U.S. notes that he may have in­spired Bos­ton bomber

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY GUY TAY­LOR

Two sui­cide bomb­ings tar­get­ing Rus­sian civil­ians just weeks from the open­ing of Win­ter Olympics have re­newed fears that a Chechen ter­ror­ist known as the “Rus­sian bin Laden” may be bent on com­mit­ting or in­spir­ing more at­tacks on so-called soft tar­gets, and pos­si­bly ma­jor in­ter­na­tional sport­ing events.

Such con­cerns reared their head in April amid ev­i­dence that one of the two young Chechen im­mi­grants who ex­e­cuted two deadly bomb­ings at the Bos­ton Marathon drew in­spi­ra­tion from Doku Umarov, the 49-year-old leader of the re­gional ter­ror­ist net­work known as the Cau­ca­sus Emi­rate whose stated goal is to es­tab­lish an Is­lamic state in­side Rus­sia.

U.S. and Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence are at­tempt­ing to dis­cern how much more of an ac­tive role Umarov, whom the U.S. listed as a “spe­cially des­ig­nated global ter­ror­ist” in 2010, may have played in plot­ting and or­der­ing the two sui­cide bomb­ings in Vol­gograd that killed 29 peo­ple on a pub­lic bus Mon­day and at the train depot Sun­day.

A U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial, who spoke with The Wash­ing­ton Times on Wed­nes­day on the con­di­tion of anonymity, noted that Umarov cir­cu­lated a video last sum­mer in which he “was ad­vo­cat­ing tak­ing ac­tion against the Olympics and dis­rupt­ing the Olympics to bring vis­i­bil­ity to the cause of the Chechen peo­ple.”

“Con­ven­tional think­ing is that there is a re­la­tion­ship be­tween what he said … and the ex­plo­sions in Vol­gograd,” the in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial said. “But what we have yet to see is any sort of ev­i­dence of a di­rec­tion.”

Another U.S. of­fi­cial who re­quested anonymity told The Times this week that is “not sur­pris­ing that many would sus­pect Doku Umarov of in­volve­ment, par­tic­u­larly given Umarov’s pre­vi­ous pub­lic threats.”

The of­fi­cial added, how­ever, that it is “pre­ma­ture to make any de­fin­i­tive state­ments about the peo­ple be­hind th­ese tragic at­tacks.”

Re­gional an­a­lysts say the Vol­gograd bomb­ings were markedly dif­fer­ent from other bomb­ings linked to Umarov in re­cent years.

The early at­tacks have mainly tar­geted Rus­sian se­cu­rity, in­tel­li­gence and mil­i­tary posts, while this week’s bomb­ings di­rectly tar­geted in­no­cent civil­ians and ap­peared strate­gi­cally fo­cused on draw­ing the at­ten­tion of the in­ter­na­tional me­dia, which has be­gun fo­cus­ing heav­ily on Rus­sia ahead of the Olympics.

“Clearly, the Olympics have a lot to do with the time and lo­ca­tion of the at­tacks,” said Jef­frey Mankoff, deputy di­rec­tor of the Rus­sia and Eura­sia Pro­gram at the Center for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies in Wash­ing­ton.

But Mr. Mankoff stressed that ma­jor ques­tions re­mained about Umarov’s sus­pected in­volve­ment and cau­tioned against too ea­gerly con­nect­ing the bomb­ings to the Bos­ton Marathon at­tack. In­tel­li­gence sources have de­scribed that at­tack as a “lone wolf” in­ci­dent that was in­spired — but not or­dered or con­trolled — by any in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ist lead­ers.

The U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity with The Times said the task of char­ac­ter­iz­ing the pre­cise role played by Umarov in ei­ther in­ci­dent was com­pli­cated.

In light of the video mes­sage that the Chechen Is­lamist leader cir­cu­lated last sum­mer, the of­fi­cial said, a com­par­i­son might be drawn be­tween Umarov and Ay­man al-Zawahri — widely be­lieved to be hiding in Pak­istan as the cur­rent leader of al Qaeda’s orig­i­nal core. His spe­cific re­la­tion­ships with al Qaeda af­fil­i­ates and sym­pa­thiz­ers around the world is un­cer­tain, but he of­ten is given credit for their ac­tions be­cause of video mes­sages he has cir­cu­lated.

“Zawahri says, ‘I want peo­ple to do in­di­vid­ual ji­had, to en­gage in ji­had where you are,’” said the in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial. “Well, if some­one blows up a bus, or at­tacks a build­ing, do you blame Zawahri? Do you say he’s re­spon­si­ble?”

“That’s the par­al­lel,” said the of­fi­cial. “We don’t have any in­di­ca­tion of a di­rec­tion or a com­mand and con­trol from Umarov for this week’s at­tacks. We haven’t

KAVKAZ CENTER VIA AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Doku Umarov, who au­thor­i­ties fear may be con­nected to the re­cent sui­cide bomb­ings in Rus­sia, cir­cu­lated a video last sum­mer ad­vo­cat­ing ac­tion against the Win­ter Olympics.

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