Eleven people were killed in a powerful explosion on the track between two metro stations in St. Petersburg on Monday afternoon. Russian authorities called the incident a terrorist attack, but while the responsibility for it, no one picked up.
Saint Petersburg became the first victim of terror in modern times. The city that survived during the world war II 900-day siege, lived without fear of the terrorists who carried out a series of attacks in the capital, Moscow.
“The act of terrorism can stand for many. But, if you remember history, you will see that after Putin came to power, radical Islamist groups from the North Caucasus have carried out a series of terrorist attacks,” — said the expert on Russia, senior researcher at the Norwegian foreign policy Institute (NUPI), Wilhelmsen Julius (Julie Wilhelmsen).
Wilhelmsen, said that terrorists can be everything from right-wing groups to the jihadists.
“But if we take into account Russian history, we cannot exclude the possibility that a terrorist attack are the jihadists from the North Caucasus”.
Russia’s fight against jihadists
Terrorist groups have arisen in connection with the bloody wars in Chechnya after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, after the Chechen Republic declared itself independent, she explains.
“Many of the terrorist attacks that occurred in Russia since the 1990-ies, associated with the radicalization of the Chechen opposition movement because of the war. The terrorist attacks were his most powerful weapons against the Russian authorities,” — said Wilhelmsen.
One of the most terrible terrorist acts, referenced by the expert, began to rally in the Dubrovka theater, where Chechen militants took 800 people hostage.
In 2004, more than 300 people died during the rescue operation at the Beslan school in North Ossetia, where militants held 1100 hostages.
However, it is noteworthy that the number of terrorist attacks carried out by Islamist opposition movements in Russia have considerably decreased, according to Wilhelmsen.
“The reason that Russia has done much to suppress these groups in the North Caucasus, for example, by closing the borders, establish control over the financing of groups and limiting their access to weapons. In addition, the region received a harsh anti-terrorism campaign,” — said the expert.
The country’s security concern
While the number of attacks against Russia has declined, the number of jihadists who travelled to the middle East has grown significantly, says the expert:
“The number of jihadists who travelled from the North Caucasus to the middle East has increased significantly. Talking about the fact that different groups, such as ISIS (a terrorist organization banned in Russia — approx. ed.) in Syria, could join a few thousand people,” she says.
Such a situation is clearly concerned about Russian power, whose possible return of jihadists home raises fears for security in the country.
However, the Russian government allegedly helped jihadists to travel from the North Caucasus to the middle East, says Vilhelmsen:
“Putin once said that it is better to bomb the terrorists in Syria than in Russia”.
“There is no doubt that it is terrorism”
Russian expert on Islam Roman Silantyev said the newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, that the threat of terrorism in St.-Petersburg in recent years has increased.
“Unfortunately, it is likely that this is LIH. It is behind most of the terrorist attacks or attempted terrorist attacks carried out in recent time,” he said in an interview with the newspaper.
A researcher from NUPI Godzimirski Jakub (Jakub Godzimirski) said in an interview with Norway’s NTB агентствомl information that the terrorist attack in the subway can be associated with the situation in the North Caucasus or Syria.
“In addition, these two versions are closely related to each other,” he says.
In particular, Godzimirski refers to the fact that many of the mercenaries from Russia who joined the radical Islamist group ISIS, a native of Chechnya or other regions in the North Caucasus.
Russian opposition politician Mikhail Khodorkovsky wrote on his page in Facebook that this was probably the largest terrorist attack in St. Petersburg in Russia’s recent history and added:
“There is no doubt that it is terrorism, because it is a terrorist — regardless of what their purpose is,” — wrote Khodorkovsky.
However, many experts emphasize that ISIL has recruited many supporters in Uzbekistan, one of the Central Asian States that were once part of the USSR.
Last Friday, at least six Russian soldiers were killed during an attack on a military unit in Chechnya. According Amaq news Agency, known for its ties to ISIS, the responsibility for this action was taken by the ISIS.
The attackers failed to penetrate the territory, but the battle between terrorists and soldiers continued for several hours.