By Benjamin Bidder in Moscow
Just 48 hours after the devastating attacks on Moscow's underground system on Monday, suicide attackers struck again, this time in southern Russia. Two bombers blew themselves up Wednesday in Kizlyar, a town in the province of Dagestan, killing at least 12 people.
The dead included a number of police officers, including the town's police chief. According to the Russian Interior Ministry, one of the suicide attackers drove a car bomb in the direction of the town center. When traffic police attempted to halt the vehicle, the bomb was detonated. The explosion took place near a day-care center and a police station. The second blast occurred after a bomber dressed as a police officer joined the crowd of investigators, rescue workers and onlookers and then detonated the explosives.
In Moscow, there is now a growing fear that Monday's bomb attacks on the metro stations of Lubyanka and Park Kultury, which killed 39 people, were just the beginning of a wave of terror set to roll over Russia.
Late on Tuesday evening, a bomb alarm caused Russian security officers to block off Nikolskaya Street in the heart of Moscow. The street is located a stone's throw from the headquarters of the domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), right next to the Lubyanka metro station. A robot was brought in to defuse the supposed car bomb, although the suspected explosive device turned out to be a harmless suitcase.
Early on Wednesday morning, bomb disposal experts were called out once again. Moscow police officers had discovered a suspicious object under one of their vehicles: two bottles bound by adhesive tape, with batteries attached.
'Carefully Planned and Prepared'
The security experts finally discovered that it was a fake bomb. The bottles weren't filled with explosives but with urine. Nevertheless, the Wednesday bomb attacks in the Northern Caucasus have only served to increase tensions in the capital.
So far, no terror group has claimed responsibility for Monday's suicide attacks. However, analysts in Moscow have long feared a new offensive by Islamic terrorists from Russia's restive southern provinces. Their leader, the self-proclaimed "emir of the Northern Caucasus," Chechen insurgent Doku Umarov, had already threatened in February to spread the zone of military operations to "the Russian heartland." Then, in mid-March, he boasted that he would soon "liberate" the regions of Krasnodar and Astrakhan as well as the Volga area, which found themselves, as he saw it, under the yoke of the Russian infidels.
The attacks in Moscow were "the carefully planned and intensively prepared actions of strengthening forces," says Caucasus expert Nikolay Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center. Russia has lived for years under the illusion that it had beaten the terrorists, he warns. The problems in the Caucasus have not been solved, says Major-General Vladimir Ovchinsky, the former Russian director of Interpol. "We have to face reality. We have to understand that the terrorists' war against Russia never truly ended."
Continuing the Crackdown
Russia's leadership is making sure it appears to be taking control of the situation. President Dmitry Medvedev has said that the men behind the attacks will be "caught and destroyed." Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also urged the country's law enforcement agencies to search energetically for them. The "accomplices and the masterminds" behind the attack were lying low and had to be scraped "from the bottom of the sewers and into the daylight," he said on Russian TV. This would be a "matter of honor" for the security forces.
Russia is vowing to continue its crackdown against the militants in the North Caucasus. At the beginning of March, security forces killed eight terrorists, including their leader, Said Buryatsky. At the time, the mass circulation press in Russia heralded the killings with triumph and printed photographs of the terror leader's disfigured corpse.
Sergey Markedonov, of the Moscow-based Institute for Political and Military Analysis, warns that one should not forget that each of these special operations sows more hatred for Russia. "Every liquidation," warns Markedonov, "creates new insurgents."
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