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Opinion: Security breaches at Moscow airport raise questions

The terrible assault on Moscow's Domodedovo Airport - which killed some 35 people - poses serious questions about Russian security capabilities, says DW's Ingo Mannteufel.

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German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has called the terror attack on Moscow's Domodedovo Airport "a barbaric act." The minister is completely right - this heinous act cannot be justified, and our sincere sympathies go to all the families of the victims.

It is terrible that yet another brutal crime has been committed on Russian soil.

We know it's difficult to hunt down terrorists before they have the chance to act, as most of them operate in small terror cells. Attacks in London and Madrid have shown us that 100 percent security is, unfortunately, impossible.

Nevertheless, after a terror attack such as this it's important to ask two questions: Who committed the act? And why could those responsible not have been stopped?

The North Caucasus question

Ingo Mannteufel

Ingo Mannteufel is the head of DW's Russia Service

In Russia, the first question is automatically answered by pointing to the North Caucasus region. Almost immediately, authorities suggested the suspected perpetrators were from the tumultuous area.

This unstable region to the south of Russia has been a powder keg, ready to blow for several years. Social problems, a high youth unemployment rate, ethnic tensions and a brutal war in Chechnya have created an almost ungovernable situation. In the Russian North Caucasus republics there are almost daily terrorist attacks or gun battles between security forces and Islamist fighters.

This war-like situation is a sad everyday occurrence, of which many Russians in Moscow or central Russia aren't even aware. With an attack on the Russian capital, the terrorists want to not only spread fear, but also gain wider attention for their cause. Internal power struggles within the Islamist groups are also likely to blame.

There is currently no organization within the North Caucasus region with which the Russian leaders could open up talks. Even if they wanted to, in the face of these terrible crimes, starting talks would present a difficult ethnic and moral dilemma.

Apart from the long-term and difficult goal of improving the social situation in the North Caucasus, the Russian leadership can only rely on its security forces to prevent such attacks.

Police outside Park Kultury metro station

A deadly 2010 attack on a Moscow subway was linked to North Caucasus terrorists

Corruption, laxity, incompetence

But tragically, the Russian people cannot rely on their state. From previous attacks, it has become known that terrorists were often able to take advantage of corrupt systems to prepare their plots. On top of this, there is also incompetence and negligent laxity in dealing with security arrangements.

It is now very worrying that Domodedovo has become a target, as this airport probably has the best equipped and most advanced security system in Russia.

What is even more ominous are reports that the Russian internal security service, the FSB, was aware of an impending attack but instead of identifying Moscow as the target, thought it was to be in Zelenograd, northwest of the capital.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would do well to commission a comprehensive and complete inquiry into the negligence of the security services. But does he want to? And does he even have the political power to do so?

Author: Ingo Mannteufel / cb
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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