Cultural Revolutions

Fighting Abated

The fighting in Dagestan was abating as of late August. Russian firepower had slowed the Chechen-backed Islamic militants, led by an international corps of Islamists, including Chechen "field commander" (read: "warlord") Shamil Basayevaud the Jordanian professional militant known only as "Khattab." They had seized 20 towns and villages in the mountainous region of western Dagestan, and the emissaries of the newly proclaimed "Islamic Republic," reportedly backed by Osama Bin Ladin's network, fanned out to the capitals of die Islamic world, seeking aid and recognition, casting themselves as holy warriors fighting the armies of the infidel.

Only by concentrating the firepower of their shrinking number of battle-ready units and deploying elite airborne troops—Yeltsin's Pretorian Guard, usually held in reserve near Moscow—did the Russians turn back the tide. For now. Nevertheless, the mujahedin are said to have made inroads in recruiting the mountain peoples of the hodgepodge Republic of Dagestan (in part because Russian commanders displayed their usual ham-fisted approach to counter-insurgency warfare, killing innocent villagers along with "bandits" in air and artillery bombardments), and Basayev has announced that the war is simply entering a new "partisan" phase. Moscow is gripped by fear of terrorist attacks, and Russian troops have failed to seal the border...

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