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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Addressing the Amnesty in Local Fashion

Bitar Bitarov, prosecutor for the town of Buinaksk in Dagestan, was killed in a roadside bombing last Tuesday. Regional Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov was ambushed as he arrived at the scene, but miraculously survived. The bomb aimed at Bitarov, it seems, was intended to attract the real target -- Magomedtagirov.

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The prosecutor was not riding in his armored car, which he had lent to friends. A new regional prosecutor had only just been appointed in Dagestan, and Bitarov didn't want to show off an expensive armored vehicle in front of his new boss.

The assassination attempt was apparently organized by Dagestan's chief warlord, Rappani Khalilov, a native of Buinaksk who, according to reports, frequently drops in on the village using a fake passport.

But the real target of the attack was not even Magomedtagirov. The real target was the amnesty offered at the end of July for any militants willing to put down their arms.

In Dagestan, there are certain specific issues with regard to the amnesty. In point of fact, an amnesty policy has been pursued for some time -- ever since Mukhu Aliyev was named as president of the republic. Ex-fighters have returned to their villages in droves under a complicated system of informal guarantees given by lawmakers and the militants themselves -- which in Dagestan are often the same thing -- local elders, and the republic's president.

Many ended up as militants as a result of police lawlessness, multiplied by police greed. It is hard to tell where bloodlust ends and Islam begins for such people, as their Islam is entirely military. One such man with whom I spoke saw his son shot by a sniper during the storming of a town. "I thought it was a rabbit running," the sniper laughed. The father later joined the militants and his son now comes to visit him in prison. He has also gotten into the habit of going up to cops and asking them, "Was it you who shot at my dad? I'll kill you when I grow up."

In other cases, men were tricked into becoming militants. For example, some young men from the village of Gimry took to the mountains after they received telephone calls from a man who had been vouched for by a fellow Muslim and was asking for help in hiding from the police. The young men went to pick up the fugitive at the other end of the Gimry tunnel, where their new friend got into the car, said he no longer needed help, left them two submachine guns as presents, and got out. Realizing they had been set up, the young men scampered back to the village, barely avoiding arrest.

Before FSB head Nikolai Patrushev announced the amnesty, Magomedtagirov had opposed any talks with militants, and no one had ever taken a shot at him. Why should they if the police were doing what the militants needed, by acting in a manner that could only increase the number of separatists?

After Patrushev's announcement, Magomedtagirov did a volte-face -- and immediately was targeted in an assassination attempt. Rappani Khalilov, of course, is not on the list of those eligible for amnesty and probably isn't interested in roaming the mountains alone.

Khalilov probably wasn't even trying to disrupt the amnesty deal, however. More likely he was trying to disrupt a trap that had been set for those still at large. The amnesty announced by Patrushev is a strange beast. An amnesty involves forgiving guilty parties, whereas the state is saying here that it will forgive those who have not committed any serious crimes.

Just think about it for a minute: If you're sitting in the forest with a machine gun and have two-dozen relatives of a police colonel you wasted looking to avenge his blood, and your own desire for revenge against two dozen relatives of the cop who killed your brother, would you really put much stake in an offer of amnesty for the innocent?

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.