Blasts Heard, One Security Officer Wounded During Anti-Terror Operation In Petersburg

August 17, 2016
Photo: spb_today VKontakte page

LIVE UPDATES: One security officer has been wounded and blasts heard during an operation in Saint Petersburg this morning, purportedly aimed at detaining individuals wanted for terrorist activities in the North Caucasus.

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Update: 4 Militants Shot Dead in Police Anti-Terrorism Operation in St. Petersburg

As we reported earlier, Federal Security Service spetsnaz from the Grad [Hail] unit stormed an apartment on Leninsky Avenue in St. Petersburg this morning, shooting dead militants from the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.
According to later reports from Fontanka and Interfax, a total of 4 militants were shot dead by spetsnaz, all wanted by law-enforcement in Kabardino-Balkaria and all reported to be subordinates of Khizir Likhov, 25, a militant leader in the Russian list of terrorists and extremists wanted since 2014 who himself was recently “liquidated” by police. A pistol, grenades and ammunition were found on his person after he was killed.

Likhov’s group is accused of attacking highway police and FSB in Kabardino-Balkaria, said Interfax.

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Khizir Likhov
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Law-enforcers obtained information that Likhov’s men were hiding out in St. Petersburg, and then received an assignment for a special operation at No. 92/3 Leninsky Avenue, a 16-story apartment building in a courtyard. The militants were in a three-room apartment on the 10th floor which had been rented to various people, according to neighbors. 

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The spetsnaz prepared the operation in secret. Street-cleaning vehicles were ordered for Leninsky Avenue on the night of the 16th. Police and FSB were planning to make a series of arrests under other criminal cases, along with SOBR [Special Rapid Response Unit] and Grad spetsnaz troops, but in the morning, they were all summoned and reassigned to the operation on Leninsky.
For a fairly long time, the Emergenies Ministry assured media inquiring about the troops in the area that there was “training” going on. According to Fontanka, the FSB kept total information control of the operation, even keeping out of the loop officers from “E Center,” the Center to Combat Extremism of the Interior Ministry, which is usually closely involved in dealing with terrorist and extremist groups. “It was as if they were saying, ‘don’t get under foot,’ said Fontanka.
They chose the time of 11:20 for the storming. Residents on the 10th floor were warned to leave before the operation, but not all residents had left the building by that time, as there are a fair number of pensioners living there. The front entrance was blocked off. A number of media were already there because residents started making alarming calls to the press when they saw the forces assembling.

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Fontanka writes that the situation became almost comical when an old lady on the 14th floor started shouting at the Grad spetsnaz for disturbing her usually quiet morning.

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Instead of going directly to the suspected apartment, the FSB went to the one above and began spraying gas into the one below (which is why men in chemical hazard gear were sighted and photographed by Fontanka).

Next, the spetsnaz staged a maneuver to distract the press, Fontanka learned later. A spetsnaz officer with a bandaged head was carried out of the building on a stretcher, and an ambulance then raced out of the courtyard, lights flashing. While the reporters were all filming the ambulance, suddenly there was a series of popping noises.

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Information about how many militants were in the apartment and how many were shot or detained was at first contradictory, but the report of an injured spetsnaz turned out to be a ruse.

At 15:20 the FSB released an official statement saying the militants had put up armed resistance but all were shot. Asked if any were detained, the FSB said it had no comment. The National Anti-Terrorist Committee then said three were killed and one was detained. 

But ultimately, Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee said four were killed, Interfax reported.
Fontanka noted that if the apartment was first gassed, how were the militants even able to shoot?
Evidently, St. Petersburg law-enforcement agencies discussed the issue of whether they should declare a counter-terrorist operation formally — as is routinely done in the North Caucasus — but it was decided not to, so as not to sow panic before the September elections.
Fontanka came up with the names and police photos of three militants said to be in the apartment but it is not certain if these are some of the four killed.

They are Zalim Shebzukhov, Vyacheslav Nyrov, and Astemir Sheriyev.

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— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Three Suspected Militants Detained In Petersburg, Another Reportedly Killed
Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reports that three suspected members of a North Caucasus militant group have been detained in Saint Petersburg following an operation in the south of the city.

A source in the Petersburg office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) told RIA Novosti that at least three people had been detained and that the security forces were now leaving the site, although a cordon remains around the apartment block on Leninsky Prospekt in the south of the city.

Fontanka, an independent Petersburg newspaper, reports that they have received word that a fourth militant was killed during the operation.

They say that the security officer wounded earlier was a member of the FSB Grad spetsnaz group.

— Pierre Vaux

Blasts Heard, One Security Officer Wounded During Anti-Terror Operation In Petersburg

The security forces have surrounded a residential building in Saint Petersburg this morning, with reports of two blasts.

Fontanka, an independent Petersburg newspaper, reports that members of both the newly formed National Guard and the Federal Security Service (FSB) are taking part in the operation.

Witnesses told the paper that at around 11:20, two explosions rang out from a sixth floor apartment facing the street. Smoke then billowed out of the windows.

The security forces have not evacuated the building but are not allowing anyone in..  

According to Komomolskaya Pravda‘s local edition, armored vehicles and around 80 armed, masked security personnel surrounded the multi-storey apartment building on Leninsky Prospekt, in the south of the city, before gunshots and the first blast were heard.

A witness in the opposite building told KP that the blast sounded like a stun grenade.

Photos from the spb_today VKontakte page:

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Security personnel are reported to have carried unidentified white sacks into the building.

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Fontanka reader’s photo
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The FSB claims that the operation is aimed at the detention of terrorists from the North Caucasus who are on the federal wanted list.

Fontanka later reported that the wanted persons are sought by the security forces in the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.

At around 12:00, Fontanka‘s correspondent Denis Korotkov reported that people in white and green chemical protection suits and gas masks could be seen on the communal balcony of the 10th and 11th floors.

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Photo: Denis Korotkov
2016-08-17 09:47:30

At around 12:35 Fontanka reported from the scene that a man had been brought out of the building on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance. A group of security officers then sped off in a car.

According to the correspondent, the man taken off in the ambulance was a member of the security forces. 

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— Pierre Vaux