Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

The Terrorist Threats against Russia and Its Counterterrorism Response Measures

Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

The Terrorist Threats against Russia and Its Counterterrorism Response Measures

Article excerpt

As of mid-2015, the primarily Islamist-based terrorist threats against Russia and its counterterrorism response measures continued to be in the spotlight. These Islamist terrorist threats, it must be pointed out, were unrelated to Russia's other national security problems emanating from its intervention in Ukraine, which will not be discussed in this article.

As with other Western countries, the latest phase of the terrorist threats against Russia has become even more complicated than before, with large-scale involvement by a reported 1,700 "homegrown violent extremists" (HVE),1 primarily North Caucasusbased, many of whom have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State's insurgents and to fight the Moscow-supported Bashar al-Assad government as well as the Shi'ite government in Baghdad (which is also backed by Tehran - Russia's close ally), with their violent extremism also directed against the Russian state. As part of this phase, although unrelated to the involvement of the aforementioned Russian Islamists in Syria, Russian airpower was deployed in Syria in September 2015 to support the besieged al-Assad regime against the Islamic State.

The earlier phase of the terrorist threats against Russia was highlighted by the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, which were peipetrated by two brothers of ethnic Chechen origin (one of whom was reportedly monitored by Russia's security services during his stay in Dagestan), as well several significant terrorist attacks in late 2013 during the lead-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics, which were held in February 2014 without a terrorist incident.

Overall, the primary terrorist threats against the Russian Federation are presented by the Islamist insurgents in the North Caucasus, who are organized into several groups that are loosely allied with al-Qaeda's global Jihad. Fortunately for Russia, in their most significant threat over the past several years, these Islamist militants were thwarted in their intent to exploit the worldwide media attention associated with the February 2014 Olympic sporting events, which were located close to the North Caucasus, several hundred miles from the Republic of Dagestan, where they were mounting an insurgency to establish an Islamic state in that region. In response, Russia greatly boosted its counter- terrorism measures in the North Caucasus republics as well as in other parts of the country, thereby preventing these insurgents from succeeding in their terrorist plots. Nevertheless, the attraction of jihadi groups such as the Iraq- and Syria-based Islamic State in radicalizing hundreds of Russian Islamists into joining their insurgency expanded the geographical scope of the terrorist threats against Russia, particularly upon the return of some of them to Russia to carry out attacks in light of Moscow's support of the Syrian and Iraqi regimes and their call to establish an Islamist caliphate in the North Caucasus.

Terrorist Threats

Russia's primary terrorist threats originate in the turbulent North Caucasus's republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkariya, where extremist ethnonationalist and Islamist militants have been waging an insurgency for the past decades against Russian rule, which they regard as an occupying force and which they seek to replace with a Taliban-like Islamist regime.2 Aside from attacking non-Muslim Russian targets (and their local agents) in order to spread fear and intimidation throughout their own communities, they also resort to assassinating moderate Islamist religious figures, whom they try to replace with their own religious supporters who adhere to a stricter form of Salafist Islam.

Russia has confronted several categories of terrorism since the period of the Russian Empire, particularly in the North Caucasus, ranging from the 19th century's revolutionary anarchists 3 to today's secessionist Islamic extremist ethno-nationalists, who seek to liberate the North Caucasus from continued Russian presence in order to establish a Taliban-type Islamist regime. …

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