A series of coordinated attacks against security forces hit Russia’s volatile autonomous republic of Chechnya on Monday with authorities claiming to have killed at least five assailants – all of them children.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the spate of violence, the SITE monitoring group reported, citing the group’s Amaq website.
“Fighters from the Islamic State attacked Chechen police officers and elements in Grozny and Shali in Mesker-Yurt,” Amaq said. ISIL has claimed attacks in the past that it had no logistical role in.
Dzhambulat Umarov, information minister in the regional government, told the Tass news agency the attackers were aged between 11 and 16. He said ISIL has increasingly focused on teenagers in its efforts to recruit supporters.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said information on the situation in Chechnya was scarce.
“These attacks appear not to have been particularly sophisticated or effective,” he said. “Exact details are still coming in. The Russian investigative committee says it has launched a criminal case into the attacks.”
Officials in Russia confirmed several policemen were wounded and at least five attackers killed in the capital Grozny and Shali.
“The criminals were neutralised,” the investigative committee said.
Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s president, said on his official Telegram social-networking account that one of the attacks saw a suicide bomber detonate his explosives in Mesker-Yurt, on the outskirts of Grozny. The attack injured several policemen, but the attacker survived and was taken to a hospital.
Kadyrov, who was visiting Saudi Arabia on Monday, said extremist propaganda that “confuses the young men” was to blame for the assaults.
He said the attacks were staged to “darken” the festivities as Muslims celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday.
Police in the North Caucasus region said in another incident two men armed with knives attempted to enter the district police department in the town of Shali and “inflicted wounds on two police employees on duty” before being shot dead.
According to an anonymous source cited by RIA Novosti news agency, at least one female bystander was also wounded in the Shali incident.
In another attack in Shali, two assailants tried to blow up a truck loaded with gas canisters in a suicide mission, but the vehicle failed to explode, Kadyrov spokesman Alvi Karimov said on Kommersant FM radio. He said the two were shot dead by police.
There were also attacks in Grozny. In one incident, an attacker was allegedly shot dead after hitting a traffic policeman with his car. There were also reports of a shoot-out between police officers and attackers at the intersection between Pervyomaiskaya and Isaev streets in Grozny that killed one officer.
Chechnya’s Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov said the attackers “attempted to destabilise the situation in Chechnya” but have been stopped. He said no officers were killed.
The Kremlin has relied on Kadyrov to stabilise Chechnya after two separatist wars in the 1990s and has provided generous subsidies to help rebuild the region.
International human rights groups have accused Kadyrov of rampant abuses, including arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings by his feared security forces.
Rebels, some of whom have sworn allegiance to ISIL, still conduct sporadic raids in Chechnya.