First thoughts on 29 March 2010 Moscow metro bombings

With 37 dead from blasts in the Lubyanka and Park Kultury metro stations this morning, apparently from two female suicide bombers, it is still too soon to say anything authoritative or definitive about the tragedy. Inevitably — and I’m sure correctly — this has been linked with the North Caucasus insurgencies and, combined with the November 2009 Nevsky Express train bombings, it suggests a return to terrorist attacks outside the troubled region itself. This may be true, and it would certainly meet self-styled ‘Emir of the North Caucasus’ Doku Umarov’s assertion that “Blood will no longer be limited to our cities and towns. The war is coming to their [Russians’] cities.” However, a key question will be where these attacks originated. Although Chechnya is hardly pacified, Kadyrov’s brutal methods have managed to shatter the rebel movement. Instead, the main focus of terrorist insurgency has shifted to other North Caucasus republics, most notably Daghestan and Ingushetia. However, the movements there are more nationalist than jihadist, Islamist to be sure but not the particularly virulent form that tends also to be associated with suicide attacks on purely civilian targets (indeed, if anything they have recently sharpened their focus on those they deem enemy combatants: police, soldiers and government officials). If these bombers prove not to have been Chechens or inspired and supported by the remaining Salafist jihadist elements within Chechnya, then this might be a worrying sign of a radicalisation of the other North Caucasus insurgent movements.

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