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

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.