After Lull, Chechnya Sees Surge in Attacks

After months of a relative lull in violence, Chechnya has seen several deadly attacks by rebels on military personnel and local residents in recent days.

Rebels in southern Chechnya hit an armored Defense Ministry vehicle with rocket-propelled grenades late Monday. The crew managed to escape the burning vehicle unscathed, though a local woman was wounded in the ensuing gunfire, regional police told Interfax.

Earlier in the day, a group of five rebels attacked a border guard convoy near Grozny, killing three servicemen and wounding six others, local prosecutors said, Interfax reported Tuesday.

On their web site, Kavkazcenter.com, Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for both attacks.

They also claimed responsibility for the brief capture by 60 gunmen Friday of the village of Benoi-Vedeno in southeastern Chechnya. Three village residents were shot dead in the attack, while several others were abducted and subsequently released. Five homes in the village were destroyed by fire.

Local authorities are investigating each of the attacks, though no suspects in any of the clashes were reported detained as of Tuesday evening.

An official in the administration of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said by telephone Tuesday that neither he nor law enforcement agencies in the republic were particularly concerned about the surge in rebel activity.

The Yamadayev brothers, former rebels who switched to the federal side but have run afoul of Kadyrov, could benefit from the latest attacks, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The Yamadayev brothers have been sidelined by Kadyrov in what analysts say is a move to fully consolidate his power in the republic.

The attacks were carried out in areas patrolled by the Vostok battalion — which had been led by the Yamadayevs and reported directly to the Defense Ministry — shortly after its activities were suspended because of criminal investigations of the brothers, the official said.

Political analysts, meanwhile, linked the escalation in violence with the problems of integrating Chechen youth in the development of the war-scarred republic.

A significant segment of Chechen youth still suffer not only from unemployment, but also from postwar trauma following two bloody conflicts in the republic in the last 15 years, said Enver Kisriyev, head of the Caucasus department at the Center of Civilization and Regional Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"The feeling of injustice pushes them into the forest [to join rebels]," Kisriyev said. "That is the only form of protest they can imagine."

Citing his own sources in Chechnya, Kisriyev said the attackers who seized the village last week were almost all younger than 20 years old.

The rebels said on their web site Tuesday that Monday's attack on the border guard convoy was a test for young mujahedin who recently joined their cause.