News / Europe

Russia’s Top Terrorist Promises More Bombs for Moscow

People lay flowers as they attend a rally to commemorate the victims of last month's deadly suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, January 27, 2011
People lay flowers as they attend a rally to commemorate the victims of last month's deadly suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, January 27, 2011
James Brooke

Russia’s top Islamic fundamentalist warlord is taking credit for the suicide bombing at the international section of Moscow’s busiest airport. 

Wearing military fatigues and a black skull cap, Doku Umarov took credit for the bombing in a video that appeared to be filmed in a tent in southern Russia’s Caucasus region. Umarov promised to continue sending suicide bombers to Moscow until the Caucasus "is Islamic and free."

Coming from this battle-hardened Chechen warlord, these threats may not be idle bluster. Over the last year, he has claimed credit for three bombings in Moscow that have killed a total of 102 people and injured hundreds.

In the video posted Tuesday on the Islamic rebels website, Umarov said he has hundreds of suicide bombers prepared to carry out missions in Russia’s capital.

In this screen shot taken in Moscow, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 a computer screen shows an undated photo of a man identified as Chechen separatist leader Doku Umarov posted on the site.
In this screen shot taken in Moscow, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 a computer screen shows an undated photo of a man identified as Chechen separatist leader Doku Umarov posted on the site.
Umarov, a bearded 46-year-old who calls himself the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, said in heavily accented Russian:  "God willing, these special operations will be carried out in the future There is no doubt of this, as we will have hundreds of brothers who will  be ready to sacrifice themselves.”

Russian terrorism expert Andrei Soldatov says he believes that Umarov will try to deliver on his threat.

"Doku Umarov, despite some dispute in the ranks of militants, is very determined to keep sending people to Moscow," said Soldatov.

He said the rebel understands the power of carrying out actions in Moscow, the nation’s political and media capital.

In the two weeks since the airport bombing, there have been daily attacks on police in the Caucasus. But of more concern to Muscovites, there has been a rash of telephone bomb threats that forced the evacuations of shopping malls and long distance railroad stations.

Umarov referred to actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Soldatov says he now wants international attention.

"For Doku Umarov, it is clear from his video that for him it is very important to portray himself as one of the leaders of global jihadist movement," he said.

While Umarov promised Muscovites "a year of blood and tears",  Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev seemed to try to shift the media spotlight on Tuesday by firing two generals from the Federal Security Service, the successor agency to the KGB. Since the bombing, about 10 midlevel officials have been fired.

But critics, like Soldatov note that the ax is falling on officials  responsible for transportation security, not on officials responsible for tracking down terrorists. Prime Minister Putin, a KGB veteran himself, conceded last week that Russia had a lot to learn from foreign agencies in counter-terrorism work.

On Tuesday, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s security service, briefed members of Russia’s parliament behind closed doors.

Afterwards, Vladimir Vasilyev, the head of parliament's security committee, told reporters that two people have been arrested in connection with the airport bombing. But, speaking on national television, he warned that Muscovites will have to live with the terrorist threat.

All residents of our country need to realize that we will have to live under the threat of terror in Moscow for a long time to come, he said

In a first step, Russian airports are now to be fitted with entry checkpoints with metal detectors and luggage screening systems.  Visitors will have to show a passport or driver's license to enter an airport. Terminals will be fenced off and fitted with surveillance cameras transmitting live feeds to law enforcement agencies.

It is unclear if  such measures will deter Russia’s wily warlord in the woods. The first arrest warrant for Doku Umarov, for murder, was issued in 1992.

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