Russia: May 14, 2002


: Kapiisk - Complacency Kills- At the beginning of May, many believed that Russia's long war in Chechnya was all but over. In an interview given to the Interfax- Military News Agency on 8 May, pro-Moscow Chechen administration leader Akhmad Kadyrov caterogically ruled out the possibility of large-scale terrorist acts on Victory Day; the situation was under control and while some random vehicles may be blown up, the rebels would be unable to stage any large-scale actions.

Kadyrov was wrong, as the attack in Kapiisk the next day proved. A remote control mine killed 32 people (including 12 children) and wounded 150 during a Victory Day parade. By the 12th, this toll had risen to 42 dead (17 of them children) and 130 wounded. Only 19 of the dead were Russian Marines.

Police later said that a remote-controlled mine hidden in bushes exploded as a military band surrounded by children and World War Two veterans marched through Kaspiisk. The town in Dagestan is a Caspian Sea port about 1,000 miles from Moscow. Police said the bomb was made from a MON-50 Anti-Personnel (similar to a US "Claymore" M18) boosted with additional blocks of TNT (total equivalent four kilograms of TNT). Additional nuts, bolts and nails were added to cause increase the damage. The remote initiator was made from parts of a Kenwood radio station. Security services sealed off the area to allow sappers to check the area for additional mines. 

Police patrols had inspected the streets very carefully on the 8th and in hours before the parade began on the 9th, but missed the bomb in the bushes. Experts also said that the triggering signal might have been sent from a nearby apartment house.

The Russian NTV channel showed wrecked drums and other musical instruments scattered across the blood-splattered main street. Russian investigators said that the intended targets were marines from the 77th Naval Infantry Brigade and the military band.

On the 10th, three bombing suspects were arrested in St. Petersburg. Deputy Russian Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky refused to give details on the identities of the three, but did say they were of Caucasian origin. They were likely tied to a terrorist group blamed for an attack which killed seven Russian soldiers on 18 January 2001, in the Dagestani capital Makhachkala.

Throughout Chechnya, the rebels continue to attempt to mine roads at night and early in the morning, paying unemployed local residents and young men to act as their proxy mine planters. Between 1 January 2002 and 6 May, Russian sappers on engineering intelligence missions defused 220 landmines, including 90 radio or remote-controlled ones. In the first week of May alone, Federal engineering units defused about 180 explosive devices (including 11 powerful landmines on highways). 

According to the spokesman, rebels planting radio-controlled landmines use plastic bottles containing a chip with a low-capacity transistor capable of receiving signals up to 50 meters away: "As a result the transistor is hard to detect, and the radius of control over the landmine increases". 

Six soldiers were wounded on the 13th, when a BTR80 from the 72nd Regiment/42nd Motorized Rifle Division was wrecked by a radio-controlled landmine near the village of Assinovskaya. The mine was triggered when the APC was approaching a bridge over the Assa River.

Three other Federal combat vehicles were blown up on the 12th, while two more landmines were detected and defused on a highway in the Samashki forest. 

By the 13th, the regional operational headquarters in charge of the Chechnya campaign was sending out warnings of a possible escalation of rebel activities in the second half of May. They were particularly concerned about acts to a visit of the OSCE working group to Chechnya or to the opening of the Russian- U.S. summit. - Adam Geibel


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