Russia: Terrorism Risk Outlook

At 5am on the morning of 21 July 2010, five or six armed militants attacked the Baksan hydropower station, which is situated to the north of Kabardino-Balkaria's capital city of Nalchik.
By: Exclusive Analysis
 
Aug. 2, 2010 - PRLog -- While infrastructure has been part of the target set of militants in the North Caucasus, no attack against guarded power plants had previously occurred; Baksan hydropower plant was reinsured against terrorism and sabotage at London's Lloyd's market.

During the attack the militants killed two security guards on duty at the power plant (during normal working hours between 8 am and 6 pm there are more than 20 security guards at the Baksan plant) and planted five aluminium powder and ammonium nitrate time bombs in the machine room. Four of these improvised explosives went off, disabling three of the four turbines at what is the first, and the smallest, hydropower plant constructed by the Soviets in the North Caucasus (total capacity of 25MWt). It started operation in 1936. The explosions at this facility owned by the state-controlled hydropower monopolist and the world's second largest hydropower producer RusHydro had little impact on electricity supply in the region, because electricity to Baksan plant's regular clients was redirected from other facilities. However, the plant suffered approximately $50 million worth of damage (the Baksan hydropower station was due to be completely remodelled and modernised, beginning in 2014). The Baksan facility was insured against terrorism by Russian Kapital Strakhovanie to the amount of $50 million. The plant was reinsured in London's Lloyd's market. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister in charge of industry and energy Igor Sechin, indicated that RusHydro would need to spend around $50 million in the next two years for the reconstruction of the Baksan plant.

Two hours before the attack on Baksan plant, insurgents detonated an explosive device at the police headquarters in Baksan town centre. This is the latest tactic used by the North Caucasus insurgents and serves the purpose of distracting attention. In the case of Baksan plant attack, almost the entire police force of the town was put in charge of finding the likely perpetrators of the attack on police headquarters, making it easier for the insurgents to target the hydropower plant a few hours later. The security guards at Baksan were not informed about the attack on police headquarters. This points to the likelihood of the insurgents having penetrated the police in Kabardino-Balkaria, as we have earlier noted, has been the case in other North Caucasus republics, such as Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya and North Ossetia. Furthermore, it is likely that ex-employees of the Baksan hydropower plant, familiar with the technical characteristics and security measures taken at the site, were among the attackers. An investigation by Kabardino-Balkaria's prosecutor's office has revealed that security measures at the plant were lax and that police officers in charge of its security were sleeping at the time of attack. The investigation has been made more difficult by the lack of CCTV on such sites across the North Caucasus.

The attack was likely organised by Kazbek Tashuev, the leader of the Baksan group of insurgents; it was likely financed by opponents of Kabardino-Balkaria's current president, whose first term in office expires in September 2010.

Government sources credibly claim that the attack was masterminded by Kazbek Tashuev and his men. Tashuev (also known as Abdul Jabbar) is one of the two main militant leaders in Kabardino-Balkaria and is the head of the so-called Baksan Jamaat. We assess that Tashuev's attack against the Baksan hydropower station is part of what has now become a standard competition for power and resources among regional political elites. Specifically, we assess that Tashuev's attack was timed so as to discredit the current president of Kabardino-Balkaria, Arsen Kanokov, who is due for reappointment by Moscow in September 2010, and was likely underwritten by Kanokov's political opponents. We have noted in our earlier assessments that federal funds are diverted to insurgents by regional officials in the North Caucasus, who either use them to pay insurgents as proxies to settle local scores, or to buy their own protection. As a result, many attacks on both government and commercial targets in the region are driven by a mixture of political and criminal motives. If Moscow is persuaded that Kanokov is not the right man for the job, then an opening would be created for a reshuffling of power among the republic's elites. Kanokov has a number of enemies among local business and political heavyweights; he survived an assassination attempt on 1 May 2010. Our assessment that Tashuev's attack on the Baksan facility was likely motivated by local politics, and not by the larger cause of regional separatism, is supported by the fact that the overall leader of the North Caucasus insurgency, Doku Umarov, has uncharacteristically not claimed responsibility for this attack. However, Kabardino-Balkaria's insurgents will still be likely to justify this attack as revenge for the killing of their former leader, Anzor Astemirov, in March 2010 by federal security forces in capital Nalchik.


On the limited information currently available, there are further conspiratorial possibilities behind the attack. The whole incident could have been fabricated by RusHydro itself (perhaps with the help of security services or political factions in Kabardino-Balkaria with connections to insurgent groups) in order to get the necessary funds from insurance providers to finance the required modernisation of the Baksan plant. The main argument of the proponents of this view is the fact that the only bomb that failed to explode was placed under the only generator at the plant that is not slated for replacement during the planned modernisation (as it is the most modern one).

Insurgents are likely to expand their target set in the North Caucasus beyond hydropower plants; however, a spectacular attack on a core hydropower installation outside the North Caucasus is a likely aspiration for the insurgent leadership.

No matter what the motivation behind this attack, Kabardino-Balkaria has now firmly become one of the violent unrest hotspots in the North Caucasus, overshadowing North Ossetia and Chechnya. Forty-one attacks have been perpetrated in the republic since the beginning of 2010 against security and administrative personnel. Overall, we forecast that attacks against other hydropower stations in the North Caucasus (for example, Chirkeiskaya, Aushigerskaya, Sulakskaya) are somewhat unlikely in the near future; one reason being that the standard security guard force at these facilities is at least 20 men, armed with automatic weapons and machine guns. Also, insurgents tend to target assets that are not well-secured, meaning that their target set in the North Caucasus is likely to expand further beyond hydropower plants. However, Umarov could well attempt to launch a spectacular large-scale attack from the North Caucasus against on one of Russia's core hydro power stations in Siberia (Irkutsk or Amursk oblasts); a region where counter-terrorism preparedness is low, and from where a successful attack would resonate enormously across the country.

The absence of an independent opposition and social grievances stemming from violations of human rights by local and federal security forces in the North Caucasus have increased the popularity of the Salafi ideology.

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Exclusive Analysis is a specialist intelligence company that forecasts commercially relevant political and violent risks worldwide. We leverage our source network and methodology to deliver accurate, decision-ready forecasts to a broad range of sectors. These include insurance and reinsurance, financial services, shipping, banking, oil and gas, aviation, mining, cargo and logistics, governments, NGOs and media.
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Page Updated Last on: Aug 02, 2010



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