‘Rus­sian bin Laden’ in­ves­ti­gated in at­tacks

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

seen any ev­i­dence of that.”

But like the Bos­ton bomb­ings, the at­tacks ap­par­ently were aimed at killing in­no­cent civil­ians at soft tar­gets, where the at­tack­ers knew they would have a solid chance of avoid­ing se­cu­rity and po­lice.

That may ex­plain why this week’s bomb­ings did not di­rectly tar­get the Rus­sian city of Sochi, where the Win­ter Olympics are slated to be­gin Feb. 7 and where some of the tight­est se­cu­rity in his­tory is in place. In­stead of try­ing to in­fil­trate that, the sui­cide bombers car­ried out their mis­sion in Vol­gograd, a key trans­porta­tion hub for reach­ing Sochi, but roughly 400 miles away.

It is not en­tirely clear, mean­while, how closely aligned Umarov is with al Qaeda. The State Depart­ment said in 2011 that “Umarov has is­sued sev­eral pub­lic state­ments en­cour­ag­ing fol­low­ers to com­mit vi­o­lent acts against … de­clared en­e­mies, which in­clude the United States, as well as Is­rael, Rus­sia, and the United King­dom.”

At the time, the State Depart­ment au­tho­rized a re­ward of up to $5 mil­lion for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to Umarov’s lo­ca­tion. The re­ward an­nounce­ment de­scribed him as “the se­nior leader and mil­i­tary com­man­der” of the Cau­ca­sus Emi­rates and said the group was “re­spon­si­ble for car­ry­ing out sui­cide bomb­ings and other acts of ter­ror­ism.”

“CE has em­ployed vi­o­lent acts un­der Umarov’s com­mand, in­volv­ing im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices (IED), ve­hi­cle­born IEDs, and sui­cide bomb­ings,” the 2011 an­nounce­ment said.

The ex­tent to which Umarov and other Chechen ji­hadists are linked to global al Qaeda-linked groups re­mains a sub­ject of de­bate. For ex­am­ple, State Depart­ment an­nounce­ments about the Chechen ex­trem­ist have made no di­rect ref­er­ence to al Qaeda. Spe­cific at­tacks that he has di­rected and claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for dur­ing re­cent years have re­sem­bled those of a lo­cally fo­cused ter­ror­ist.

“Umarov has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for var­i­ous at­tacks in­clud­ing the 2010 Moscow sub­way bomb­ings, which killed 40 peo­ple,” ac­cord­ing to the State Depart­ment’s an­nounce­ment in 2011. The doc­u­ment also noted that Umarov “claimed to have mas­ter­minded the 2009 Nevsky Ex­press train bomb­ing, which killed 28 peo­ple” in Rus­sia.

On the other hand, the top ter­ror­ism mon­i­tor­ing arm of the United Na­tions as­so­ci­ated Umarov with al Qaeda in 2011, say­ing he par­tic­i­pated in fi­nanc­ing, plan­ning and fa­cil­i­tat­ing, and re­cruit­ing for var­i­ous al Qaeda-minded groups out­side Rus­sia.

News re­ports over the past year have sug­gested that has many as 200 Chechen Is­lamists have moved to Syria, where one — Omar Shis­hani — is re­ported to have been ap­pointed to a key lead­er­ship po­si­tion by the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant, which U.S. of­fi­cials say is the top al Qaeda af­fil­i­ate fight­ing in Syria.

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