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Russia Islamist network takes shape as Caucasus hit by another terrorist attack

An attack in Ingushetia today, the fifth to shake Russia in a week, underscores the threat posed by an Islamist insurgent network that has emerged from the ashes of Chechnya's nationalist rebellion.

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The bomber who struck at Park Kultury metro station was a teenaged militant identified by Russian authorities as Dzhanet Abdurakhmanova whose husband, a senior Dagestani rebel, was killed by security forces in December.

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The attacker who hit the Lubyanka station – which is adjacent to the headquarters of the FSB security service – was identified by the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta on Sunday as Mariyam Sharipova, whose remains were recognized by her father, Rasul Magomedov.

Mr. Magomedov told the paper that his daughter, a psychology graduate who worked as a schoolteacher in a small Dagestani village, had no connection to the insurgents. "She was devout, but she never expressed any radical opinions," he said. "She always lived at home; we always knew what she was up to."

But he admitted that Russian security forces informed him in early march that Ms. Sharipova was secretly married to a local Dagestan insurgent leader, Magomedali Vagabov. "I asked my daughter if it was true but she said she didn't have any connections with the underground resistance and would never marry without my consent," Magomedov told the paper.

Will Kremlin use attacks as pretext for curbing debate?

In the past, the Kremlin has used terrorist attacks as a pretext for canceling democratic elections and curbing debate. A verbal assault by Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov, a close ally of Mr. Putin, on coverage of the Moscow bombings in two newspapers, have some experts wondering whether a similar crackdown might be in the offing.

Mr. Gryzlov suggested that the mainstream daily newspapers Vedemosti and Moskovsky Komsomolets were siding with the insurgents rather than putting forward a united front with the authorities. "The connection between these publications and the terrorists' actions evokes suspicions," he said in a meeting with Medvedev on Friday.

His remarks were mirrored by Sergei Mironov, the pro-Kremlin speaker for the upper house of parliament.

"Neither of these men would say such things if they weren't inspired by someone above," says Mr. Petrov of the Carnegie Center. "It may be that the Kremlin, with such limited options, could decide to stop discussion of political reform and put pressure on the media, to make it a scapegoat," and squeeze out critical opinions even further, he says.

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading foreign policy journal, says that over the past week he has detected a new mood in Moscow, one that sees terrorism as an inevitable feature of life; something to be gotten used to rather than defeated.

"We've been fighting separatism and terrorism in that region for 20 years now, and it looks like it will just go on," he says. "Unlike, say, NATO in Afghanistan, Russia does not have the option of withdrawing from the north Caucasus. It's a permanent fixture of our landscape."

IN PICTURES: Bombings in Russia