish an Islamic state. But suspicions persist that the bombings were orchestrated by Russian officials to justify the beginning of that war.