Military-style operation to mayor of Dagestan

Military-style operation to mayor of Dagestan

Russian security forces conducted a military-style operation on June 1 to detain the powerful mayor of Dagestan’s regional capital on murder charges, whisking him away in a helicopter to escape his private army of several hundred bodyguards, officials said.

Said Amirov, the mayor of Makhachkala, is a legendary and colorful figure who has wielded vast clout in the Caspian Sea region, which has been destabilized by an Islamist insurgency that has spread across Russia’s North Caucasus after two separatist wars in Chechnya.

Amirov, 59, has served as mayor since 1998 and previously worked as deputy head of the provincial government. He has survived 15 attempts on his life and lived in a bunker. Amirov has been in a wheelchair since an assassination attempt in 1993. In 1998, a car bomb aimed at him brought down scores of houses and killed 19 people, but he escaped unhurt.

Extreme measures

Rasul Temirbekov, a spokesman for the Investigative Committee’s branch in Dagestan, said it took extreme security measures when they moved in to arrest Amirov. Several streets leading to Amirov’s bunker had been blocked by armored vehicles, and he was flown away in a military helicopter to avoid a battle with his private army. The operation was conducted by officers dispatched from Moscow and other regions in an apparent bid to prevent a leak of information that would tip Amirov off.

 Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for the federal Investigative Committee in Moscow, said that Amirov was detained June 1 along with more than 10 accomplices. He said that Amirov is accused of staging the killing of a senior investigator with the local branch of the Investigative Committee in 2011. Markin said that the mayor was flown to Moscow. Amirov’s nephew was detained in a parallel raid in the city of Kaspiisk.