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What were terrorists in Grozny aiming at?

December 05, 2014, 16:36 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© Yelena Afonina/TASS

MOSCOW, December 5. /TASS/. What was the chief aim of last Thursday’s terrorist attack in the Chechen capital, Grozny - the worst since 2010? No official version is available at this point while unofficial ones are many. Some experts argue the terrorists’ ultimate target must have been Chechnya’s head, Ramzan Kadyrov, known as an irreconcilable crusader against fundamentalist militants. Others believe it was an attempt to deal a powerful blow to the federal authorities, which regard normalisation in Chechnya as their very successful project. Lastly, some suspect that the militants needed a high-profile attack as an argument to persuade their foreign sponsors and handlers to fork out.

In the small hours of Thursday, December 4, a dozen militants ventured into the Chechen capital, Grozny, to seize the House of the Press and a local school. By dawn, it was all over. The pockets of resistance were wiped out but 10 police officers had died and another 30 injured in fire exchanges. Official sources say the group numbered 10 to 15 gunmen, while according to some locals, the saboteurs’ group was larger. At least nine attackers were killed.

Law enforcers believe that the mastermind behind the raid on Grozny was warlord Aslan Bityukayev (also known by the nickname of Amir Khamzat) - a former right-hand man of Doku Umarov, the liquidated founder of Imarat Kavkaz, a self-proclaimed Sharia law-based Islamic separatist state in the North Caucasus, which is regarded terrorist and outlawed in Russia.

The real aim of the raid remains unclear for the time being. According to some sources, the formal excuse for the attack was alleged “oppression of Muslim women” in Chechnya. Experts dismiss this as nonsense.

Rais Suleimanov, an expert at the National Strategy Institute, has recalled in an interview with the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets that ISIL militants have repeatedly declared their plans are stretching far beyond the borders of Syria and Iraq to encompass Russia’s Caucasus. Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov has vowed he will not tolerate that.

“Baghdad’s Caliph keeps his promises. The raid can be regarded as a confirmation of his warning the Caucasus will become a target featuring high on the Islamic Caliphate’s list. I tend to interpret the events precisely from this viewpoint,” Suleimanov said.

Experts point out that Kadyrov’s Chechnya is the federal authorities’ most successful project in the North Caucasus, so the militants’ daring attack may have been a challenge addressed to Moscow.

“Chechnya is widely regarded as a shop-window of the federal government’s policy in the North Caucasus and as a region that has been most successful in quashing negative trends. It is only natural that Chechnya has found itself in the line of fire again,” senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of the National Economy and Public Administration Konstantin Kazenin told TASS.

“Also, even though Chechnya has really achieved a lot, the republic, just as other such territories in the East Caucasus, is still struggling through the collapse of traditional relations and the period of massive migration of rural residents into big cities,” the analyst said. “Just as in other countries of the world, such a transition breeds social tensions and radicalises youth.”

“Each of the terrorist groups, including those in the North Caucasus, is interested in worming out cash from foreign sponsors. In this sense, the echo of the just-staged attack is important,” president of the National Strategy Institute Mikhail Remizov told TASS. “The latest act of sabotage in Chechnya has worked to an extent, the more so since Ramzan Kadyrov has all the way positioned himself as a strongman in control of the situation, having to his credit the liquidation of one of the ISIL leaders, who had threatened to unleash another war in Chechnya."

Thursday’s attack in Grozny, Remizov said, may be regarded as a serious omen since competition among terrorist groups is mounting: Some are ISIL-leaning, others still maintain connections with Al-Qaeda, Remizov said.


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