Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Russia: Messages from Moscow airport blast

See also: www.southasiaanalysis.org

Thirty-five persons are reported to have been killed in a suicide blast near the arrival area of Moscow's Domodedovo airport at 4-32 PM local time on January 24,2011. The suspected suicide bomber had taken up position along with relatives and friends of arriving passengers in an area to which they are allowed. Apparently, there was no anti-explosive check on them. While arriving passengers are subjected to anti-explosive checks before they leave the terminal, waiting relatives and friends are not. No claim of responsibility has so far been made.

2. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has postponed his departure to the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos in Switzerland, which is starting on January 26. It is not yet clear whether he will still go or will cancel his participation.

3. The blast, which reportedly involved industrial-grade explosives ( TNT?) mixed with projectiles such as nails etc to cause maximum fatalities, came three days after the departure of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan from Moscow after the first bilateral visit by an Afghan Head of State or Government to Moscow since the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in the 1980s.Karzai had, however, previously visited Moscow for multilateral meetings. During the visit of Karzai, his Russian interlocutors promised economic and military assistance amounting to half a billion US dollars to Afghanistan. Most of the proposed projects would focus on the non-Pashtun north. One of the proposals under consideration is the repair and upgradation of the road by which Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in the late 1970s. Russia has extended logistic movement facilities for the NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan.

4. The Afghan Taliban, which has close links with terrorists from Chechnya and Dagestan, and Al Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which assist the remnants of the Chechen terrorists still living in North Waziristan in Pakistan, have not so far reacted to Karzai's bilateral visit to Moscow and to Russian promises of military and economic assistance. There is so far no evidence to connect the Moscow blast of January 24 to Karzai's visit, but this is an angle, which is likely to be explored during the investigation.

5. Presently, the investigators seem to be treating the explosion as purely-related to the anti-Russian insurgency in the Caucasus region.Pictures of a seeming return to normalcy projected by the Rusian authorities do not reflect the reality. There is still considerable anti-Russian anger and continued availability of volunteers for suicide terrorism---men and women. Money continues to flow to the terrorists from Chechen-origin residents in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Narcotics smuggling from Afghanistan is anothert source of income. Russia has been playing a role in the anti-narcotics drive in Afghanistan, but the results have not been very significant.

6. This is the second major terrorist strike in Moscow within a year. Both targeted means of transport. A suicide attack of March 2010 (40 dead) targeted Metro traffic. The latest attack has targeted the most important airport of Moscow handling a large number of international flights.The attack of March last year was meant to impact on the mind of the Russian people not to believe the claims of normalcy of their Government. The latest attack is meant to impact on the mind of the international community, including the participants at Davos, not to believe the claims of Moscow. ( 25-1-11)

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.