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Was Daghestan Jamaat Behind Domodedovo Bombing?

A smoke-filled area near the blast site at Moscow's Domodedovo international airport is shown on television.

A smoke-filled area near the blast site at Moscow's Domodedovo international airport is shown on television.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the January 24 blast at Moscow's Domodedovo airport that killed 35 people and injured up to 168. But Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on January 26 that preliminary investigations indicate that the perpetrators had "no relation" to Chechnya.

Meanwhile, Russian media have floated the idea that the suicide bomber was an associate of the Daghestan wing of the North Caucasus insurgency, whose leader Israpil Velidjanov (aka Emir Khasan) warned last October that his men would continue to "inflict horrors on the unbelievers" on their own territory.

The women suicide bombers who blew themselves up in the Moscow subway on March 29, 2010, were identified as Mariam Sharapova and Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, both from Daghestan. They were reportedly recruited by Magomed Vagapov (nom de guerre Seyfullakh Gubdensky), who was subsequently named to head the Daghestan front. In a long, rambling address to North Caucasus insurgency leader Doku Umarov last summer, Vagapov argued that the insurgency should continued to target civilians in Russia, as attacks in Daghestan and elsewhere in the North Caucasus have only minimal impact on public opinion.

Vagapov was killed in a counterterror operation on August 20, whereupon Umarov named Velidjanov, who appears to be in his mid-40s, to succeed him.

On October 19, Velidjanov convened a meeting of senior Daghestan commanders, including the head of the "Azerbaijan Front" and Essa, a masked fighter whom he identified as the commander of the Riyadus Saliikhin suicide squad originally formed in the early 2000s by radical Chechen commander Shamil Basayev. It was during that October meeting that Velidjanov issued his warning that his men would continue to strike against Russians outside the North Caucasus. Velidjanov also reaffirmed his oath of loyalty to Umarov.

Whoever may have been responsible for it, the Domodedovo bombing highlights yet again the Russian authorities' failure over the past 15 years either to comprehend the nature of initially Chechen, now pan-Caucasian insurgency or to craft and implement a nuanced, multifaceted policy to address the problems (official corruption, injustice, disenfranchisement, economic stagnation, unemployment, arbitrary police brutality) that impel men and women across the North Caucasus to "head for the forest" and join the insurgency. Instead, Moscow continues to rely on indiscriminate military force against any practicing Muslims suspected of sympathizing with the insurgency plus grandiose schemes for attracting investment that will deliver results only years from now.

If the blast was indeed the work of the Daghestan fighters, it exposes the futility of Daghestan President Magomedsalam Magomedov's much-hyped new committee to help fighters who surrender readapt to civilian life. It also shows that despite the losses the Daghestan jamaat has incurred over the past five months -- up to 90 fighters killed, according to official statistics, including 14 since the start of this year -- it remains a deadly threat.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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