Islamic Insurgents Attack Chechen Capital

Dec 04, 2014 at 4:34 PM ET

Remember the potential terrorist attack by jihadi insurgents everyone was worried about during the Sochi Olympics back in February? Those extremist groups might have, instead, been preparing for the attack Thursday in Grozny, the regional capital of Chechnya. Local Russian media reports at least seven fighters opened fire on local security in the city center, killing at least 16 people, 10 of them police, in the largest violent attack in Grozny since a suicide bombing in October.

The official number of civilian deaths is not yet known, Russian publication Snob reports. Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said law enforcement officers killed some of the fighters, but Caucasus-focused publication Kavkaz-Uzel reports it received a text message citing unconfirmed rumors that as many as 400 militants might have entered Grozny.

A video published Dec. 3 to YouTube by user Albert Albertiny (below) shows an unidentified insurgent saying fighters seized weaponry and “destroyed many vehicles and armored columns.” The attack, he said, was to seek revenge for the “oppression” of Muslim women by security forces led by Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the Chechen Republic. The man in the video said the group of fighters pledged allegiance to the leader of the Caucasus Emirate, an umbrella of South Russian terrorist groups formed in reaction to Russia’s violent tactics against Chechen nationalism after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Kadyrov wrote in a caption to this Instagram a few hours after the attack that six terrorists responsible for the attack had been “annihilated”:

Just hours after the fighters infiltrated Grozny’s main publishing house and a fierce shoot-out began between police and insurgents, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a speech in Moscow that he trusted local Chechen authorities to ensure security. “Those ‘rebels’ have again manifested themselves in Chechnya. I’m sure the local guys, local law enforcement bodies, will cope with that,” he said. “Let’s support them.”

Promptly after Putin’s statement of faith in Chechen police, Kadyrov Instagrammed that excerpt from the president’s speech and posted the prayer emoji next to a pointer finger emoji pointing directly to Putin. The symbol of the pointed index finger could refer to the hand gesture often used by ISIS fighters to imply that their fundamentalist view is the only legitimate view.

A video posted to YouTube Thursday shows a shoot-out between Kadyrov’s special forces and jihadi fighters inside a Grozny school:

The publishing house was almost completely burnt out:

A nearby market was also in ruins:

Kadyrov said a team this big could not have come from inside the capital, but security personnel in Grozny said the fighters came from Shalazhi, a town southwest of Grozny.

Fighting was reported to have eased by Thursday evening, but citizens were cautious to go out in public. Artist Radik Vildanov tweeted that his friends in Grozny called him and told him all schools in Grozny were closed.

Translation: “#Grozny gunshots stopped around 2 hours ago, but people are scared to leave their homes.”