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3 Apr, 2010 05:58

Chechnya prays while investigation homes in on terror suspects

While people in Chechnya pray for peace, Russian police have discovered a hub of terrorists who allegedly planned the deadly Metro bombings in an apartment in Moscow.

Reports say the apartment is where the explosive devices that killed 40 people and injured over 120 on Monday were made.

The bombs were allegedly handed over to the female suicide attackers by two men, who later detonated them by remote control. It has been reported they have both been identified and are wanted by the police.

The investigation is now firmly following the North Caucasus lead, after one of the suicide bombers was identified as the widow of a warlord from Russia's Southern Republic of Dagestan.

Irina Kobrinskaya, a political analyst from the Institute of World Economy and Foreign Affairs in Moscow, says a rise of anti-Caucasian moods in Russia is unavoidable.

“Anti-Caucasian moods are existent in society and their level depends on the level of terrorism. Recently, during the last four or five yeas, it was more or less peaceful, and we haven’t seen the revelations of these anti-Caucasian moods. Obviously, after these terrorist attacks these moods will be stronger, and you can’t do anything against it,” she said.

Meanwhile, people in Chechnya are praying for terrorist groups to be eliminated from their land. Salman Selmurzaev is one of hundreds of locals who have gathered for Friday prayers in the heart of Chechnya. Nowadays he seldom leaves his home, but today is an exception.

“I will ask Allah to grant us peace, goodness and stability, ask that people are friendly and kind to each other regardless of their ethnic origin,” Selmurzaev says.

Having witnessed two anti-terror campaigns here, the man says that peace in the region is essential. He is shocked by the Moscow Metro bombings, and the fact that militants from the North Caucasus were reportedly involved.

“Immediately after the blast, they said it was terrorists from the Caucasus that did it. And straightaway I had a very bad feeling inside,” Selmurzaev says.

Chechen officials were among the first to condemn the bombings.

“You cannot say these are North Caucasus terrorists, or Moscow terrorists, or some other terrorists. Terrorists should not be identified with a certain ethnic group or a certain region. It hurts our feelings when people say such things,” Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said.

Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union this Southern Russian region was engulfed by nationalism financed from abroad. Scores of mercenaries came in search of money and glory, among them notorious Arab warlords.

“The so-called Chechen, or Caucasian, terrorism received financial support from abroad. Many of those who were arrested or killed were Al-Qaeda envoys,” researcher Viktor Nadein-Raevsky says.

The mercenaries, acting under the guise of jihad, interpreted the Koran at their convenience.

Islam is a vitally important part of life in the predominantly Muslim republic of Chechnya, and local spiritual authorities try their best to move worshippers away from radical propaganda.

“You cannot put the tag of terrorism on Islam. Islam is a religion of peace. Islam has nothing to do with terror. On the contrary, Islam is always against terror. Islam encourages all Muslims, as well as the followers of other religions and the entire world, to live in peace,” consultant to the Chechen president on religion Adam Shahidov says.

The people in this volatile region can relate better than most with the tragedy of the Moscow Metro bombings. The threat posed by extremists is nothing new to the population of the North Caucasus. A new anti-terrorist crackdown is coming, and they hope lasting stability will follow.