Ingushetia: Lessons Learned from an Assassination Attempt

4 MINS READJun 29, 2009 | 20:26 GMT
A June 22 assassination attempt in which Ingush President Yunus-bek Yevkurov was severely injured apparently was the result of some fundamental lapses by Yevkurov’s security detail. These include the decision to proceed along a road where an unknown vehicle was parked. Practicing more thorough situational awareness could have prevented the bombing, which was the sixth attack against a high-value target in Ingushetia just this month.
At approximately 8:20 a.m. local time on June 22, as Ingush President Yunus-bek Yevkurov was being shuttled to his office in Magas, his four-car convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) concealed in a car on the side of the road. When the suicide bomber inside the stolen Toyota sedan detonated an explosive equivalent to 130 pounds of TNT, the president’s armored Mercedes apparently sustained a direct hit and Yevkurov was severely injured. According to some reports, the sedan came up alongside the convoy and then detonated, but the location of the blast seat (on the shoulder of the road, where a vehicle would typically be parked), and eyewitness reports of a parked car with Moscow plates indicate that the vehicle was stationary when it detonated. As a result of the explosion the Mercedes ran off the road, and members of the president’s security team were able to pull him from the wreckage before the vehicle was consumed by flames. The attempted Yevkurov assassination is the sixth attack on a high-value target (HVT) in Ingushetia so far in June. Others include the June 13 shooting of former Deputy Prime Minister Bashir Aushev, who was gunned down by militants outside his home. On June 10, Deputy Chief Justice Aza Gazgireyeva of the Ingush Supreme Court was shot and killed as she was dropping her children off at school. She was about to open the trial against militants who allegedly were behind Ingushetia’s most violent attack in recent history, coordinated strikes by Chechen militants on June 22, 2004, that killed nearly 100 security personnel (exactly five years before the attempted assassination of Yevkurov). On June 3, a federal counternarcotics official, Col. Isa Tochiev, was injured when an IED planted in his vehicle exploded. He later died in the hospital. Violence in Ingushetia is commonplace, with militants and criminal gangs frequently targeting police officers and soldiers as well as government leaders. Yevkurov, along with his security detail, should have been more mindful of the threat. He was handpicked for the Ingush presidency by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in October 2008 because of his experience with the Russian Foreign Military Intelligence Directorate. Despite Yevkurov's strong background in security, however, his protection detail made several key mistakes. First, the president’s convoy should have altered its times and routes, and a detailed route analysis should have been conducted to identify likely attack sites. A common tactic used to protect HVTs is to send a vehicle (known as a "five-minute car") out ahead to check for anything unusual, such as road obstructions or suspicious people, objects or vehicles along the road that could threaten the convoy. Because previous attacks had occurred along the same stretch of road, the route was an obvious site for aggressive countersurveillance, which could have prevented the attack. Additionally, the Toyota had to have been parked beside the road ahead of time, which means whoever deployed the suicide bomber knew that President Yevkurov’s convoy would be passing by that morning. While it is unclear whether Yevkurov was following a predictable morning routine, the facts suggest he probably was. He was targeted in transit to his office (a trip he likely makes nearly every day), the attack occurred at 8:20 in the morning (a typical morning commute time), and the previous president used the same route. Most attacks on HVTs occur along the route from home to workplace, and two of the five other attacks this month took place as their targets were routinely traveling just such a route. Finally, Yevkurov’s security detail failed to recognize the parked car holding the explosives as a threat as they were approaching it. A Russian security official commented that the guards may have disregarded the vehicle because it had a Moscow license plate. Yevkurov and other Ingush officials are all closely linked to, if not handpicked by, Medvedev or Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, so Moscow is seen as an ally. Had the license plate been a local one, perhaps security guards would have taken notice and acted accordingly. (As it turned out, the vehicle was stolen in Moscow, although it is not clear if the militants used the Moscow-tagged car to avoid suspicion.) The kind of security lapses that occurred on June 22 appear to have been happening for years in Ingushetia, where militants can seemingly strike whomever whenever they want to. Many of these attacks could have been prevented by taking relatively simple precautions. Perhaps government security officials will take these lessons to heart.

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