Mon, Jan 31, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Islamists silent on Russia’s blame for airport bombing

AFP, MOSCOW

Russia’s Caucasus rebels remained conspicuously silent yesterday after investigators pinned the blame for a Moscow airport bombing that killed 35 people on a 20-year-old man from the region.

The Investigative Committee reported in findings on Saturday that the suicide bomber was specifically targeting foreigners when he set off his charge last Monday at the international arrivals hall of Moscow Domodedovo International Airport.

The Domodedovo blast killed eight foreign citizens in an attack that appears to mark a fundamental shift in the strategy followed by Islamists in their bloody 15-year campaign against Russian rule.

“According to investigators, the act of terror was first and foremost aimed against foreign citizens,” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in televised remarks.

The spokesman refused to give the man’s name or the republic he came from because the police were still on the hunt for the masterminds of the bloody strike.

Militants from the North Caucasus — a predominantly Muslim region that besides Chechnya also includes the impoverished republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia — have claimed responsibility for most other recent bombings.

However, no Islamist organization or leader has taken credit for an attack that came less than a year after a twin suicide bombing killed 40 people on their way to work on the Moscow subway.

News of the investigators’ airport findings were also completely ignored by the three main Web sites used by Russia’s Islamists.

One of the biggest sites — kavkazcenter.com — last week even went out of its way to scoff at suggestions that it somehow approved of the Moscow attack.

Russian analysts of the region said it was premature to say that the militants had indeed shifted their strategy and were now trying to target foreigners in a bid to scare both visitors and lucrative investors.

“This is still a hypothesis that remains fairly hard to believe,” said Alexei Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

“You would need to see more than one attack to say that something like that was really happening,” the analyst said.

Malashenko said the militants probably decided on Domodedovo for the simple reason that it was a soft target.

“If they really tried to kill as money foreigners as possible, they would have struck Sheremetyevo,” the analyst said in reference to a Moscow airport whose second wing only handles international flights. “Domodedovo is simply the easiest target — this is something that has been known for a long time.”

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