Staunton, August 18 – The storming of an apartment in St. Petersburg by Russian special forces yesterday and the killing of four militants from the North Caucasus who had at least one bomb with them shows that the underground there is now interested in targeting all of Russia and not just that region, according to two leading Russian experts.
After a 10 to 15 hour operation, the Grad special forces group stormed the apartment and killed four militants from Kabardino-Balkaria who reportedly were closely connected with the leader of the Islamist underground there, Khizir Likhov, and with the Caucasus Imamate (kavpolit.com/articles/kavkazkoe_bandpodpole_dokatilos_do_peterburga-27627/).
Akhmet Yarlykapov, a senior researcher at the Center for the Study of Problems of the Caucasus and Regional Security, told Kavkazskaya politika that the St. Petersburg operation reflects a fundamental change in the modus operandi of North Caucasus militants, a change, he suggests, that reflects the spread of the influence of ISIS.
“Now,” he said, “there is a reforming of the terrorist underground of the Caucasus going on. Earlier terrorist acts were prepared and carried out in the region or not far from it. It was easier to track and block them. But now, everything is more complicated for the terrorists are connected with ISIS structures which have a large network of recruiters throughout the country.”
“The Vilayat of the Caucasus, which is prohibited in Russia, has appeared and is subordinate to the Islamic State,” Yarlykapov says. “The latter has its own people far beyond the borders of the Middle East” and thus has geographic goals far broader than did the Islamists of the North Caucasus until very recently.
Aleksey Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center agreed. He pointed out that “even in Novosibirsk there are branches of Caucasus groupings” although they have not yet committed any acts of terrorism. Thus, there is “nothing surprising” about the St. Petersburg case, the first of what may very well be more such attacks across Russia.
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