Police in southern Russia on Feb. 13 raided the homes and office of activists who provide legal and psychological assistance to survivors of human rights abuses and domestic violence, Human Rights Watch reports. The raids took place in Makhachkala and Khasavyurt, two cities in Dagestan, a republic in Russia's Northern Caucasus region. The activists targeted are members of the Stichting Justice Initiative (SJI), a nongovernmental organization representing victims of rights abuses in the North Caucasus and survivors of domestic violence. Police seized computers and electronics containing documentation pertaining to their work. The court order sanctioning the search and seizure contained no information about any specific alleged offense that would have justified the action. Instead, it quoted generic provisions of the Law on Law Enforcement Operations, and the need to check allegations of involvement with organizing mass riots and financing of extremist activities—without reference to any factual grounds necessitating the searches.
Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee announced Nov. 29 that security forces in Dagestan killed three militants who had sworn allegiance to ISIS, including one who had returned from Syria earlier this year. The three, identified as members of the "Suleiman-Stal bandit group," were slain when they fired on troops sent to arrest them in the district of that name. A "security alert" was insated throughout Dagestan Republic for 48 hours. The raid may have been realted to a Nov. 7 incident in which unidentified gunmen opened fire on railway workers who were inspecting tracks near Novy Khuchet village on the outskirts of Makhachkala, killing one and wounding another. Security forces responded, and the assailants were killed when the refused to surrender. (TASS, Nov. 30; TASS, AP, Nov. 29; TASS, Nov. 7)
With the Winter Olympics underway in Sochi, Russian special forces troops killed five suspected militants and took another into custody Feb. 8 in an assault on a house in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan. The suspects were named as members of the "Buynaksk" militant group, and their leader, who was among the dead, as Alexei Pashentsev, an ethnic Russian convert to Islam. The Buynaksk network was named as tied to December's Volgograd attacks, although there was no claim that the cell targeted in the raid was directly involved. Three days earlier, a suspected mastermind of the Volgograd attacks was reported killed in a shoot-out with security forces following a raid on a house in the Dagestan town of Izberbash. However, Russian state media named the network targeted in that raid as "Kadarskaya." (CNN, Feb. 8; Vestnik Kavkaza, Feb. 5) Jan. 18 saw another raid in Makhachkala, in which seven presumed militants were killed, and links to the Volgograd attacks alleged. That time, Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee named the suspects as members of the Buinaksk group. (RIA-Novosti, Jan. 30; CNN, Jan. 18)
At least 34 people were killed in apparent suicide bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd—the first at the central commuter station Dec. 29, the next the following day on a trolley-bus in a market district. Moscow is stepping up security throughout the country, fearing an effort to disrupt the 2014 winter Olympic Games slated for the Black Sea coastal city of Sochi in February. Police have detained dozens in a sweep of terror suspects in Volgograd, with hundreds more searched or questioned. Reports did not make clear if the detained are Chechens, but did note a threat in a video statement released by Chechen resistance leader Doku Umarov earlier in the year to use "maximum force" to stop the Sochi Olympics. On the day of the first Volgograd blast, Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee boasted that FSB troops had killed a close aide to Umarov in a raid on a safe house in Dagestan. (CNN, Dec. 31; BBC News, The Guardian, Dec. 30; RT, Dec. 29)
With Boston under "lockdown" and a manhunt underway, leaders of the Chechen insurgency issued a statement April 19 casting doubt on police claims that the two suspects in the Marathon bombing—young brothers of Chechen origin—carried out the attacks. The official media arm of the Chechen mujahedeen, the Kavkaz Center, published a blog post that suggested a frame-up as part of a "PR campaign" to discredit the insurgency. The statement mocked the "lightning speed" at which the two suspects were identified, and called the investigation "completely muddled." From a translation by NBC News: "The news that the brothers attacked police officers, carjacked a man and did an array of other things, instead of going into hiding, looks strange at the very least." The statement argued that the younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was "very far from your typical 'Islamic terrorist.' He named career and money as his main credo. What's more, he just logged onto his Russian social networking site a few hours ago." Indeed, an overview of the young man's Twitter and other social media posts on AtlanticWire notes that he listed his "personal priority" as "career and money"—but his "worldview" as "Islam." He also made some ominously foreshadowing tweets, including "I will die young."