News / Europe

Fighting Islamic Terrorism Seen as Common Ground for US, Russia

A Russian special forces trooper stands amidst the rubble following a major police operation in Khasavyurt, Dagestan, near the border with Chechnya (file photo)
A Russian special forces trooper stands amidst the rubble following a major police operation in Khasavyurt, Dagestan, near the border with Chechnya (file photo)
James Brooke

In Moscow’s struggle against its southern Islamic insurgency, Russian officials see the death of Osama bin Laden as a psychological victory.

From President Dmitry Medvedev on down, Russian officials have warmly hailed the successful American effort to track and kill Osama bin Laden.

Russia’s foreign ministry, hardly known for its pro-American statements, issued a congratulatory note, saying: "as members of the anti-terrorism coalition, we share the Americans’ feelings."

Combating Islamic terrorism constitutes a rare point of common ground for the old Cold War rivals.

Last year, Russia lost as many security officials in its Muslim majority North Caucasus as the United States lost soldiers in Afghanistan. Last year, 440 Russian police and soldiers were killed in the Caucasus - roughly the same number as American troops killed by hostile action in 2010 in Afghanistan. In both countries, about 10 security officials were wounded for each one killed.

But in both battlegrounds, Osama bin Laden’s influence seems to have recently been far more inspirational than operational.

Alexander Cherkasov, Caucasus expert for the Memorial Human rights group, says that Osama bin Laden was a powerful symbol for Russia’s radicalized Muslims.

He said the financing for the rebels now is largely generated locally, through extortion rackets.

Pavel Baev, Caucasus expert for the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway, agrees, saying that the rebel groups in the four Islamic majority regions of Russia’s Caucasus no longer live off donations from Saudi Arabia. Instead, they feed off the massive aid transfers from Moscow to the region. "Structure of funding is very certainly linked to Moscow, and not to any other sources of external funding.  So Al Qaeda has a symbolic role, maybe, as creator of ideals and discourse, but hardly anything greater than that," Baev said.

Historically, there are links. Osama bin Laden acquired his guerrilla skills fighting against Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan. Until his death on Monday, he often posed with a Kalashnikov rifle that he said he seized from a Russian soldier he had killed in the 1980s.

In late 1996, after Russian soldiers withdrew from Chechnya,  Ayman al Zawahiri, then al Qaeda’s number two, traveled to Chechnya, looking for a new home for the movement.

On leaving Chechnya, he was jailed for several months in the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan. After that experience, al Zawahiri decided it would be safer to move al Qaida to Afghanistan.

Three years later, when Russian soldiers moved to reassert control over Chechnya, hundreds, possibly thousands, of Arab mujahedin traveled to Chechnya to fight against the Russians.

But Andrei Soldatov, a Russian security analyst, said most of the foreign fighters did not depend on bin Laden and his Saudi financing. And bin Laden had shifted his target - from Russians to Americans.

"To be frank, al Qaida was never very significant for the North Caucasus. And al Qaida itself never considered Chechnya as a front against for example American or British targets," Soldatov said.

But, to gain a wider international prominence, several insurgent units in the Russian Caucasus claim loose affiliation with al Qaida. And every year, a few Arab fighters are killed in the Russian mountains.

Two weeks ago, Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Chechnya, announced that his soldiers had killed "the chief representative of al-Qaida in the North Caucasus," Khaled Yusef Muhammed, a Saudi national.

Self-styled as Commander of the Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya, Muhammed was sharing a camp with one bodyguard when he was killed. Kadyrov said he was sold out by a comrade for bounty.

Kadryov and other regional officials say that bin Ladin’s death removes a charismatic symbol for the radical Islamic movement.

Baev, the analyst, agrees. "So the death of bin Laden is merely of abstract importance," Baev said.

But with operations controlled and financed inside Russia, the Islamic insurgents remain powerful forces who may want to respond to the death of their hero.

Russians are bracing for more violence. Security is being tightened for the annual Red Square military parade, which will take place on Monday to mark the anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

Looking ahead, Alexander Bortnikov, director of the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, warns that terrorists plan to target the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a normally peaceful resort city - on the western end of the Caucasus mountain chain.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ebola Lockdown May Be Extended

Lockdown, which started Friday, aims to allow health workers to locate hidden Ebola patients, educate others on how to avoid the deadly disease More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid