35 killed in suicide attack at Moscow airport

A suicide bomber killed 35 people and wounded more than 130 in a terrorist attack today at an airport in Russia’s capital.

Russian police said a suicide bomber detonated his vest in the middle of a crowd at the baggage claim at an international arrival terminal at Domodedovo International Airport. Domodedovo is Moscow’s largest airport, and the attack took place in the late afternoon, around 4:30 p.m. local time, when the airport is busy.

Twenty of those wounded are reported to be in critical condition; it is unclear if foreigners are among those killed. The bomb was designed to kill and wound as many people as possible. “Law enforcement officials said the power of the blast was equal to 5 kg of TNT and that the bomb was packed with metal objects to cause maximum damage,” RIA Novosti reported.

Police are searching for “three suspicious men” who may be connected to the bombing, ITAR-TASS reported. The men were stopped by police just before the attack and asked for identification.

While no group has claimed the deadly attack, suspicions fall on the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Caucasus Emirate, the terrorist insurgency in Russia’s southern Caucasus region. No statement has been released yet by Kavkaz Center, the propaganda arm of the Caucasus Emirate.

Caucasus Emirate suicide bombers have struck in Moscow in the past. In March 2010, two female suicide bombers detonated their suicide vests in Moscow’s metro, killing 39 civilians. Doku Umarov, the emir of the al Qaeda-linked Caucasus Emirate, took credit for the suicide attack two days after the blasts. In June 2010, the US added Umarov to the list of specially designated global terrorists.

Female suicide bombers from the Caucasus, known as Black Widows, have targeted Russian civilians and security personnel in multiple attacks over the past decade, including: the attack on the Nord-Ost Moscow theater (129 killed); an assassination attempt against Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov (14 killed); a suicide attack on a train in Southern Russia (46 killed); a dual suicide attack at a rock concert at Tushino Airfield in Moscow (16 killed); the destruction of two Russian airliners in 2004 (more than 90 killed); the attack on a school in Beslan in North Ossetia (334 killed); and the Moscow metro bombings (39 killed).

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 Ibn al 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. In 2006, Basayev and much of his leadership cadre were killed by Russian security forces.

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.

Although the insurgency in the Caucasus largely went dormant after Basayev’s death in 2006, Umarov reignited the insurgency in the spring of 2009 by launching a wave of suicide attacks in the Caucasus. In April 2009, Umarov revived the Riyad-us-Saliheen martyr brigade, which has spearheaded the assault.

“Riyad [the Riyad-us-Saliheen martyr brigade] is believed to be descended from two other Chechen terrorist organizations led by Basayev, the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR) and the International Islamic Brigade (IIB),” according to the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism database. “It has even been suggested that Riyad is simply the result of the marriage of these two groups.”

The Caucasus Emirate’s most recent high-profile suicide operations include: the double suicide attack in Moscow’s metro on March 29, 2010 (39 people killed); a double suicide attack that targeted police in the city of Kizlyar in Dagestan on March 31, 2010 (13 people killed); a suicide attack at a concert in Stavropol on May 26, 2010 (seven killed); the assault on Kadyrov’s home village of Tsentoroi in Chechnya on Aug. 29, 2010 (16 killed); and the Sept. 9, 2010 suicide attack in Vladikavkaz (16 killed).

Russia’s Federal Security Service has targeted the Caucasus Emirate’s top leaders during raids in the past year. Five top commanders have been killed or captured since February 2010, including two foreign leaders.

On Feb. 2, 2010, the FSB killed Mokhmad Mohamad Shabban during a raid in a mountainous region in Dagestan. Shabban, an Egyptian who was better known as Saif Islam or the Sword of Islam, was one of the founders of al Qaeda in the Caucasus.

On March 2, 2010, FSB commandos killed Said Buryatsky and five other terrorists during a raid in Ingushetia. Buryatsky was the mufti, or religious leader, for the Caucasus Emirate, and has been described as Russia’s Osama bin Laden.

On June 9, 2010, the FSB captured Emir Magas, the military commander of the Caucasus Emirate. Magas was a longtime associate of Basayev and Ibn al Khattab. One day later Russian forces killed Yasir Amarat, a wanted terrorist commander from Jordan.

And on Aug. 22, 2010, security forces killed Emir Sayfullah, the top judicial figure for the terror group who also served as the emir of forces in Dagestan, one of the most active theaters in the Caucasus.


Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Charu says:

    Insane! This is a war of civilizations, and orthodox Christians from the Balkans to Russia are also under a jihadi siege. Notice how China remains free from Islamic terror despite having a sizable (relatively, in numbers) Muslim minority and Uighar links to AQ.

  • Nick says:

    Charu, explain that. Do you remember the suicide attacks in China, such as the bicycle bomber or the one where more than 15 people were killed in Beijing when a mine was set off in a public bus?
    The entire world is under some form of threat from this shadow enemy. Let’s just hope everyone does what they can, and that this enemy will just fizzle out eventually. Unlike Nazism, Communism or Puritanism, there is no one leader or country with which to plan an offensive against in our current war with this enemy.
    I wonder if the Russian army using armed drones would help to take out Chechen Islamist leaders like we are doing right now in NWA. I’m sure the Russians would love that ability.

  • JRP says:

    “Hope” is no defense and “fizzling out” is wishful thinking. You get Osama Bin Ladin, Ayman al Zawahiri and all the other top terrorists being sheltered by Pakistani ISI and you’ll be able to at least manage this WoT. Right now all these junior and copycat terrorists are running amuck, because they see their side winning due to our inability to lay a glove on Terrorism’s A-Team.

  • Nick says:

    JRP, you are thinking in a pessimistic manner. We have killed so many top ranking figures since 2001, it is almost ridiculous. The fact that we keep killing #3’s including Mustafa Abu Al Yazid, makes me think we are getting close to Bin Laden and Zawahiri. But killing them would only have a symbolic effect, and they would probably be replaced by someone else. Those guys are so scared, they only make audiotapes and can’t even travel without looking over their shoulder, what more can we do?
    Besides number 3’s we have also crippled their logistical tail with the drone strikes. I sent an article detailing such to Bill a few days ago but he refuses to post it for some reason.
    I am wondering JRP, what do YOU propose we do to battle Islamist terrorism? If you say we aren’t doing all we possibly can, I think I would have the right to call your bluff on that one.

  • crusader says:

    “Osama Bin Ladin, Ayman al Zawahiri and all the other top terrorists”
    why dont the the us send drones or spies up to the northern part of pakistan close to the china border?
    everyone knows that OBL and the leadership is hiding up there…once they go up there its over but no one does anything.
    they keep on sending strikes wasting time and money on small time punks in waziristan and those more southern regions of pak…

  • Ranger says:

    Nick, JRP is saying that the war won’t just “fizzle out” (i.e. ‘go away’).
    We need to STAMP it out, by hitting the people in Pak that he mentioned (among others).
    You two aren’t as far apart as you might think. I think. Hah.

  • JRP says:

    Nick . . . Over the past 12 months, especially since the CIA fiasco on 12/30/2009 at FOB Chapman, I’ve been highly specific, even explicit, in what I’d do to force Pakistan to turn over OBL et al. to the United States. On a number of occasions I’ve recommended one or all of the following: That . . .
    1. Our State Department declare that the U.S. does not recognize Pakistani sovereignty over the Waziristans due to Pakistani relinquishment of effective military control over the area, which relinquishment paved the way for tribal protection of our AQ/Taliban enemies who engage in cross-border raids.
    2. Once #1 above is accomplished, pull sufficient combat troops from Iraq to enter Waziristan and directly engage AQ/Taliban there.
    3. Recall our Ambassador to Pakistan.
    4. Cease all, and I mean all, giving of money to Pakistan, regardless of humanitarian concerns. The Pakistanis don’t give a you know what about our safety or security; why should we finance theirs? If China wants to pick up that slack, so be it.
    5. Encourage the Pakistani Army to fight in Waziristan by pointing out to it that nothing could better prepare it for war with India, should that ever occur. In mentioning this I pointed out that it was far down on my “to do” list as it might be very offensive to India, but it is something to be considered.
    Nick . . . Whether or not you agree with any of the above, your initial question is answered in that the 5 above are explicit recommendations I have made in the past and on more than one posting occasion, as I recollect. JRP.

  • Nick says:

    The “Northern Pakistan” view is largely overstated. Are you saying Bin Laden is hiding in, say, Gilgit? I have not seen one convincing piece of evidence over the ‘Northern Pakistan’ theory yet.
    Ranger, what do you mean, we aren’t that far apart? Violence begets violence, and until we address the socioeconomic problems in Pakistan, terrorism will only increase and carpet bombing everything won’t change that.
    JRP, that sounds like a good game plan and all, but you know full well that Obama would never do anything remotely like what you just said. You do know that and NWA operation would probably slaughter countless soldiers? Besides, there are more mountains and caves in Waziristan than there are hairs on a bear (old saying). We haven’t even come close to killing Jaladuddin or any REAL time terrorist figures in NWA and we probably never will with one or two drone strikes a week targeting low level fish in vehicles.

  • Nick says:

    We are doing everything we can within the boundaries of decency and legality.

  • Jimmy says:

    Then maybe its time we leave the boundaries of decency and legality and seriously consider castrating China – the biggest sponsor of terror. The only way to do that is by actively pursuing the disintegration of Pakistan. Remember, Hitler was not defeated by remaining in the boundaries of decency and legality.
    As for your question of involvement of China, already numerous evidences have come to the fore of China’s backroom deals with the Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan. Many of these have already been discussed by readers of LWJ before in their comments. Similarly, how can Pakistan be punished has also been repeated oft times here…JRP has some good insigths.

  • Wide Awake says:

    OBL can only survive in the long-term by getting his opponents to fight each other or AQ terrorists.
    He is hiding nearer to China than most think because that allows him to “stretch” a US search for him nearer to the lukewarm Chinese.
    The closest we’ll get to Osama is his nr.3s like Yazid.
    He doesn’t need a city/town with electricity. You think after nearly ten years he’d be relying on static logistical support structures (towns, etc)?? No way.
    Osama bin Laden’s main personal expenditure is the supplies to keep him mobile. These are most likely things like power generators, small laptops with small mic, etc.
    If Osama does settle down in any structure, it’s sure as hell one that he’s built himself, into a natural terrain feature.
    Oh, and by the way, I would start monitoring ANIMAL and LIVESTOCK movements near to mountains. One shepherd and his flock, makes for a lot of hidden stock…

  • Nick says:

    Wide Awake!!! You must provide some EVIDENCE he is there in Northern Pakistan before making such assertions!!!! Even some ROMINT (RUMOR INTELLIGENCE) would at least be somewhat sufficient, at least you would be providing material for your assertions!!!!
    Even the Wikileaks documents stated that he is probably in WESTERN PAKISTAN, or he could be hiding in KUNAR AND NURISTAN PROVINCES. One ROMINT report I read from cryptome.org stated that Bin Laden stayed in Nuristan until 2005 when an Al Qaeda aide and ISI rogue officer helped him across the border an into CHITRAL, PAKISTAN. I have read many ROMINT reports of him being spotted in HELMAND and EASTERN AFGHANISTAN, yet have seen none detailing the Northern region of Pakistan at all.

  • JRP says:

    Regarding “decency and legality” . . . I have said before in other post or posts from the past, that the Constitution of The United States of America is neither a Suicide Pact nor an Instrument of Surrender. Though I do not believe that the U.S. has engaged in anything other than self-defense, some highly legalistic pundits would paint the U.S. into a “paralysis by analysis” corner wherein we sustain the most heinous of consequences from those who always employ indecent and illegal tactics against democracies unwilling to respond in kind. There is no nobility to Losing on one’s Principles, and only the winners write history. A nation either has the Will to survive or it does not. Sometimes the end does justify indecent and illegal means; just ask George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. How ironic it would be if those mushroom clouds over NYC and WDC originate not from the arsenals of powerhouses like Russia and Red China or from a criminal State like North Korea, but from Terrorists like Al Qaeda or The Taliban who simply acquire nuclear weapons by Gift, Purchase, or Theft; smuggle them in or close to America; then detonate them. For the sake of being politically correct, decent and remaining within the bounds of legality is that what we as a Nation are willing to endure? Maybe some are willing to consign their children to such a fate, but I’m not one of them. I am willing to do anything to win the War on Terror, because I cannot imagine how horrible life will be should we lose it.

  • Raven says:

    The hatred that exist, nurtured by decades of Saudi money, in Pakistan will not be able to overcome by any amount of help from us for their socioeconomic problems (may be Saudis are the only one that can do it!). Do you care explaining what violence that people of Mumbai committed to beget the terrorist attack?
    The reason that I bring this up is that we have heard this line of argument many a times almost as an excuse to continue the attacking innocents.

  • Charu says:

    @Nick, I looked up terror attacks in China in Wikipedia and found 2 listed in 2009 (and none in 2008, 2010), both which appear to be non-ideological (non-Islamic, to be precise) in nature. See:
    I don’t believe China faces jihadi terrorism anywhere close to the scale experienced in the west, Russia, Israel, India or even in Islamic countries. This despite the iron grip that China has on its discontented Uighyar population, or (lesser known but still significant in terms of numbers) its other Muslim minority that have ancient roots in China.
    The reason that the Islamic jihadi groups don’t mess with China has to be linked to its strong “all-weather” ties to the Pakistani military-terror complex that spawned them. It is clearly in China’s interest to have the US bogged down in AfPak (just as it happened in Vietnam and Korea in the 50’s and 60’s), Russia distracted by Chechen terror and India stymied by Pakistani-sponsored terrorism.

  • Nick says:

    I do not agree with what you are advocating. The reason so many empires fell throughout history is because they turned back on the principles that made them great. If we fall out of our bounds, we will end up doing the same in the end in this “war on terror”, and that is what these terrorist criminals want to happen in the end: our absolute destruction. We are a country that mostly respects human rights and due process of the law. If we didn’t respect human rights then I don’t think there would be much of “Afghanistan” left to talk about…..
    Raven, I am not making excuses for any violent people on an ideological scale. The only thing I am saying is that if we bomb cities and kill families, especially in a quasi-tribal society (Pakistan), there will inevitably be retribution for their fellow slain tribesmen, and they do not care if they have to align themselves with violent Islamists to achieve that revenge. I believe in two brands of violent Islamists today: The dedicated ideological religious ones, like Bin Laden and Zawahiri, and then the socioeconomic ones like local Taliban groups who want NATO out of their soil, or want revenge for the killing of a tribesmen, or take up arms because the Taliban pay them more money to fight then they could find in other jobs in their lands. They could also fight for ethnic reasons, such as Pashtun dominance over other groups in the country. There are many reasons for this second type. I think the Mumbai attacks were horrible, but let’s face it, only a few people did them and they only had about a dozen support staff. Violence such as shootings and murder always happen and I don’t think there can be any way to stop it completely, people will always find an excuse for this horrible behavior.
    Jimmy, JRP does have good insights but I wonder what this war on terror would be like if he were in command of it? Does JRP believe in giving people a chance, or does he believe in “shoot first, ask questions LATER” in this war on terror?????
    I would really like to read any type of report of Bin Laden in the far Northern areas of Pakistan. Not that they would act on any intel they might have, but it would be interesting to see if he is really up there. The ISI has been rumored to shove people they want to get out of the way into North Waziristan; the other ones are hidden in safe houses in very remote and secretive locations.

  • Charu says:

    @JRP, #5 is not only bad form (encouraging a rogue nation to go to war with a democracy) but also naive. The fight in Waziristan against irregular combatants is very different from a battle between regular armies. The Pakistanis would learn little in Waziristan that would be applicable to a war with India. They realize that they wouldn’t have much of a chance in a full fledged conventional war with India, which is why they have their nukes as an equalizer.
    Would you consider encouraging North Korea to attack South Korea in order to prepare them for war with Japan as kosher? Because that appears to be China’s policy, and I think that we are different; but, perhaps, I am being naive as well.

  • Jimmy says:

    It seems nothing we say is going to rise Nick from fantasy world that Pakistan is a cancer which needs to be cut-out and cut-up. Cajoling it will not help. Well, so be it…
    Does it matter if OBL is in North Pakistan or in West Pakistan? The fact that he is in protection of Pak Military-ISI is reason enough to declare it a terror state.

  • Raven says:

    By saying “..but let’s face it, only a few people did them and they only had about a dozen support staff. ” you are missing the forest for the tree. Where did all the support for this “few people” came from?. I see a common thread in your responses… like a rouge ISI officer, an AQ affiliate, “few people” attacked. My point is that until you understand the nurturing ground that they come from and stamp it out, peace is a mirage. Islamist problem has outgrown it’s religious aspects and now is a geopolitical hydra as seen by how ISI/Pakistan Army sees it. It’s been hijacked/used as a “war instrument”, as I see it. It has nothing to do with “poor” people fighting for their share of development.

  • Nick says:

    I know Pakistan is a problem, but I have never seen anyone until this day come up with a solution for it. I already explained how bombing and killing people in a quasi-tribal society will exert a backlash from the other tribesmen in the society. I can’t understand why some people really believe that an NWA invasion will be the magical cure to extremism worldwide based in Pakistan.
    Raven, the reason Obama is sending all this support to Pakistan is because he does not want to see a failed nuclear state with 100+ million people starving and helpless. What do you suggest we do with them? It’s either deal with them how they are, or deal with massive riots, bloodshed, starvation, a HUGE Pakistani diaspora, militants actually controlling large areas of the country, and no functioning government. A situation like that would be much worse than the one we are facing now.
    Charu, the attacks I told you about took place in 1999 with the bicycle bomber and 2002 with the mine on the public bus. I know about this because I was digging through my old archives and found some articles about China and the Taliban that I had printed up and read back then.
    Also, just to clear something up, the book I am reading on intelligence agencies right now describes it as ROMINT, but the more accepted definition is RUMINT, just to clear up some possible confusion.

  • JRP says:

    Charu . . . My #5 was not naive, because in it I specifically said it might not be workable, because of India and had said the same in my original posting, whenever that was as I don’t recall. I was just listing some of the things I’d said in the past ’cause Nick’s post had, in effect, challenged me to do so.
    Regarding Nick’s viewpoint . . . He is entitled to his opinion even though I view it as being as wrong as his view of mine is. Winning the WoT does not depend upon unanimity. We still won the war against Japan even though one House Representative on December 8th, 1941 voted against going to war.
    I am of the belief that some people simply lack the Will to Survive. Tragic as it was, to this day it dismays me how European Jewry in the 1930s and 1940s simply allowed themselves to be marched into the gas chambers like so many sheep going to slaughter.
    I fear that today America lacks the Will to survive. Right after September 11th, 2001 the proper response would have been to formally declare war against Al Qaeda and resume the draft. However we did not do that.
    All the warning signs are in place that Pakistan is falling apart at the seams and that a radical anti-Western group is positioning itself to take power. Unlike the U.S.S.R., this group, an amalgam of Al Qaeda, The Taliban, and extremely orthodox Imams, will have no compunctions whatsoever about using Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal as quickly as possible. For this group reality is that to gain entrance to their version of the afterlife, they must destroy all infidels. What strategy, if not mine, will prevent this group from achieving its aim? Just “hope” alone? Or that in time the radicals’ ardor will just “fizzle out”?
    At least the Jews had somewhat of an excuse . . . the guards, the barbed wire, the dogs, the informants . . . What will our excuse be if the mushroom clouds appear in America? Right now, as I see it, we are losing the WoT, because we are far from “all in” on combating it.

  • Marlin says:

    It’s no surprise to learn that Pakistan probably served as a launching pad this (and possibly a future) attack.

    A newspaper close to Russia’s FSB security service published what it claimed was a warning to Moscow police issued in December that said there was credible intelligence that a suicide squad made up of three women and one man from Chechnya was headed to Moscow.
    The memo said the team had spent time in Pakistan and Iran and that one of the women had a relative with a flat in Moscow that might be used as a bomb making factory. Another group of five Islamist militants trained in Pakistan was also expected to cross into Russia soon, it added.

    The Telegraph: Moscow airport bomb: suicide bombers were part of squad trained in Pakistan

  • David Eliezer says:

    Before you allow yourself to be so dismayed: “it dismays me how European Jewry in the 1930s and 1940s simply allowed themselves to be marched into the gas chambers like so many sheep going to slaughter”
    You should learn what they actually did, starting with the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and actually many others. The Jews were poorly armed, of course, and could not stand up to the Nazi Army, but fought and died they did, in many places. And that is a difficult decision to make, when your family is with you, and the only thing telling you that they will kill you rather than just move you out are wild rumors of death camps.
    There were also uprisings in the death camps at Treblinka, Sobibor, and Auschwitz-Birkenau, and
    the ghettoes at Vilna, Mir, Lachva, Kremenets,
    Czestochowa, Nesvizh, Sosnowiec and Tarnow, as
    well as many others. It is well to remember that
    there were a lot fewer guns floating around freely at that time, and just finding a pistol was a difficult thing.
    Here is a source to look at:
    Here is another:
    The people you are referring to may not
    have a will do live, but we do.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram