AA Edit | For terror answers, Russia looking in wrong direction

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

Security lapse in Moscow terror attack raises questions about Russia's counterterrorism measures.

This video grab taken from a handout footage released by Russian Investigative Committee on March 23, 2024 shows rescuers working inside the Crocus City Hall, a day after a gun attack in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow. Russia on March 23, 2024, said it had arrested 11 people - including four gunmen - over the attack on a Moscow concert hall claimed by Islamic State, as the death toll rose to over 100 people. (Photo by Handout / RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE / AFP)

Friday’s terror attack in Moscow on the Crocus City Hall is an embarrassment to Russia and its supremo Vladimir Putin, especially because the Kremlin ignored specific warnings about impending attacks on large gatherings by Islamist terrorists that the Americans had shared as early as March 7.

Four terrorists, armed with automatic weapons, appeared to run unimpeded for a long time through a crowded mall. That represents a stark security failure and the attackers who were able to flee after setting fire to the mall with inflammable liquids were caught long after carrying out the barbaric attack on innocent people attending a concert.

It appears Russia, under a Putin well ensconced just days after carrying out the heaviest crackdown on dissent in years and extracting an 87.7 per cent popular vote as an endorsement on the war being waged in Ukraine, is still looking in the wrong direction — West.

Russian media reports have it that the attackers are from Tajikistan, one of whom confessed to taking on the hit job for money after being recruited through the Telegram app. That carries classic signs of an ISIS operation, probably by the Khorasan arm.

The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), an ISIS branch with a large presence in Iran and Afghanistan, claimed responsibility in at least three different messages for the attack that may have killed 150 people and injured almost as many in the worst instance of terror in Russia in at least two decades.

The security lapse raises questions about whether Russia is so busy waging war on Ukraine that it has few specialist forces left to deal with a terror attack of the type nonchalantly carried out in a Moscow suburb.

Russia, however, seems convinced that Ukraine was the conspirator, which is why the state insists the terrorists were headed to the border with Ukraine, which defies logic as that border is now a gateway that is in a total state of war and heavily militarised with Russian troop movements towards Ukraine.  

If indeed the Islamist organisation was behind the attack, the realisation that the deadly terror group may be on a comeback trail becomes chilling. And Russia, with a history of two decades of prosecution of extremism in North Caucasus and Chechnya, could be in the crosshairs and in danger of paying the price for its extreme positions in the Middle East, its close association with Syria and Iran and its suppression of Islamism in the south of the country.

It is Ukraine’s burden that it should still be the victim of even heavier bombing by Russia in apparent retaliation for the terror event in Moscow. Kyiv, facing renewed bombings since Putin was elected to a fifth term last week, has suffered the loss of lives and the inhuman cruelty of indiscriminate bombing.

The safety of people may have got submerged in politicisation of an early terror warning as the Russian state apparatus studiously ignored the messages. The plight of the innocents did, however, raise the hackles of most nations, including the United States and India, that stood with Russia in solidarity against terrorism.