February 27th 2008 · Prague Watchdog / Saida Kantysheva · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS · ALSO AVAILABLE IN: RUSSIAN 

What are they looking for in Gimry?

What are they looking for in Gimry?

By Saida Kantysheva

DAGESTAN – For more than two months now the Russian military has been conducting a strange “special operation” in the Dagestan mountain village of Gimry. A week ago, Russian media reported that Bammatkhan Sheykhov, head of the Buynaksk guerrilla group, had been arrested there. But the Russian troops are still in the village. Who else are they looking for in this village? After all, it’s common knowledge that any man on the wanted list for being a guerrilla left the place long ago.

The whole operation is surrounded by numerous rumours which are starting to form a topic of conversation among the inhabitants of the district. There are several versions of a story about guerrillas breaking out of the cordoned-off village.

According to the first theory, at the beginning of the counter-terrorist operation, which began on December 15, eleven men dressed as OMON officers went into the forest, explaining that they had been ordered to undertake a special operation. They set off with weapons, wearing facemasks and camouflage uniform. They were immediately let out of Gimry because the law enforcers are not eager to comb forested mountainsides which to them are unfamiliar and difficult terrain. Because there are OMON troops in the village, as well as forces which have been brought in from other localities, and they don’t know one another, it would have been easy for these men to pass as members of the law enforcement agencies.

Others suggest that because these individuals were carrying large quantities of cash, it would not have been difficult to persuade someone to let them through the cordon. (Sometimes exaggerated theories are encountered – for example, that the group of wanted men paid a large sum of money for the use of a helicopter which picked them up outside the village and took them far away from the site of the special operation).

A third theory has it that the wanted men devised another way of getting out of the village by taking advantage of the fact that village residents are let through in cases of necessity. Several people from families about to have babies were permitted to leave the village and go to the maternity hospital. As a result, twenty men posing as married couples managed to get out of the village. Half were dressed as women: these were the shorter men. The taller men played the part of their “husbands”.

Apparently, the law enforcers immediately realized that they had lost the main objectives of their presence in the village. The search for the missing group of men was wide-ranging and intensive. The area around the village was bombed. On the first day a young lad was killed in the forest, and another on the following day. But the group of men, for whom this difficult terrain was familiar ground, was never located.

The event which led to the large-scale operation in Gimry was the assassination on December 10 of Dagestan member of parliament Gazimagomed Magomedov. Magomedov was a man of great courage, strength, agility and intelligence, a resourceful fellow of remarkable physical development. He was locally rumoured to be an FSB colonel who had once been an officer of the personal guard of Dzhokhar Dudayev, the first Chechen president.

There have been various reactions to Magomedov’s assassination. Many residents of the district are pleased about his death, calling him the “main bandit”, and believing that now the situation in the district is becoming more stable, with instances of lawlessness and terrorism coming to a halt. Others say he was a decent man. This same section of the population says that everything is calm and peaceful in Gimry.

Another character in the Gimry drama is now also at the centre of a popular rumour. Ibragim Gadzhidadayev, wanted by the security forces on suspicion of murdering Magomedov, is characterized by those who know him as brave, bold and insolent. He is also physically very developed – a world champion in Ushu-Sanda. Most of the local inhabitants talk about him with respect and say that even if he did fight the unjust and arrogant rich men, he has never laid a finger on ordinary people, and has never harassed them.

Now the policemen are saying that there were three groups in Gimry: the group of Magomedov, who even before he became a deputy the local police have repeatedly detained, but have always later released; a group of men who were persecuted on religious grounds, who at one time went into hiding and who finally had the charges against them dropped; and a small group of unusually dexterous thieves who are alleged to have quietly unloaded several Kamaz vehicles in the Gimry tunnel .

Since the beginning of the counter-terrorist operation the troops brought to the area have caused the local inhabitants a great deal of trouble. Their property has been rudely thrown about in the course of searches. No protests were possible, as such cases were followed by harsh retribution: people were taken to the police station, where they were beaten up or had narcotics planted on them. Locals say that while the Rostov OMON are mostly decent enough, the riot police from Volgograd are guilty of a lot of cruelty and injustice. And especial hatred is reserved for two twin brothers, who have distinguished themselves by extreme unjustified aggression and contempt for the local people.

Now the soldiers and OMON troops, whose stay in the village has lasted a long time, have realized that the people of Gimry are a peaceful and decent lot, from whom no threat emanates. And the villagers have also adapted. They buy cheap butter from the military, groceries, pickled vegetables, exchanging them for alcoholic beverages – after all Gimry has been known its grapes and winemaking since ancient times. There are even rumours that they don’t want the troops to leave the village.

At all events, the village is still cordoned off, and the soldiers will only let people out on the basis of lists, as at the beginning of the special operation. The official justification for their continued presence is that there is a risk of blood vengeance. And they will stay there at least until the presidential elections on March 2.

(Translation by DM)


 · The photo album of Gimry (Prague Watchdog)



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