Suicide Attacks in Moscow are Part of an Upsurge in Attacks by North Caucasus Militants

Unfortunately, the terrorist attacks committed in the Moscow metro early in the morning of March 29 were not the first and there is no reason to assume they will be the last. The explosions were set off in a public place in order to cause massive casualties among civilians. At first glance, one should link this incident to the armed resistance in the North Caucasus. There are several obvious points that should support this line of thinking, namely that the strikes were made at the Lubyanka metro station, which is located just underneath the Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters in Moscow. The second blast ripped through the station Park Kultury metro station. However, it is reasonable to suppose that the explosion was intended to go off at the Oktyabrskaya metro station, which would link it to the building of Russia’s interior ministry (MVD), which is located just across the street from that station. That is to say that average citizens were supposed see immediately that militants were behind the attacks.
Shortly after the attacks, irregularities were observed in the militants’ camp. The first Caucasus TV channel (Tbilisi, Georgia) aired a statement by an anonymous person who said that the separatists had no involvement in the Moscow terrorist attacks and that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should be held responsible for the crime ( However, it is unclear why the militants (if they were indeed militants) would use the Georgian TV channel rather than their numerous internet websites. It is also not clear why only a few hours prior to Doku Umarov’s statement his main representative abroad, Shamsudin Batukaev, announced that the militants could not have targeted civilians (, March 31).
Moreover, it is hard to understand, why Ingushetia’s President, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, ordered a check of everyone suspected of sympathizing with the militants, including the relatives of alleged militants. This can be explained only by the fact that some sort of information was received regarding the involvement of people from Ingushetia in the Moscow attacks. Finally, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s trip to Dagestan had nothing to do with his concern about the death of 12 Dagestani policemen in Kizlyar on March 31. Many more people have died in previous terrorist attacks in Russia, but neither the president nor the prime minister considered it necessary to visit the sites of those deaths.
When looking at the history of suicide attacks in the North Caucasus it must be remembered that the first such incident was recorded in Chechnya on June 7, 2000. That day, a young woman by the name of Hava Baraeva detonated herself in a truck as it crashed through the gates of the military base that housed the Russian commandant’s office in the village of Alkhan-Kala. The next significant suicide attack was carried out on April 9, 2001 by the Chechen female Elza Gazueva, who blew herself up killing the military commandant of Urus-Martan, Colonel Geidar Gadzhiev. In all, there were 12 suicide bombings committed by Chechen women before August 24, 2009. It is worth noting that the theory popular in journalistic circles about the existence of a “Black Widows” unit has no basis in reality. There is no such institution in the armed resistance. This phenomenon has nothing to do with Chechen people’s mentality, which prohibits even burying such people in the cemeteries or arranging a funeral repast for them. Suicide bombing was adopted by the armed resistance during the second military campaign in Chechnya –not without the influence of mercenaries from the Middle East. It was with the arrival of the Saudi fighter Khattab and other Arab mercenaries that the methods of fighting Russian forces by the armed Chechen resistance changed dramatically. One could witness a sort of “Palestinization” of the Chechen war.
As the war spilled out beyond the borders of Chechnya, suicide bombings started being used not only in the republic and not only by Chechens. It is safe to say that they became part of the tactics of the armed resistance in the North Caucasus. On June 5, 2003, for example, a female suicide bomber in North Ossetia blew up a bus with a helicopter crew and technical staff of the Russian air base in Mozdok. Blasts in Moscow in 2004 were attributed to the Karachay jamaat, because the authorities wanted to place the blame on Achemez Gochichaev (, September 27, 2004). On November 6, 2008, 12 people were killed and 38 injured when a taxi cab exploded in the North Ossetian city of Vladikavkaz.
On June 22, 2009 (the anniversary date of the 2004 attack on Nazran by Shamyl Basaev), a suicide bomber attempted to murder Ingushetia’s President Yevkurov nearly killing the Ingush leader. On August 17, 2009, a suicide car bomber attacked a police headquarters in Nazran, killing 25 people were killed and wounding 136. On September 1, 2010, an apparent suicide car bombing at a traffic police checkpoint on the outskirts of Makhachkala, Dagestan killed one person and wounded 14 others, including policemen and medical workers. On January 6, 2010, a suicide bomber tried to penetrate the base of a detached battalion of the Makhachkala’s Regional Internal Affairs Department, killing seven and wounding dozens of others. Finally, on March 31, 2010 a suicide bomber blew himself up in Kizlyar, Dagestan, killing 12 policemen and injuring more than 20. That blast was perpetrated by a resident of the republic.
It is difficult to say exactly how many blasts could be attributed to suicide bombers, but it is safe to assume that they number in the double digits and have been organized by representatives of various ethnic groups of the North Caucasus and not solely by Chechens, as some short-sighted analysts and journalists would lead us to believe. The first statements made by Moscow’s siloviki support the assumption that the recent terrorist attack was carried out by the widow of the Dagestani Jamaat’s emir Al-Bara (ethnic Avar), who was killed on December 31, 2009. However, one should look at that claim with skepticism, keeping in mind that Russian investigators can blame whoever they want.
Thus, suicide bombing is already a mass phenomenon in the armed resistance. Moreover, the geography of the phenomenon has spread to the regions neighboring Chechnya –Dagestan, Ingushetia and Ossetia. And, if we link it with the real war that is being carried out by the militants of the North Caucasus, one can conclude that the resistance movement is heterogeneous in its nature and multidimensional in its content, which allows the separatists to strike in different parts of the country. The strategy of the militants underwent major changes with the departure of such figures as the presidents of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Aslan Maskhadov and Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev from the political arena (Maskhadov was killed in March 2005 and Sadulaev was killed in June 2006). The current leadership of the armed resistance has no agenda; it follows the principle – “the worse for Russia, the better it is for the militants.”
Moreover, some analysts have hastened to announce that the Moscow bombings were vengeance for the murder of the Kabardinian militant, Anzor Astemirov, and former rebel ideologue, Said Buryatsky. These claims, however, do not withstand scrutiny. It takes much more than just a few days to plan an operation of the kind mounted in Moscow and none of the above mentioned militants have a history of launching suicide attacks or maintained units dedicated to this purpose. In all likelihood, the Moscow bombings were planned while both Buryatsky and Astemirov were still alive. One should not forget the statement by Doka Umarov, who on February 19, 2010 threatened to strike on Russian soil outside the North Caucasus ( = P8otYE-KteI & feature = player_ embedded # ). To the surprise of many, Umarov made a statement on the third day after the Moscow metro blasts saying they were launched in response to the actions of Russian forces in the village near Arshty, where a number of Chechen civilians were killed while collecting ramsons, and that another major strike of that kind will be carried out quite soon. The fact that the videotaped claim of responsibility came so quickly shows that the separatists have managed to establish contacts with the outside world, enabling them to react swiftly to events taking place both in the region and in the world.
One should expect that this terrorist attack will be used by a variety of political forces in Russia to the fullest. President Medvedev can say now that his predecessor’s methods and actions were not effective. Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, can reproach his successor’s weaknesses and call for the return of the “iron fist.” Opposition forces can use it as another chance to accuse the authorities of inaction. It is worth noting that the authorities are not interested in trying to find signs of Chechen involvement, as they often were in the past: indeed, during the first 48 hours after the Moscow bombings not a single Russian official expressed a view regarding the possibility of Chechen involvement. If the Chechen version proves to be true, it will corner everybody politically. It will also weaken the position of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, since he has repeatedly claimed success in his counter-terrorist activities.
The Kremlin will receive the opportunity to increase its attacks on Georgia, accusing it of having ties with the separatists. At the international level, the Russian foreign ministry will actively demonstrate its desire to “fight international terrorism,” where Osama bin Laden and Mikheil Saakashvili will be looked at through the same lens. But there is a reverse side to this coin. Global analysts who have long “buried” the separatists will have to acknowledge that the activity of North Caucasian militants is increasing and strengthening daily and thus Moscow’s rhetoric about a pacified North Caucasus is nothing more than political demagogy.
It is an established fact that after ten years of war with the militants, Moscow has not moved from where it was in 1999, when it started the second Chechen War.