Russia train bombing: sign of new terror tactics?
Russia analysts say security forces are unprepared for terror attacks, like Friday's train bombing, executed by small terrorist cells.
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The powerful head of Russia’s Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, issued a statement Sunday warning that Friday’s train attack could trigger increased tensions between Russia’s majority Christian and large Muslim communities. And in a politically inspirational vein, which has so far been absent from the comments of Kremlin leaders about the tragedy, Kirill urged Russians to dig in for a long war against terrorism.Skip to next paragraph
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“This is a grave challenge for our people,” he said. “A crime, in which any one of us could be the victim, has been committed for effect. Everyone living in Russia is being intimidated.”
“There is a real threat,” agrees Soldatov. “We see forces coalescing in the northern Caucasus who are not interested in local nationalism, or separatism, but see themselves as being at war with Russia. Until lately, the most adventurous Russian Islamists tended to head for Afghanistan, or somewhere else, to wage jihad. Now there are signs that they are going to the Caucausus area, and this bodes very ill,” he says.
No group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, which derailed three crowded carriages of the Nevsky Express, Russia’s fastest train, which runs between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“This train, especially on a Friday, carries a lot of officials who are traveling between Russia’s two capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg. It’s no surprise that at least two heads of government agencies were among the victims. It was clearly done to attract maximum political and media attention, and it obviously worked,” he says.
The Nevsky Express has been attacked before, in 2007, when a similar bomb failed to derail the train but nevertheless caused minor injuries to about 60 people. In retrospect, the attackers Friday may have learned from the previous attempt.
At the time two men from Russia’s southern republic of Ingushetia were arrested and, according to official reports, one has since confessed to involvement in the blast. But the main suspect from the 2007 attack, a former Russian soldier-turned-Islamic-extremist, Pavel Kosolapov, remains at large. He is believed to have been a close associate of Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev, killed by Russian security forces in 2006, who was the main mastermind of several spectacular terrorist attacks, including the horrific 2004 Beslan school siege, which left 330 people dead, mostly children.
Police have issued an all-points bulletin for a middle aged “stocky, red-haired man” seen in the vicinity of Friday’s blast, who may be Mr. Kosolapov.
Earlier this year the Kremlin declared “mission accomplished” in Chechnya after a decade and a half long anti-separatist military campaign, pulled most of its forces out of the tiny republic, and left it under control of a local strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov.
Hundreds of people died in a brutal cycle of mass terror strikes that hit Moscow and other Russian cities between 1999 and 2004, mostly traceable to the brutal ongoing war in Chechnya. Kremlin leaders have since argued that the harsh pacification of Chechnya, combined with a tough political crackdown and smarter security operations explain the fact that there has been no major terrorist attack on the Russian heartland since Beslan five years ago – until last weekend.