Russian investigators say they have launched investigations into three separate attacks that wounded several police officers in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya.
The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the Aug. 20, 2018 assaults in an announcement by its Amaq news agency, without providing details or evidence to back up its statement.
The Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, rejected the IS claim, alleging that the militant group had “no support, no social basis” in the North Caucasus republic.
At most, the IS group might have influenced young people on social media, Kadyrov said in a post on Telegram.
Chechen Information Minister Dzhambulat Umarov told the TASS news agency that the youngest attacker was 11 and the oldest 17.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said that in one of the Aug. 20, 2018 attacks, two attackers entered the district police department in the town of Shali and wounded two officers with knives.
The two assailants were shot dead, according to Chechnya’s Interior Ministry.
“The main purpose today is to create an illusion that there are some forces capable of organizing armed actions and terrorist attacks” within Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov said.
(North Caucasus Service RFE/RL)
In the village of Mesker-Yurt, north of Shali, a young person carrying a rucksack blew himself up at a police post, investigators said, adding that “officers and civilians were not harmed by the blast.”
Reports earlier said the attacker had survived.
And in the regional capital, Grozny, police opened fire on a vehicle that had hit two policemen. Investigators said the driver was killed.
Authorities reportedly identified the driver as 17-year-old Ali Akhmatkhanov — a younger brother of Khizir Akhmatkhanov, who was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his involvement in a terrorist attack in the Chechen city of Gudermes in 2001.
The other person in the car was 11 years old, Umarov told TASS.
Kadyrov, who was visiting Saudi Arabia, claimed that the assaults’ main purpose was to “create an illusion that there are some forces capable of organizing armed actions and terrorist attacks” within Chechnya.
The Chechen leader also dismissed the attacks as an attempt to disrupt the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, saying, “The task was to darken this holiday, to cause a broad public response, and to prevent residents of Chechnya from celebrating Eid al-Adha.”
Islamic militants in the region have mounted frequent attacks on police, moderate Muslims, and officials, and some have sworn allegiance to IS.
Russia estimates some 2,000 citizens, mostly from the North Caucasus, have fought alongside IS in Syria.
Organized crime, business turf wars, political disputes, and clan rivalry also contribute to the bloodshed in the region.
Critics say Russian authorities and Kadyrov’s government sometimes use allegations of militancy as a pretext to crack down on opponents.
This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.