Twelve people were killed and 29 were injured when two improvised explosive devices detonated March 31 in the Dagestani town of Kizlyar in the Russian Northern Caucasus region. While attacks in the region are fairly routine in early spring, the timing and sophistication of these attacks stand out, especially after the March 29 Moscow subway attacks.
Two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that detonated 20 minutes apart rocked the town of Kizlyar in the Russian Northern Caucasus republic of Dagestan. Among the 12 killed in the attacks were several law enforcement personnel; 29 other people were wounded. The bombings in Kizlyar, near the border with Chechnya, comes on the heels of two March 29 suicide bombings in Moscow subway stations that killed 39 people. These attacks appear to have targeted the regional headquarters of the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Services (FSB), as well as first responders and local law enforcement — most notably Kizlyar Police Chief Col. Vitaly Vedernikov, who died in the second bombing. Attacks in Russia's Northern Caucasus regions are not uncommon during the spring thaw, but the timing, coordination and sophistication of these attacks are notable, especially in light of the Moscow attacks. The first attack came in the form of a suicide vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) that detonated at approximately 8:45 a.m. local time near a movie theater a little more than 300 yards away from the Russian Interior Ministry and the FSB regional headquarters. Local law enforcement officials intercepted the VBIED before it reached this target , whereupon the suicide operator detonated the device, according to Russian media reports. The blast seat (the crater where the VBIED detonated) measured 4 feet deep and more than 15 feet wide, indicating that the VBIED was fairly large. Russian investigators at the scene initially stated the VBIED detonated with the force of 440 pounds of dynamite, which is concurrent with the reported size of the blast seat. The second attack, which took place approximately 9:05 a.m. local time, came in the form of a suicide bomber wearing a vest and dressed in a police uniform. Though this attack undoubtedly targeted those charged with responding to the scene of the first attack, its primary target was Vedernikov. The attacker, identified as Daud Dzhabrailov, reportedly was dressed as a lieutenant colonel of the local police. This disguise would have allowed him to penetrate security lines at the scene of the first bombing and position himself close to the top commander on scene — Vedernikov — before detonating his device, causing the most strategic damage. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Dagestani President Magomedsalam Magomedov have raised the possibility that the March 29 Moscow attacks and today's Kizlyar bombings were related and orchestrated by a single group. Constructing and procuring explosives for the VBIED used in the March 31 attack, as well as recruiting two suicide bombers and planning the tactics used in the attack, would have taken more than the 48 hours between this attack and the one and Moscow. Preoperational planning for the Kizlyar attack most likely was in the works well before the Moscow attack, and perhaps was conducted alongside preparations for the Moscow bombing. The pervasive presence of Russian security forces in the Northern Caucasus means the region is no stranger to attacks by the various militant groups that operate there — the region has seen seven other attacks in the past two weeks alone. The spring thaw is typically a time when these regional militant groups become more active, but the March 31 attack stands out among the others in the region. Only one relatively small IED was used in all seven of the previous attacks, and the rest were much simpler, involving only small-arms fire. In response to the attacks, Russian leaders have clamped down on transit in and out of the Caucasus and have begun calling for increased security personnel to flow in the North Caucasus region. Should the attacks on the Moscow metro stations and the attack in Kizlyar be part of a sustained campaign, militants in the region will be provided with a target-rich environment with the influx of security personnel. STRATFOR will continue to monitor the investigations and any increase in operational tempo.