Suicide bombers have struck inside Russia for the second time in three days. Today’s attack took place in a city in the Republic of Dagestan in Russia’s Caucasus region. Two suicide bombers killed 13 people in a coordinated attack that targeted police.
The first blast took place just outside a headquarters building for the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Interior Ministry security forces (MVD) in the city of Kizlyar, Russia-Eurasia Terror Watch reported. A suicide bomber detonated his car packed with more than 200 kilograms of explosives as a police vehicle passed by. Two policemen and a civilian were killed in the initial blast.
A second suicide bomber detonated as police and rescue personnel began recovery operations. The bomber, dressed in a police uniform, waded into the crowd and detonated his vest, killing an additional seven policemen, including Kizlyar’s chief of police. More than 28 people have been reported wounded; 10 people, including six policemen, are said to be in “grave condition,” according to ITAR-TASS.
Russian security services believe that today’s attacks, as well as the March 29 dual suicide attacks in Moscow’s metro which killed 39 people, were carried out by the Caucasus Emirate, the al Qaeda-linked terror group led by Doku Umarov.
Umarov reestablished the Riyad-us-Saliheen, or Garden of Paradise, martyr brigade in early 2009 and launched a terror campaign in the Caucasus [see LWJ report, “Ingush President wounded as Caucasus Emirate revives martyrdom operations“].
Over the past year, suicide bombers have targeted security forces in Dagestan and neighboring Ingushetia, killing and wounding scores. A suicide bomber nearly assassinated the president of Ingushetia in June 2009.
Black Widows, the female suicide cadre of the Riyad-us-Saliheen martyr brigade, are believed to have carried out the Moscow metro attacks; the FSB confirmed that two women carried out the metro attacks. The FSB is now said to be hunting an estimated 20 more of the Black Widows who have yet to carry out attacks. Black Widows have carried out multiple suicide attacks in Russia since 2002.
In a statement released at the pro-jihadist Kavkaz Center website in February, Umarov threatened to strike in the heart of Russia:
“Blood will no longer be limited to our (Caucasus) cities and towns,” Umarov warned. “The war is coming to their cities.”
But despite his threats to attack outside of the Caucasus region, Umarov disavowed any connection to the Moscow Metro attack. Instead he blamed the FSB for the attack and said it was designed to increase Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s power.
“I officially declare that the FSB carried out the explosions in Moscow,” Umarov said, according to a report at the Russia-Eurasia Terror Watch. Umarov said “Premier-Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin … is personally responsible…. All this was done in order to increase his prestige, so that society will vote for him (in order) to prolong his term in office.”
Umarov’s claim that the FSB was behind the Moscow metro suicide attacks is similar to those made about the truck bombings of apartment buildings in the cities of Moscow, Buynaksk, and Volgodonsk in September 1999. Conspiracy theorists claim the FSB carried out the attacks to get Putin elected president and provide the justification for the Second Chechen War. But no evidence of FSB involvement has been presented. Also, the Second Chechen War was preceded by the invasion of Dagestan by Chechen terrorists, who were led by Ibn al Khattab, then the leader of al Qaeda’s foreign fighters in Chechnya.
Background on Russia’s battle against al Qaeda and allied groups in the Caucasus
Over the past two decades, al Qaeda has fought alongside Chechen rebels during two brutal wars against the Russians that are thought to have resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 civilians and thousands of Russian soldiers and Chechen fighters. The bulk of the Chechen resistance was smashed after the Second Chechen War, but al Qaeda and allied Islamist groups continued to operate, and managed to radicalize many of the remaining nationalist rebels.
Russian security forces, backed by local forces in the Caucasus, have had success in decapitating the top leadership of al Qaeda and radical Chechen forces. After killing Khattab in 2002, security forces eliminated his successors; Abu Walid al Ghamdi was killed in 2004, and Abu Hafs al Urdani was killed in 2006.
Russian security forces also killed Saif al Islam al Masri, a member of al Qaeda’s shura and a chief financier, in 2002; and Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Saif al Tamimi (also known as Abu Omar Saif) in 2005. Tamimi served as second in command to Shamil Basayev, the military commander for the Islamic Army in the Caucasus. Basayev and much of his leadership cadre were killed by Russian security forces in 2006.
After Basayev’s death in 2006, the Chechen and Caucasus jihadists united under the command of Doku Umarov, one of the last remaining original leaders of the Chechen rebellion and a close associate of al Qaeda. Prior to 2006, Umarov had denied having connections with al Qaeda and rejected terrorist attacks against civilians. But in 2006, Abu Hafs al Urduni announced that the Chechen jihad was being reorganized under the command of Doku Umarov after the death Basayev. By November 2007, Umarov had declared an Islamic emirate in the greater Caucasus region and named himself the emir, or leader. Russian security forces thought Umarov was killed during a raid in November 2009 that killed several of his close aides, but he has since resurfaced.
On Feb. 2, the FSB killed Mokhmad Mohamad Shabban, who is better known as Saif Islam, or the Sword of Islam, and an associate during a raid in a mountainous region in the Republic of Dagestan. Shabban has been described as one of the founders of al Qaeda’s operations in Chechnya and the Caucasus.
On March 2, Russian security forces killed Buryatsky and five other terrorists during a raid in Ingushetia. Buryatsky was the mufti for the Caucasus Emirate and has been described as Russia’s Osama bin Laden.