You may have noted news reports from Moscow that quote Russian law-enforcers as claiming that 3 Russian citizens – who have alleged ties to Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), have undergone training in AfPak and have planned to stage a terrorist attack in Moscow – have been busted.
If true, these claims represent a significant development that would the argument for Russia’s greater involvement in Central Asian security and emphasize that Russia shares enemies with U.S.
See detailed discussion below:
“The (FSB) operatives acted swiftly and prevented a terror attack in Moscow….Checking intelligence that three militants were plotting a terror attack in Moscow, the FSB tracked down the bandits in an apartment in the town of Orekhovo-Zuyevo. The rebels, all Russian nationals, had arrived from the Afghan-Pakistani area where they had been trained as terrorists,” Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAC) told media on May 20.
The suspects – whom Russian government sources described as Islamists with ties to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) – were put under surveillance one month ago as they prepared to stage a terrorist attack in the Russian capital. The trio opened fire when law-enforcers tried to arrest them in their safe house in the Moscow region city of Orekhovo-Zuyevo on 05.20.13. Two of the suspects were killed in the gunfight that ensued while the third one was arrested.
The claim of IMU affiliation comes less than than a week after U.S. authorities arrested Uzbek man in Boise, ID and charged him with conspiracy to provide material support to this terrorist organization. Both U.S. and Russia have classified IMU as a terrorist organization, so if true the IMU affiliation of the trio busted outside Moscow on May 20th emphasizes that U.S. and Russia face a common enemy.
More importantly, the claim also helps to advance the argument for Russia’s greater involvement in Central Asia, including military presence through CSTO and other instruments.
IMU represents a potent force in Central Asia where it has sought to overthrow secular governments with hopes of establishing an Islamist state. With Russia eliminating much of Chechnya-based insurgency, I would describe it IMU as the most powerful terrorism/insurgency organization in the former Soviet Union. Its members have fought in post-Soviet Central Asian states of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. IMU is also fighting on the Taliban side against ISAF in Afghanistan.
But, while IMU members have reportedly trained in camps in then de-facto independent Chechnya in the 1990s and may have fought Russian troops in Tajikistan, I cannot recall any documented evidence of this organization attacking ‘mainland Russia.’ (even though Russian law-enforcers did announce in 2011 that they had dismantled an alleged IMU cell in the Moscow region and accused the detainees of planning a terrorist attack in Russia)
As for Russian citizens training in AfPak – there is strong evidence that some residents of Russia's Muslim republics did go to Afghanistan when it was ruled by Taliban because they desired to live by Sharia laws. Some of them were captured by U.S. troops and sent to Guantanamo.
Also, after elimination of terrorist training camps in Chechnya in the 2000’s, it must have become difficult to obtain a 'full course' in sabotage/guerrilla warfare in the North Caucasus, so travelling to AfPak for such training may seem more appealing. But it also seems to me that those involved in the terrorist attacks in Russia after elimination of these camps did get sufficient training to successfully stage them, so why travel thousands of miles across multiple state borders and back in what increases risks of getting caught?
See below recent claims of Russian citizens training or fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- In 2002 ‘Chechen members of al-Qaeda’ were killed in a gun-battle with Pakistani troops in Azam Warsak and two natives of Kabardino-Balkaria were identified by Russian investigators among Guantanamo detainees who were seized in Afghanistan on suspicions of having links to the Taliban or al-Qaeda.
- In 2010 Aleksei Sedov, head of FSB’s department for counter-terrorism and protection of constitution said Afghan-Pakistan border areas had become a breeding ground for terrorism with graduates of local terrorist training camps, including shakhids, being deployed for terrorist attacks in Central Asia and Russia.
- Russian secrete services investigating the January 2011 suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodevo airport, in which 37 were killed and 200 injured, claimed to their Pakistani counterparts that those responsible for organizing the attack had links in the Waziristan tribal area of Pakistan on the Pakistan-Afghan border belt.
- Russia's Federal Security Service and Foreign Intelligence Service informed the Moscow police in December 2010 that a three women and a man of Chechen nationality had returned from Pakistan via Iran to Russia with the aim of carrying out an act of terrorism in Moscow. They also informed the police of another group of five rebels, who were to have come to Russia from Pakistan via third countries.
- Russian security services counted 16 natives of Russia’s Moslem republics were training in terrorist camps in Pakistan as of February 2011.