Grozny ballistic missile attack

Grozny ballistic missile attack

Infobox civilian attack
title=Grozny ballistic missile attack

location=Grozny, Chechnya
target=Open air market, mosque, civilian hospital
date=October 21, 1999
type=Ballistic missile strike
fatalities=At least 137
injuries=About 400
perps=Strategic Rocket Forces
motive=At first official denial; later destruction of "arms bazaar"

The Grozny ballistic missile attack was a series of a devastating Russian ballistic missile strikes on the Chechen capital Grozny on October 21 1999. The attack killed 282 people according to the Chechen estimate (at least 137 according to the HALO Trust count [ The October 21, 1999, Cluster Bomb Attack on the Grozny Market] , Mennonite Central Committee] ) and injured some 400, a large part of them maimed. The vast majority of casualties were civilians.

The attack

The cluster munition explosions occurred in several areas of the capital, mostly in the downtown area including the crowded outdoor central marketplace (bazaar). Some of the missiles exploded outside the city's only functioning maternity hospital, located near the Aslan Maskhadov's presidential palace building (the palace itself was not damaged in the attack) and near the post office. [ [ Russian rockets hit Grozny market] , "The Guardian", October 22 1999] Still another hit the mosque in Kalinina, a suburb of Grozny. [ Russians at odds over market attack] , BBC News, October 22, 1999] The hypersonic missiles fell without warning as the Chechen radar system was destroyed in the earlier Russian air strikes.

According to Chechen sources about 35 people died at the hospital, including 13 mothers and 15 newborn babies. The majority of casualties from that particular missile seemed though to have been people waiting for public transport outside the hospital. In the Kalinina mosque, 41 out of the 60 people who gathered for evening prayer were killed. Most of the casualties, however, occurred at the central market, which was filled with hundreds of shoppers at the time of the attack, including Chechens, ethnic Russians and the Ingush. During this time, a rain of large shrapnel showered the market, nearby streets, and open-air cafés, with each blast affecting large area.

Some time after the first blasts, the second, smaller wave of missiles fell about 200 meters from the bazaar. Among the victims was Supian Ependiyev, the first journalist reported to be killed while covering the Second Chechen War. [ Correspondent killed in Grozny rocket attack] , Committee to Protect Journalists, November 5, 1999]

The attacks unleashed a new wave of thousands of refugees heading to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia. [ Blasts in Chechen Capital Unleash New Wave of Refugees] , "The New York Times", October 23, 1999] The city's streets were reported to be largely empty after the attack, as those residents who have not yet fled were being too scared to venture outside. [ World: Europe: Russia tightens noose around Grozny] , BBC News, October 23, 1999]


U.S. spy satellites (reportedly the Defense Support Program) tracked several Russian short-range ballistic missiles launched from the Russian city of Mozdok in North Ossetia-Alania, some 60 miles northeast of Grozny. The missiles are believed by western intelligence analysts to have been SS-21 Scarabs (OTR-21 "Tochka"). [ [ Missile terror] , WorldNetDaily, October 29, 1999]

After days of denying responsibility, including remarks by the Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin that the explosions were the result of a "clash between gangs", Russian spokesman said the busy marketplace was targeted in a "special operation in which no artillery or aircraft were involved" because it was used by rebels as an arms bazaar. Russian officials also insisted no civilians died in the blasts. [ [ Russia denies deadly attack on Grozny] , CBS, November 10, 2000]

However, according to the Human Rights Watch, the possibility of arms merchants in the bazaar did not justify "the tremendous amount of force" used against the market.

According to HALO Trust:

"Grozny market . . . is a great sprawling area of wooden stalls laid out each morning and packed away in the evenings. It is the equivalent of all your department stores rolled into one. Thus you can buy fresh bread, a TV set, a wedding dress, a bag of nails, and an AK-47 in one open area the size of a couple of sports fields. Each section is clearly demarcated and the area where weapons are sold is very small and set right against the edge. The center of destruction was in the central zone some 150m away from the area set aside for selling weapons. It was right over the clothes and food section. With the use of such munitions in such an area it was impossible not to have foreseen massive collateral damage."

The HRW concluded:

"Although there is some evidence that there may have been legitimate military targets located near or within the Grozny bazaar, the size and extent of the blasts, combined with the large number of noncombatants in the immediate vicinity, strongly suggests that the Russian attack was grossly disproportionate." [ [ Evidence of War Crimes in Chechnya] , Human Rights Watch, November 3, 1999]

It is however clear that the type of missiles used did not have the accuracy needed to target one particular building or area, suggesting that downtown Grozny was the general target of this attack.

According to the Major General Vladimir Shamanov, Russian top commander in Chechnya, as well as the president of Ingushetia and retired army general Ruslan Aushev, both said the decisions to attack were "made at the very top" (meaning at least knowledge by Putin and the President of Russia Boris Yeltsin). [ [ CHECHNYA: FOR THE MOTHERLAND Reported grave breaches of international humanitarian law] , Amnesty International, December 1, 1999]

World reaction

:The President of the European Parliament, Lord Russell-Johnston, expressed shock at the death toll and accused the Russian government of human rightsiolations and lawbreaking. The President of the European Union, Paavo Lipponen of Finland, said the group was "deeply worried about the deteriorating situation" in Chechnya. Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schröder condemned the "massacre on the Grozny marketplace," and German politicians urged sanctions against Russia. [ [ Chechnya: Two Russian warplanes shot down] , The Associated Press, Oct 24, 1999 ]

:United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement in which he expressed his "strong hope that special care is taken to avoid innocent civilian casualties in the current conflict and that the provisions of humanitarian law in armed conflict are respected". [ Russia under pressure over Chechnya] , BBC News, October 22, 1999]

:The White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said "What's clear is that there's a tragic situation there with terrible loss of life," but he added that there were "conflicting reports and statements" about the marketplace blasts. United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the incident "deplorable and ominous" and said that the Russians should have learnt in their last war in Chechnya that "this kind of violence is not a solution".

The Committee to Protect Journalists protested the death of Ependiyev in an open letter to President Yeltsin.

ee also

*Baku-Rostov highway bombing
*Battle of Grozny (1999-2000)
*Cluster bomb
*Elistanzhi cluster bomb attack
*Second Chechen War crimes and terrorism
*Terror bombing


External links

* [ Grozny residents in shock after attack] , CNN, October 22, 1999
* [,8599,33058,00.html Carnage in Chechnya Has West Worried] , "TIME", Oct. 22, 1999
* [ Victims of a dirty war the West chooses to ignore] , "The Independent", 3 November 1999
* [ Russia is committing war crimes and genocide] , Society for Threatened Peoples, November 18. 1999
* [ Russian Warcrimes in Chechnya, 3] , Youtube, February 25th 2008

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