So far no group has claimed responsibility, an oddity in the world of terrorism, a gnawing suspicion, and God we hope to be wrong, is that this will be a pretext to a new wave of escalations in the ongoing but under-reported war with Chechnya’s separatists.
Last night the Prosecutors Office indicated that the terrorists had “left a lot of evidence at the scene.” Russian prosecutors have the right to hold that evidence under wraps until they have gathered all they can without coming to premature conclusions or to bolster their legitimate case.
This government of Vladimir Putin however has in the past shown an unusual willingness to both manufacture evidence to fit a desired outcome, or to suppress evidence if it doesn’t fit the desired conclusion. That bothers a great many national and international journalists who are watching this with great interest.
Russia is not actively involved in America’s war inside Iraq nor an outspoken partner against any other rogue state normally involved with terrorist actions. Except Chechnya. Russian Interior ministry today conducts almost unrestricted raids in Chechnya and has the situation pretty much balanced militarily in Russia’s favour.
British journalist Lindsey Hilsum among others has argured that the Russian hard line in Chechnya is breeding terrorists. Could this be a result?
Today the Christian Science Monitor reported that another bomb went off early this morning in the southern republic of Dagestan, striking an international train traveling from Tyumen, in Siberia, to Baku in Azerbaijan. No one was injured in that blast, but some analysts say there are clear signs that terrorists, who have never ceased operations amid turbulent Caucasus republics like Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya, may be preparing to resume more ambitious attacks upon Russia.
“This is a grave challenge for our people,” he said. “A crime, in which any one of us could be the victim, has been committed for effect. Everyone living in Russia is being intimidated.”
“Whoever did it chose the target very carefully and intended to attack the Russian elite,” says Nikolai Petrov, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. “This train, especially on a Friday, carries a lot of officials who are traveling between Russia’s two capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg. It’s no surprise that at least two heads of government agencies were among the victims. It was clearly done to attract maximum political and media attention, and it obviously worked,” he says.
Over the spring and summer of 2006, Russia suffered a wave of terrorist attacks, most of them carried out by suicide bombers, including women. The attacks – at a rock concert in Moscow, a bus stop and military hospital in Mozdok and government buildings in Chechnya – killed more than 250 people.
There was a similar attack on the Nevsky Express in 2007 when a similar bomb caused minor injuries to about 60 people but failed to derail the train. In retrospect, just as the first attacks on New York’s World Trade Center bombers learned lessons from earlier failures, Russia’s attackers Friday may have learned from the previous attempt.
Until lately, the most adventurous Russian Islamists tended to head for Afghanistan, or somewhere else, to wage jihad. More recently however the attacks have been concentrated in the Caucausus area and now the sign are that Russia must worry about terror spreading in unexpected places all over the Federation.
For now television networks have taken entertainment programs off the air, moments of silence were observed before matches on the final Sunday of the Russian football league, and mourners lined up outside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to light candles and say prayers for the departed and those injured.