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Analysis: Islambouli Brigades Issues New Warning To Russia

The murky group calling itself the Islambouli Brigades issued a call on 9 September to "all our cells in every region of Russia to launch a destructive war." The text of the message as reproduced in English on the website reads:

"The war is coming, if Allah wills it...we in the Islambouli Brigades call on all our cells in every region of Russia to launch a destructive war in the face of the infidels in Russia, and to target every place the same way that the evil Putin has declared that he has targeted every Muslim in the world and the Islamic land of Chechnya. O' Putin, everyone who lives in Russia will hear the sound of our response, and your nation will taste the hellfire as long as you thirst for the blood of Muslims and the Muslims in Chechnya...and until you withdraw from your cemetery that lies in the Islamic land of Chechnya.

"We in the Islambouli Brigades have put our words into action previously on the ground in Moscow and in the sky over Russia, and we declare that this infidel country will be a target for us in the coming endless wave of operations, if Allah wills it."

The group has denied responsibility for the recent attack on the school in Beslan, North Ossetia, but, in statements on the Internet, it has reiterated that it was responsible for the attacks that downed two Russian airliners on 24 August and the 31 August suicide bombing outside a subway station in Moscow that killed nine people.

In a statement released after the 31 August attack, the group said: "We in the Islambouli Brigades declare our responsibility for this operation, even though we denied it before because the news had not reached us by that time.... This heroic operation, as we have warned you, is an extension of a wave of support and assistance to the Chechen Muslims."

Very little is known about the Islambouli Brigades -- or whether the organization even exists. It is believed to be named after Khaled Islambouli, the leader of a group that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. The group's earlier claim that it was responsible for the assassination attempt on Pakistani Prime Minister-designate Shawkat Aziz on 31 July has never been confirmed by the Pakistani authorities.

In the latest communique the group mentions "our cells in every region of Russia." That might suggest a foreign-controlled terrorist organization operating inside Russia, thus substantiating official Russian claims that the country has become a target for international terrorists. Regardless of who the actual attackers might be, that would make the group a prime suspect for any future terrorist attacks in Russia.

Russian security officials have been careful not to comment on the group's claims nor have they mentioned it as a suspect in any of the two incidents the group has taken credit for.

It is still unclear who was responsible for the hostage taking in the Beslan school. While the tragedy was unfolding, the Russian authorities initially blamed "Arab terrorists" working in league with radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev and told the press that 10 of the dead hostage takers were "Arabs."

According to "The New York Times" on 6 September: "Officials have said the siege, like the other attacks, was masterminded by Mr. Basayev and financed by a man believed to be an Arab associated with Al-Qaeda and identified as Abu Omar as-Seyf. Russian officials cited in official news reports say the attack itself was led by Magomed Yevloyev, who has been previously described as the commander of rebel forces operating in Ingushetia. After the raid in Ingushetia in June, Mr. Yevloyev was reported by officials to have been killed.

"While the extent of international support may be debated, the attacks bear some trappings of Islamic militancy. Officials here in Beslan said they had found notebooks with Arabic writing, and witnesses reported hearing Arabic exhortations, though the attackers mostly spoke Russian."

On 6 September, Russian state television RTR showed a clip of what it says was one of the captured hostage takers. The prisoner, whose name or nationality was not given, spoke in poor Russian and said that the group was composed of men from different nationalities, among them Arabs. He also said that they had been sent by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and field commander Basaev to Beslan in order to spread the Chechen war throughout the North Caucasus. RTR then proceeded to show two elderly women patients who had been held hostage identifying the prisoner as one of the hostage takers.

Only after the Russian security services began blaming Maskhadov and Basaev for the massacre in Beslan and announced a reward of $10 million for their capture, did the Islambouli Brigades issue its statement denying responsibility for the attack.

For full coverage on the recent wave of terror attacks in Russia, see RFE/RL's webpage on "Terror In Russia".