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Airport Terror
While Questions About the Airport Bombing Need to Be Asked of the FSB, It Looks More Like Domodedovo's Embattled Managers Will Be Blamed

Scene Outside Moscow's Domodevo Airport After ExplosionThirty-five were killed and over 130 injured when a bomb was detonated in the arrival hall of Moscow's busiest airport on Monday, as friends and family awaited arriving passengers. The "meticulously planned" attack at Domodedovo was carried out by a male suicide bomber, a police source told Interfax news agency on Tuesday, although other reports say he had a female accomplice. His identity is not yet known, although the suicide bombing fits the pattern of attacks by insurgents from the North Caucasus, say analysts.
Image adapted from original copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036 www.rferl.org

"There was no change in the tactics of the North Caucasus insurgents yesterday. Again they targeted a transport hub," said Andrei Soldatov, the head of Agentura.Ru. This third blast in fourteen months in and around Russia's capital ­ following the March 2010 metro bombings and the November 2009 attack on the Nevsky Express ­ signals a "trend," he added.

A somber President Dmitry Medvedev has offered his condolences to the bereaved and vowed to catch those responsible, while questioning how a bomb was smuggled into a major Moscow transport hub. "Someone had to try very hard to carry or bring through such a vast amount of explosives," Medvedev said of the bomb, equivalent to five kilograms of TNT and stuffed with metal objects.

Only 26 of the dead have so far been identified, among them many foreigners, making the attack symbolically different to last year's bombing at the metro station under Lubyanka, the headquarters of Russia's security services, the FSB.

Hours after the blast local news reports circulated that the FSB had actually been tipped off about an impending attack, but had been on alert in the wrong region as Lenta.Ru reported, or reacted too slowly as LifeNews reported.

Neither FSB Chief Alexander Bortnikov nor Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev were immediately summoned to report to Medvedev on Monday, exemplifying the impunity of Russia's powerful security services today, Soldatov believes. "The custom of the authorities since 2002 is not to ask questions of the security services...This is the biggest problem. No one has criticized the security services for many years. The Kremlin only feels like it has to make changes if Russia's political stability is under threat," he said.

Despite recent nationalist unrest in Moscow, analysts say the suicide bombing will not stoke a surge in racist attacks. "As there hasn't been a burst in attacks immediately afterward, I don't expect a rise," said Galina Kozhevnikova, the deputy head of the Sova Center. "The mass media has been quite careful in reporting on the attack. They didn't say that it was people from the Caucasus straight away."

Alexei Malashenko, a Caucasus expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center, agreed that the attack would not fire up violent nationalist backlash. "There is constant political crisis in the North Caucasus. All terrorist acts in Russia and southern Russia can be considered normal and routine," he said.

Among pictures and information on the attack sold by the authorities and paid for by LifeNews is a picture of the severed head of the apparent suicide bomber. LifeNews today also published an alleged police document citing warnings from the FSB and SVR to be on high-alert for a group of three Chechens now living in Iran, whose "close" relatives own an apartment on Profsoyuznaya in south Moscow. "The apartment on Profsoyuznaya could be used as a workshop to prepare belts for 'shakhids' (suicide bombers)," reads the purportedly leaked police document.

It then claims that five rebels living in Pakistan could "very soon" arrive in Russia "via Iran, Turkey and Georgia" from the "Riduyas Salikheen," the Martyr's Brigade ­ a group linked to dead Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev.

The authenticity of the document is impossible to verify, and Malashenko stressed that the North Caucasus insurgency today is entirely domestic. "In the first and second Chechen wars there was a presence from abroad, but at the moment it is a typical domestic case," he said, adding that he does not expect the attacks to abate. "They will continue. I said the same after the last terrorist attack in Moscow, and I say it again."

Beating corruption and widespread unemployment in the North Caucasus it thought to be the key to taming terrorism. In January 2010 it was hoped the insurgency would be reined in with the appointment of proven businessman Alexander Khloponin as the head of a new North Caucasian Federal District. But the series of high-profile attacks in the region, including a raid on Chechnya's Parliament in October 2010 and the bombing of the hydroelectric power station in Kabardino-Balkaria in July, attest the opposite.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday said 86,700 jobs were created in the North Caucasus in 2010, leaving a total 380,000 officially unemployed. But jobs scarcity means employers are in a position to pay employees irregularly and sometimes not at all. Four hundred billion rubles ($13.4 billion) will be pumped into 37 projects in the region, which will help create 400,000 new jobs in the next ten years in line with the North Caucasus's development plan by 2025, Putin said last week.

But analysts are still skeptical. "What we saw last year was a failure in terms of stability. It's impossible to modernize and improve economic and social conditions without changing the political course and methods used to deal with the Islamic opposition," said Malashenko.

Meanwhile, Domodedovo's embattled management who were in the spotlight during riots at Moscow airports over New Year appear to be taking the blame for yesterday's security breach. "The airport is good, and this is recognized by all. It is new and modern. However, what happened shows that, clearly, there were violations in providing security," Medvedev said on national television yesterday.

Russian holidaymakers were stranded at Domodedovo and state-owned Aeroflot's Sheremetyevo airports over the winter break when electricity went down, although privately managed Domodedovo bore the brunt of the blame from Russia's leaders. The management weathered the political storm around them then, but commentators doubt they will be so lucky this time. "In a country living according to an understanding of old feudalism, it doesn't do to punish the people at the top of the hierarchy in the most advantageous positions," wrote Vladimir Novikov, a commentator for the Russian Agency for Just and Legal Information. "It's not the first time that a tragedy has been used for the redistribution of private property. What didn't happen at Domodedovo after December's blackout, will happen in all probability now."

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