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30 Mar, 2010 08:52

Moscow’s terror fears renewed

Terror attacks on the Moscow Metro are something the city authorities are no strangers to. Between 1996 and 2004, there have been five attacks on different stations killing 58 people.

Recent months have been inspiring in terms of combating terrorism in Russia. Around 20 militants were killed in a clash with federal troops in the southern republic of Ingushetia in February.

Just weeks later, eight others, including prominent insurgent Anzor Astemirov and the militants’ chief ideologist Said Buryatsky, were dead.

In addition, the ten individuals suspected of being involved in the bombing of the Moscow-St. Petersburg express train were arrested in a separate military operation – but the terrorists are far from beaten.

Political analyst Aleksandr Nagorny named Monday’s terrorist attacks in Moscow Metro “largely a reaction to the recent series of successful anti-terrorist operations in Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia.”

Major terror attacks in Russia have always been tit-for-tat reactions to the successes of the security forces: the more militants killed – the deadlier the next outrage.

However, in recent years the level of criminal activity has fallen dramatically, and Moscow, which had repeatedly been targeted, has not seen an attack for six years.

Moscow has forgotten about the attacks because “police and security forces have just been doing their job well,” believes Islamic terrorism analyst Georgy Engelghardt.

Monday's blasts might have been taken as a failure, but this is exactly what differs terrorists from the forces fighting against them: while the security services don’t have room for error, terrorists only have to get it right once.

Jeffrey Mankoff from the Council on Foreign Relations believes that if it is true that the latest attack is the work of militant groups based in the Northern Caucasus, “this is very much a local Russian kind of concern.”

“And so, the biggest challenge is addressing the sources of radicalization inside Russia itself and then combating these groups, which are largely based on Russian territory in the Northern Caucasus.”

For weeks, months and possibly years, security will be tighter on both the Moscow Metro, throughout the city, and across the country. In addition, such an increase will keep ordinary people more vigilant in reminding them about the terrorist threat. Countering it is far from being the task of just the security forces, but rather a task everybody must have a part in.