Federal Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin announced on January 29 that investigators have established the identity of the man who perpetrated the January 24 suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport. Markin said the man, aged 20, was from one of the North Caucasus republics, but declined to say which one or to identify him by name on the grounds that the hunt for the masterminds continues.
Markin's cryptic statement is at odds with information leaked earlier. The bomber was initially said to have been aged between 35-40 and of European or Arab appearance. He was then tentatively identified as Vitaly Razdobudko, a Russian convert to Islam from Pyatigorsk in Stavropol Krai, and a member of the Nogai jamaat or battalion, whose members reportedly come from villages in Stavropol Krai's Neftekumsk Raion that border on Daghestan.
The population of those villages are predominantly Nogais, the Turkic ethnic group that at the time of the 2002 All-Russian census ranked ninth among Daghestan's titular nationalities. The perpetrator of the September 5 car bomb attack on the Buynaksk Russian military base in Daghestan was subsequently identified as Zamir Terekbayev, 26, from Neftekumsk
. One suspected militant was reported killed and three apprehended in a counterterror operation in Neftekumsk in late October
But the website Caucasus Knot on January 25 quoted Akhmed Yarlykanov, an expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, as saying there is no such military formation as the "Nogai battalion."
Local police in Stavropol have also denied its existence, according to the Daghestani weekly "Novoe delo.
That does not, of course, preclude the possibility that individual Nogais from Neftekumsk may have joined insurgency units in northern Daghestan.
On January 28, RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed security source as saying the putative bomber filmed by security cameras at Domodedovo prior to the blast was not Razdobudko
, whose whereabouts remain unclear.
A second hypothesis identified the Domodedovo bomber as Nazir Batyrov, 26, said to be a close associate of Israpil Velidjanov (Amir Khasan), the commander of the Daghestan wing of the North Caucasus insurgency
. That identification was plausible insofar as Velidjanov announced in October that he had revived the Riyadus Saliikhin suicide battalion created in the early 2000s by radical Chechen commander Shamil Basayev, and warned that its members would "perpetrate horrors on the unbelievers
on their own territory."
Velidjanov has not formally claimed responsibility for the January 24 bombing. The group he heads has, however, since acknowledged the death in a counter-operation in Khasavyurt on January 27 of Adam Guseinov, Velidjanov's second-in-command
. That rules out a communications breakdown as the reason why the group has not claimed responsibility for Domodedovo, if indeed its members were behind the blast.
Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on January 26 said initial investigations indicate that "this terrorist act … has no relation to the Chechen Republic." Some Russian commentators have interpreted that statement as an attempt by Putin to shield his protégé, Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov. But in light of the Daghestani hypothesis mentioned above, it could equally have been meant by extension to highlight the inability of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's appointee as Daghestani president, Magomedsalam Magomedov, to contain the insurgency on his turf.
Then on January 27, Republic of Ingushetia head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who was selected in October 2008 by Medvedev to replace Putin's fellow FSB alumnus Murat Zyazikov, told foreign journalists that "such North Caucasus underground leaders as Doku Umarov" were responsible for the Domodedovo blast
. Those seemingly mutually contradictory statements raise the question whether Putin and Medvedev (through Yevkurov) are both seeking to implicate a republican leader whom the other appointed.
Former Chechen Republic Ichkeria President Umarov, who in the fall of 2007 proclaimed himself leader of a Caucasus Emirate comprising most of the Russian North Caucasus, implicitly assumed responsibility for the suicide bomb attacks by two women from Daghestan in the Moscow metro on March 29, 2010
. But he has not released any comparable statement this time around.
The FSB has reportedly ruled out
any connection between the Domodedovo bomber and the woman killed in Moscow on New Year's Eve, apparently when a "suicide belt" she planned to detonate later that evening exploded prematurely. The dead woman was identified as "the widow of one of the leaders of the Nogai battalion
." The National Anti-Terror Committee announced on January 29 the arrest in Daghestan of four men suspected of involvement in that abortive attack.