Terrorism in Russia surprises Putin – but IS strike doesn't surprise experts

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Muslims in Russia? For Russian President Putin, what appears to be a Ukrainian move is not really possible.

Moscow – Russian President Vladimir Putin IS responsible for terrorist attack near Moscow “Are extremist and terrorist organizations really interested in carrying out attacks? Russia “What is a reasonable solution to the rising Middle East conflict today?” he asked at the start of a meeting among top security officials on possible follow-up measures. “How can radical Islamists commit such crimes during the holy month of Ramadan for all Muslims?”

An IS affiliate soon claimed responsibility for the attack on the Moscow concert hall

On the evening of March 22, terrorists armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles entered the Crocus City Hall concert venue northwest of the Russian capital Moscow and opened fire. According to official Russian government figures, they killed at least 137 people. For Putin, the path “logically” leads to Ukraine, however IS splinter group Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) He soon admitted to the attack. Moscow has arrested eleven terror suspects in a very short period of time. According to Russian state media, all the suspected criminals have Tajik citizenship.

But how likely is a terrorist attack on Russia really? Afghanistan expert Ellinor Zeino believed the ISKP was responsible for the attack. In an interview NTV She explained, “It is [die ISKP] It has been known for years that it also has targets outside Afghanistan in mind. Its capacity has been very high for a long time. The only question is when.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his surprise that IS claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack near Moscow. © Mikhail Metzel/imago

Russia is a logical victim of ISKP terrorists

According to California State University history and global studies professor Ibrahim al-Marashi, the attack on the Moscow concert hall was the work of the ISKP. He mentions in an article Kyiv Post For the 2015 IS attack on a concert at a Paris nightclub that killed 89 people. There too the terrorists opened fire on people with Kalashnikov machine guns to the tune of music.

According to al-Marashi, the attack on Russia this time was made up of two main points: First, it was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, which destabilized the region and thus spawned extremist groups such as the ISKP. Russia, as the successor state of the Soviet Union, is therefore a logical enemy. In addition, Russia has been supporting the Syrian civil war since 2015 for the ruling dictator Bashar al-Assad, whose opponents include Islamic State rebel fighters.

The precarious social status of Tajiks makes them a popular recruitment target

Second, al-Marashi mentions the precarious position of Tajiks in Russian society in his comments. As a “frustrated community”, they are an ideal target for the ISKP, which can easily be mobilized for acts of violence. After a bloody civil war with Russian participation in the 1990s, Central Asian Tajikistan is economically devastated – at least for the ruling sectors of society – and offers few opportunities. Young people often go to Russia to work in the low-wage sector and send money to their families. After Putin's all-out invasion of Ukraine, Tajiks were increasingly forced into military service.

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The attack has worsened their predicament. Tajik migrants in Russia face increasing threats of violence, “random” police raids and harassment. how Radio Free Europe Tajikistan's embassy in Moscow has called on its citizens to stay at home for security reasons.

Islamic terrorism in Russia has a history

The current terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall is not the first Islamist attack Russia has suffered. During the Second Chechen War, Chechen militias carried out massacres and attacks on Russian soil in the early 2000s. These included several suicide bombings, a mass hostage-taking at Moscow's Dubrovka theater, and a school siege in Beslan, in which nearly 350 people were killed.

Both wars in the North Caucasus republics are deeply etched in the collective memory of Muslims in Russia. Even against this backdrop, an Islamist-inspired terrorist attack on Moscow does not seem surprising. This is clear to Ellinor Zeino: “For the ISKP, Moscow is only an intermediate step on the road to the West.” (Cow)

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