While much has been made over the last twelve years of American Special Operations Forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, and other locations around the world, Russian Special Operations have been almost completely overlooked. What American and Russian SOF share in common is the War on Terror. Both nations have had to tangle with extremist Islamic ideologies and the terrorists that draw inspiration from them.

Many Americans may recall Russia’s battles in Chechnya during the 1990s, but most are unfamiliar with the efforts of Russian Special Operations to conduct strikes against High Value Targets, or HVTs. High Value Targets are those individuals within a terrorist group who represent a significant node within that network, such as the leaders of that particular organization.

By targeting HVTs, American Special Operations have found that they can disrupt and sometimes destroy these networks. However, HVT strikes are just that, a disruption or delaying tactic. HVT strikes are unlikely to win the war in of themselves. Russia has more than likely reached the same conclusions but, like their American counterparts, these strikes continue in order to prevent these terrorist networks from getting stronger and eventually growing to the point that they are completely unmanageable.

Russian Special Operations have developed their own Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for hunting down and eliminating terrorist leaders. Many of these TTPs having been developed during the course of operations in Chechnya. Intelligence is gathered by both SIGINT and HUMINT to pinpoint where the HVT is located, then Russian forces move in to conduct an ambush or cordon off an area so that assaulters can raid a fixed target. One interesting TTP that surfaced as Chechen terrorists cells were targeted is the use of poisoned letters. At least one HVT collapsed and died when Russian forces contrived a situation in which a poisoned letter was delivered to him.

The hunting of High Value Targets in Russian territory continues to this day, especially in places like Dagestan. Here you find hybrid organizations, much like what American forces have encountered in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are terrorists who conduct bombings and assassinations, but they are also criminals who profit from crimes such as kidnapping. In Dagestan, there are numerous gangs of this nature, often known as a Jamaat.

The Russian FSB developed intelligence which led to an operation on March 20, 2013. The Russian Special Operations Forces knew their High Value Target was in Samandar, near Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan.

Soldiers from the FSB and the Interior Ministry cordoned off the target area to begin looking for the leader of the “Gimrinsky” gang, Gadzhidadaev Ibrahim. Gadzhidadaev was believed to have been personally involved in the murder of over thirty individuals, ranging from police officers, to prosecutors, to other civil officials.

This Russian SOF operator wears a SEAL trident out of respect for another group of HVT hunters.

At 0600, the Russian Special Task Force moved in and began evacuating civilians from homes in the village of Samandar. Once the militants realized that Russian Forces were closing the net, they barricaded themselves in a home belonging to a chairmen of the Untsukulsky region of Dagestan named Magomedhabibu Magomedaliev. The rest of the day was spent in negotiation with the terrorists as the Russian forces attempted to get them to release the women and children that they were holding hostage. After seven hours, negotiations were still on going.