Chechens claim Moscow attacks

Dokka Umarov

The leader of the ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Dokka Abu Usman* (aka Dokka Umarov), last night claimed responsibility for Monday’s attacks on the Moscow subway system. In a statement published on the Chechen jihad media website Kavkaz Center and a video on Youtube (see here), Usman claimed the attack was retaliation for the continued killing by Russian forces of civilians in Chechnya and Ingushetia. He also promised that attacks on Russian territory would continue, warning

“the war will come to your streets, and you will feel it with your own lives and skins”.

Early on Thursday morning it appears a VBIED went off prematurely in Dagestan, killing its two occupants.

*Note there is a pretty good bio of Umarov here.

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Dagestan attack

The NYT reports that two suicide bombers struck in the Russian province of Dagestan at about 0830 local time this morning. The first attacker detonated his explosives when his car was pulled over at a police checkpoint in the town of Kizlyar (its not clear from the report if this was a VBIED or simply a suicide belt/vest that happened to be in a car). The BBC reports that the attack took place outside a security headquarters building. About 35 minutes after the initial blast, a second foot-borne bomber, disguised as a police officer detonated himself among the crowd of police and emergency personnel who had responded to the initial blast, killing among others, the local police chief. The attacks killed nine, mostly police officers, and injured another 18.

This style of attack is sometimes known as a ‘come-on’, whereby an initial incident is created in order to generate a response from the security forces. Once first responders arrive, they are then targeted by a second attack. This is a fairly common tactic, and has been used by groups around the world. Such incidents, using suicide attackers, have been quite frequent tin Iraq and Pakistan. I don’t recall a previous incident where this approach has been used in Dagestan/Checnyna before, so this might represent an evolution in the use of suicide tactics there. The use of a second bomber in police uniform also suggests a notable degree of planning and preparation.

Meanwhile, back in Moscow, the authorities have released images of the women they believe to have been responsible for Monday’s attacks. There are claims that prior to the attacks, women thought to be from the Caucasus were being stopped and searched by police, suggesting there may have been some intelligence warning on the bombings. Also the Russian paper Kommersant reports that the two women may have arrived in Moscow on a coach.

Attacks in Moscow

Moscow Metro Map

Moscow’s Chief of Police has reportedly said he believes this morning’s two explosions on the Moscow metro system were caused by suicide attackers detonating devices. Reports so far indicate that 37 people were killed. The Times is reporting that a senior Russian official has stated that the explosions were caused by two female suicide attackers.

The first attack occurred during Monday morning rush hour at 0750 local time in the Lubyanka railway station, killing 19 people both on the platform and on an incoming train reports the NYT. This might imply that the attacker was on the platform, but its likely too early to say anything for certain. Forty minutes later a second explosion occurred inside the second carriage of a train in the Park Kultury station, killing 14. Both stations are on the Red (Sokolnicheskaya) subway line.

Of course this is not the first time the Moscow underground system has been targeted. In February 2004 a male attacker, detonated a device on the metro’s Green line, killing 41 and injuring 120. Later in August 2004 a female attacker apparently panicked and prematurely detonated herself outside another metro station, killing ten people including her handler.

It seems likely that these attacks will prove to the work of Chechen or Ingush militants. As I noted previously (here, here and here), in Autumn 2009 there was a spate of new suicide attacks against Russian targets in Ingushetia, most of which were claimed by the Riyad-us-Saliheen (Gardens of the Righteous) Martyrs’ Brigade. The use of female attackers, if true, is certainly consistent with Chechen militants’ modus operandi for suicide operations.

It would appear that, if the same group is responsible, they have shifted their focus away from striking targets on their own ground to hitting the Russian capital. Whether they have the capacity to mount a campaign in Moscow remains to be seen.

Resurgence of suicide attacks in the Caucasus

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Aftermath at Nazran (AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev)

Over the last few months there has been a spate of suicide attacks in the Russia regions of Chechnya and Ingushetia. On 22 June a suicide VBIED was used to attack the convoy of the President of Ingushetia, Yunnus Bek-Yevkurov. The vehicle was reportedly carrying 70kg of high explosive and the subsequent explosion damaged all four vehicles, including the President’s armoured Mercedes. Yevkurov’s driver and a bodyguard were killed by the blast while both Yevkurov and his brother were wounded. Subsequent to the attack, a claim of responsibility was made by a group calling itself the Riyad-us-Saliheen (Gardens of the Righteous) Martyrs’ Brigade (also known as the Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion). This was the name of the group led by the infamous Chechen militant Shamil Basayev, who, before being killed by Russian forces in 2005, was responsible for a number of high-profile attacks in Russia, including the school siege at Beslan. [1] The group is now apparently led by a Chechen rebel named  Doku Umarov. Reports over the identity of the bomber appear confused; one source claims the attacker was a man, while others state the bomber was the widow of a militant killed by Russian forces. The latter is certainly in keeping with the modus operandi of previous Chechen suicide attacks, which have seen so-called ‘Black Widows’ utilised in a range of different attacks.[2]

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