Chechen warlord Doku Umarov claims Moscow metro bombings
Chechen warlord Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for the Moscow metro bombings that killed 39 people earlier this week and threatened more attacks. Is Umarov leading a Chechen version of Hamas?
A Chechen rebel warlord and self-styled "emir" of Russia's seething North Caucasus region has claimed responsibility for the Moscow metro bombings, which killed 39 people Monday. He warned of more attacks to come.Skip to next paragraph
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Doku Umarov – whose own violent path has traced a transition from nationalist rebel and president of the unrecognized independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria to Islamist warrior who aspires to lead all Muslims of the region away from Russian rule – is emerging from the shadows as the key leader of a loose confederation of Islamist groups who are fighting against Moscow and its local proxies across Russia's turbulent and mainly-Muslim southern flank known as the North Caucasus.
"On March 29 in Moscow two special operations were carried out to destroy the infidels and to send a greeting to the FSB (Federal Security Service – the former KGB). Both of these operations were carried out on my command and will not be the last," Mr. Umarov said in a videotaped message posted on Kavkaz Center, a multilingual website run by Chechen rebels.
The attackers, believed to be Chechen female suicide bombers, struck first at Lubyanka station, located beside FSB headquarters in Moscow, and 45 minutes later at Park Kultury, which is just across the street from a huge complex that houses the Kremlin's news agency RIA-Novosti and the studios of the state-run English-language Russia Today satellite TV network.
About a month ago, in a threat that went largely unnoticed, Umarov warned that the "zone of military operations will be extended to the territory of Russia... the war is coming to their cities."
Some experts now believe that an unclaimed blast on a Russian luxury train last November, which killed 25 people, might have been his work as well.
"This is a major change in tactics, to hit Russian cities, begun about six months ago," says Alexei Malashenko, an analyst at the Carnegie Center in Moscow. On Thursday, another blast in the southern republic of Dagestan killed two suspected militants, who officials accused of transporting explosives.
'Cruel' response promised
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on national television that "the measures to fight terrorism should be expanded, they should be more effective, more harsh, more cruel."
A previous wave of large-scale terrorism against Russia's heartland, associated with Moscow's brutal second invasion of Chechnya, ended about six years ago, following a horrific school siege in Beslan, North Ossetia, that killed more than 300 people, mostly children.
"I don't believe that the (Caucasian jihadists) have a centralized organization," says Mr. Malashenko. "There is a confederation of different groups, each with its own leader. But Doku Umarov is recognized as leader number one."