Moscow attack could be linked to "succession war" in Chechen terrorism; it questions security level in Russia and in Airports (Worldwide)



An explosion obviously linked with terrorism occurred today in Domodedovo airport, near Moscow. First reports say at least 35 persons were killed and up to 150 injured, 20 of them “critically”. Increased security was immediately ordered in the capital, the other airports and Moscow’s transportation system. Domededovo is the busiest airport near Moscow (40 km south-east of the capital).


1)    The facts and the beginning of investigations



Even if the attack was not yet claimed, immediate suspicion falls on Caucasus extremists who already attacked Moscow several times in the last years.



First reports said that at the equivalent of 7 kg TNT was used for this attack. The blast occurred in the beginning of the afternoon, in the baggage collection area, which was crowded with thousands of people at the time.



But reports are still conflicting as some sources say the airport was directly targeted and other explain that the bomb was destined to explode in the air and blew up in the airport, after the landing of a plane, due to a technical problem.



Ria Novosti news agency reports that the FSB (Federal'naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii, the internal security service of Russia) was warned in advance about a possible terrorist attack in or near Moscow and was searching for “three suspects”.




2)    The previous attacks on Moscow



Previous terrorist attacks in or near Moscow include:



-          March 2010: attack on two metro stations; 40 people killed (two female suicide bombers were blamed)



-          November 2009: Moscow-St Petersburg express train blasted; 26 killed



-          August 2004: Attack on  a metro station; 10 killed



-          August 2004: Two Tupolev airliners blown up after having taken off from Domodevo; 89 killed



-          February 2004: Attack in Moscow’s metro; 40 killed



-          December 2003: a Chechen “black widow” blow herself up near the Red Square; 6 killed



-          July 2003: attack against a rock festival at Tushino airfield; 25 killed


-          October 2002: Nord-Ost theatre hostages crisis; at least 129 killed as the Russian special forces take back the theatre



All those attacks are linked to the Chechen crisis and Caucasian terrorism. But other terrorist attacks occurred 30 years earlier, during the Soviet era:



-          January 1977: 7 killed and 37 injured in three bombings in Moscow (Armenian separatists were blamed and three of them executed)




3)    Motivation of the attack



If the attack is most likely linked to Chechen terrorism it is interesting to underline that it occurred in a very particular context: a few days ago rumours spread in Northern Caucasus and Russia saying that terrorist leader Doku Umarov had died.



Actually, rumours that Umarov had been poisoned started to spread in

October 2010. Since then, the terrorist leader had indeed suspended all his contacts with field commanders and published no fresh statements in the Internet. In 2010, media published a leak from security services about a failed attempt to poison Doku Umarov that was launched by security services in the autumn of 2009. The poison didn’t killed him immediately but seriously weakened his health. Aweek after unconfirmed information about the death of Umarov was announced in the media, it has still not been denied by Umarov or other terrorist leaders of Northern Caucasus.



Umarov first represented a moderate wing of Chechen insurgents and categorically refused the use of terrorism as a tactic of resistance. However, since 2005 Umarov's ideology radicalised significantly and he started to mastermind attacks on civilian targets and suicide bombings.



Since 2007, Umarov has been considered as the only ‘legitimate’ leader of Northern Caucasus terrorists and as the head of Imarat Kavka, the main Chechen terrorist organisation.



The situation created by the possible death of Umarov could push other in Imarat Kavkaz or other, smaller, terrorist groups to act on their own, competing for public recognition and sources of financing.




4)    Two first facts to underline



The investigation is only in the beginning, but we could already underline two important points :



-          The attack on Demodedovo airport shows that, despite the emphasis on security by the Russian authorities, the terrorists are still able to attack hugely strategic targets and provoke disastrous casualties in or near the capital.



-          In the last years, worldwide, huge amounts of time, money and technical means were spent on airlines and passengers security but airport security is still a weak point in the global chain of air transport security.

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