Counter-Terrorism: Bandits, Terrorists and Bad Government

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June 5, 2009: In the Caucasus, several thousand local police and Russian soldiers completed a month long counter-terrorist operation along the Chechnya-Ingushetia border. The operation led to the arrest of 59 people and the death of 19 armed men. Nine policemen were killed. Russian authorities believe 400-500 armed men are out there, committing terrorist acts and engaging in much criminal behavior. While the Russian government likes to call most of the bad behavior terrorism, local police consider most of it banditry and the work of common criminals. The local cops know what they are talking about, because lawlessness has been common in the region for thousands of years. Some of the gangs claim to be doing their dirt in the name of religion or nationalism, but it all comes down to money and power.

While Russia has, over the last decade, eliminated separatist and Islamic terrorists from Chechnya, they now find themselves with a potentially worse situation in neighboring Ingushetia. Smaller than Chechnya, and with half the population (about half a million), it has been hammered for the last few years by many Islamic and nationalist terrorists who fled Chechnya (where the Russians sent in 80,000 police and commandos, and made a deal with the strongest clan leader to run a pro-Russian government). Determined not to make the same mistakes they did in Chechnya, the Islamic radicals in Ingushetia promptly went after the local police. Their aim was to terrorize the local cops into leaving the Islamic radical groups (a few hundred men) alone. Then the Islamic radicals could use Ingushetia as a base for attacks into adjacent areas.

This was what Chechnya was turned into during the late 1990s. In 1999 the Russians had had enough, and invaded with nearly 100,000 troops and police. The fighting led to the deaths, or disappearance, of nearly 30,000 people. Russia does not want to apply that solution to Ingushetia, as the Ingush have never been as much of a problem as the Chechens (who have been fighting the Russians for over two centuries.) But unless they can reconstitute and revive the Ingush police force, the Islamic terrorists (and many guys who are basically Chechen gangsters) will be able to start another crime wave, like the one that came out of Chechnya in the late 1990s. Ingushetia has another problem, in that the local government, run by locals, is very corrupt. The gangsters are seen as political opponents, and to a certain extent they are. But that's what happens when Russia allows gangsters to run a province.

 

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