After Saturday’s deadly explosions at a Moscow rock concert, Russian authorities immediately pointed their fingers at Chechen separatists, who they say staged the attack to disrupt Russian peace plans for the region.
Security officials in Russia are blaming Chechen separatists for the Moscow terror attack.
Although no group has claimed responsibility for the deadly Moscow suicide bombings which killed at least 16 and injured more than 40 at an open-air music festival on Saturday afternoon, police and the Russian interior ministry are nearly certain terrorists from the breakaway republic of Chechnya were involved. Government officials have indicated the attacks were aimed at disrupting President Vladimir Putin’s peace plans for the war-torn republic.
The bombings – two separate detonations occurring a few minutes apart – were carried out by two women, who set off dynamite-laden belts strapped to their bodies, when they were denied access to the heavily-visited rock concert at Moscow’s Tuschino airport. Police said the women were detained at the festival’s entry because they had aroused the suspicion of security guards searching visitors. Had the women been able to actually enter the concert grounds, the effect of the bombs would have been considerably worse, said Deputy Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev on Russia’s First Channel News.
"I can only imagine what the consequences might have been" had they gotten into the main crowd, he said, adding that 35,000 to 40,000 people attended the concert.
Link to Chechen rebels
Almost immediately after the blasts, authorities began blaming Chechen separatists for staging the attack. According to Nurgaliyev, the bombings carried all the markings typical of Chechen terrorists. Both of the women wore bomb belts similar to those worn by the Chechen terrorists, who took some 800 people hostage at a Moscow theater last October, the deputy minister said. Plus, the fact that the suicide bombers were women resembles two earlier Chechen attacks also carried out by women in May.
Underlining the connection, police at the crime scene on Saturday said they had recovered an identity card from the body of one of the suicide bombers. It was issued in the name of Zlikhan Likhajiyeva, 20, a resident of the Chechan village Kurchaloi.
A spokesperson for Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maschadov, however, denied the group’s involvement in the Moscow attack.
A resurgence of Chechen violence
Since Russia sent troops to the breakaway republic of Chechnya in 1994, the region has been ripped apart by violenence as the mainly Muslim state in the southern Caucuses fights to sever itself from Moscow. In May and June of this year alone, some 50 people were killed in a wave of Chechen-launched terrorist attacks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Acting Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov shake hands during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow.
Government officials said Saturday’s bombings were the latest in the series of deadly attacks designed by Chechen separatists to interfere with Moscow’s peace plans for the region. They point to the fact that the explosions occurred only a few hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree calling for Kremlin-run elections to take place in Chechnya on October 5.
"It’s obvious that the goal of the explosions which terrorists carried out ... were the planned elections for the president and the parliament of the republic [of Chechnya]," Putin’s special representative for human rights in Chechnya, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, told Russian Interfax news agency on Sunday.
Sultygov, however, vowed that the elections would go ahead as planned and stressed that it was not possible to disrupt the peace process "by the forces of international terrorism and their allies."
President Putin launched the Chechen peace plan with a March referendum, in which Chechens voted to confirm Chechnya's place within the Russian Federation. But separatist rebels, who continue to operate in the mountainous region despite the presence of thousands of Russian troops, have rejected the peace initiative and vowed to press on with their campaign to oust the military and gain independence.