Broken ski lift at the blast site. Source: Reuters
Three tourists from Moscow were killed in the North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria on Feb. 18. A ski lift was attacked with explosives and three car bombs defused, as insurgents turn up the heat on Russia's plans to bring tourism investment to the region. The news also rings alarm bells ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics, set to be held close to the region in 2014.
Regional police spokesman Maxim Ushanov told AFP that the tourists
were attacked on the night of Friday, Feb. 18, as a minivan was
transferring them from a regional airport to the winter sports resort of
Baksan. The vehicle was stopped by men in camouflage and masks who said
they were security officers. The men demanded the tourists leave the
vehicle and opened fire when they refused. A fourth tourist is reported
to have died in hospital over the weekend, although police refuse to
confirm the news.
Meanwhile, the same evening a cable-car on Europe's highest peak,
Mount Elbrus, was hit by an explosion. Local police reported there were
no injuries, RIA Novosti reported.
However, the campaign continued into Saturday, when police defused
three car bombs rigged with a total of 70kg of TNT. The three vehicles
were parked close to hotels around Mount Elbrus, a popular ski
destination. "The law-enforcement bodies of Kabardino-Balkaria have
prevented a large-scale terrorist act," a police spokesman said.
The authorities announced on Sunday that a counter terrorism regime
had been established in the area. "The headquarters ... has decided to
impose a counter-terrorism regime from 10:00 a.m. Moscow time on Sunday
in the Elbrus area and part of the Baksan district to prevent subversive
and terrorist acts that may cause the death of people ... and to look
for members of illegal armed formations complicit in carrying out
terrorist attacks in the republic."
Last month's devastating bomb at Moscow's Domededovo Airport, which
killed 36, was a potent reminder of the continued strife in the North
Caucasus, where attacks on what are often corrupt and cruel authorities
and police are a daily occurrence.
The move against the region's tourist infrastructure is a direct blow
against a pillar in Moscow's strategy to calm the situation. Following
the bombing of the Moscow metro in March 2010, alongside the usual calls
for swift and bloody retribution, President Dmitry Medvedev opened
discussion over improving the hopeless economics of the area.
To that end, the Kremlin has announced it intends to turn the
strife-ridden region into a major tourism hub. Last month, a $15 billion
plan to build five major ski resorts was reiterated. The attacks over
the weekend are evidently meant as a clear warning to any investors that
might have been thinking about sinking cash into the scheme to think
The president of the republic picked up this theme when speaking with reporters on Saturday. "This is not just an atrocious crime," said Arsen Kanokov, "this is a kick in the teeth to all the people of Kabardino-Balkaria, who consider hospitality as a cornerstone of their culture and lifestyle."
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