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Baku shooting: some unanswered questions

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According to Reuters on 30 April, 2009, a gunman entered State Oil Academy in Baku, Azerbaijan and “went from floor to floor firing on teachers and students after the bell rang for morning classes” before killing himself. According to official sources 13 people, including the gunman himself – Georgian citizen of Azeri descent, Farda Gadirov were dead and another thirteen were wounded.

All early reports talked about “terror” and “terroristS”, until an official from the Presidential Administration intervened and said that “such incidents happen in many countries” by apparently comparing it to other rampages in American and European colleges. As a person following this news scrupulously, I can say that after this official statement all the news reports changed their tunes. Officially, and unofficially it was not a terror act anymore! There was a “loner” (probably a psychopath) who killed 13 people for no reason.

However, ladies and gentlemen, I have some questions.

Why were TVs so slow in reporting the news?

During the whole incident the first and foremost thing that made public furious, was the slow reaction of Azeri media to the rampage. I myself learned the news from a phone call by a friend who in turn learned it from a Turkish TV, and then I got updates from my sister through an SMS, who in turn was at another university. Anger at Azeri media accompanied the news on Azeri discussion boards, Facebook, blogs, phone calls and SMS through which Bakuvians were updated about the incident.

As one friend of mine abroad wrote in an email to me:

What I noticed […] was the LACK of any kind of news coming out of Az[erbaijan]. I have a general pattern of how it emerged internationally. It took about three hours before Singapore and Australia picked it up. It was on FOX news US at 3 pm [Baku time]. AP and BBC and Reuters picked it up.

I was startled how nobody in AZ could make a statement. Why so slow?

Here is how one blogger described what happened on Azeri TV:

There were two hours of skirmish, people were slaughtered, even the Russian TV channels have shown this in all news releases, but here, NO television channels have shown anything until now. NOTHING. Just imagine - people are killed just beside us, and no channels, which are keen to tell what colour is the lingerie of [our pop] stars and who is the supplier of silicone for each of them, have not told that this morning we had a tragedy which had no precedence in the contemporary history of our country.

And here is another blogger:

At 12:36: [email protected]$#% you! Nisa and Tunzala [two female performers] sing in live translation.

At 14:04: In AZTV [State TV] the first news was about [President] Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Belgium. Only after that they told about the skirmish.
I have nothing to say…

So, why were TVs so slow in reporting the news?

How many shooters were there?

Officially, there was only one shooter. However, let us look at the early reports from the scene. This APA report (with updates) quotes some witnesses saying, "Two terrorists summoned the students in one room and demanded from police to let them go out of building".

This Day.az report is more interesting. At 10:55, one official reports that the shooter is killed, and then at 12:26, there is a report of another shooter who has barricaded himself in one of the rooms. At 11:37 – a report of one shooter which has escaped from the scene.

And this piece from Guardian before alteration of its text was saying that:

Russian news agencies identified the gunman as a Georgian citizen, Mursal Gamidov. The shootings may have broken out following a row between a rival group of foreigners at the college and Azeri students, the agencies suggested.
The Azeri press agency this morning quoted a senior police officer as saying that the gunmen were "terrorists" who had been "neutralised". A student told the news agency Reuters he believed two gunmen were involved.
"As far as I know there were two terrorists. One of them committed suicide and the other was arrested," he told the agency. He said the shootings erupted at 9am just after classes began.

As the shooter was using a Russian semi-automatic Makarov pistol, a military expert interviewed by RFE/RL Azeri service cast a doubt that some of these shots could be made with Makarov. However, he abstained from going one-step further and asking another question – what if there were more than one shooter and another shooter could have another pistol capable of those shots?

And here is the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet talking of two assailants!

So, how many shooters were there?

Who was Farda Gadirov?

Officially, the shooter was Farda Gadirov. He is a Georgian citizen of Azeri descent, 29 years old. Loner. However, he never studied at State Oil Academy. Besides, he was hardly ever in Baku. According to this RFE/RL Azeri report, his family moved from Georgia to Russia 15 years ago, and Farda was living with his family in Russia for 15 years! So, how did he end up in the hall of State Oil Academy’s second corps? I only learned about that corps a month ago!

According to these Vesti.az (1, 2), and RFE/RL Azeri reports (1, 2, 3, 4), suddenly, a few month ago, Farda said at home that he is going back to their village. Then he moved to his village in Georgia, where he spent all his days at home, watching satellite TV, listening to music, exercising and doing sport. After a month of self-isolation, he declared to people in the village that he was going to Baku, as his friend has promised to find a decent job for him there. The rest you know – he appears at State Oil Academy fully armed, and even after he shoots himself, police find three ammunition belts and 71 unused bullets at his corps. The rest of the bullets he shot exactly in the faces of 25 moving (even running) targets with Makarov pistol, killing 12 of them. You still say a psycho?

Then how can a psycho get that pistol and those bullets? How can that psycho shoot moving and running people (targets) with precise headshots?

So, who was Farda Gadirov?

Why hasn't a national mourning day been declared yet?

Here is another point that makes people furious. It makes people so furious that more than 2,000 students defy an unofficial ban on rallies in the city centre and gather near the assaulted university with slogans “No to Terror”, “No to Corruption”, and “National Mourning Day”. They are so furious that instead of the usual truncheons being used, they are asked and begged to break up and go away.

Here is how Turan Information Agency reported from the rally:

Thousands of young people scan "No Terror!," "No Corruption." From the Oil Academy the demonstrators headed for the Musical Academy, but were stopped by police cordons. By 1.30 p.m. the students were blocked between the Oil Academy and Atabank. Yashar Aliyev, deputy chief of police station, asked the demonstrators to stop, but they refused and moved towards the Jafar Jabbarly monument.

The students said that if their demands are not met and mourning is not announced, they will gather to another mass demonstration.

And here is the video of the rally, at RFE/RL Azeri website.

We know that 10th of May is the birthday of Azerbaijan’s late president Heydar Aliyev, and the government plans to hold a “Holiday of Flowers” under the open air and NEAR THE SAME PLACE . However, it is still 2nd of May, so why hasn't a national mourning day been declared yet?

4 Comments

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Ali S. Novruzov | May 3, 2009 1:07 AM

As Azeri bloggers report, the day of the rampage (30 April) was also the birthday of the Rector of the State Oil Academy (Personal page of the Rector at the Academy of Sciences website).

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Hazar Nesimi | May 4, 2009 4:19 PM

Awful tragedy.

i Hate thehead of the academy... I studied there back in 1990s and he is well known crook. They are not even willing to dismiss him!

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HansG | May 5, 2009 8:25 AM

thanks for this post. Terrible event, but your reporting adds good and relevant questions.

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stan rogaine | May 12, 2009 1:44 PM

thoughtful post, i salute u