The suicide bomber who killed 35 people at Moscow’s busiest airport was deliberately targeting foreigners, investigators said.
This would mark an ominous new tactic by separatist militants in southern Russia if he was recruited by an Islamist terror cell.
Federal investigators know the identity of the bomber, a 20-year-old native of the volatile Caucasus region, where Islamist insurgents have been battling for years for a breakaway state.
But the country’s top investigative body stopped short of naming him, fearing it would compromise ongoing attempts to identify and arrest the masterminds of the Domodedovo Airport attack on January 24. The blast also wounded 180 people.
There has been no claim of responsibility, but security analysts suspect Islamist separatists of organising the bombing because of its magnitude and method.
“It was no accident that the terrorist act was carried out in the international arrivals hall,” federal investigators said in a statement. “The terrorist act was aimed first and foremost at foreign citizens.”
The victims were mainly Russians, but also included one person each from Britain, Germany, Austria, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
The violence stemming from the predominantly Muslim Caucasus region originates from two bloody separatist wars in Chechnya in the past 15 years. Federal forces wiped out the large-scale resistance, driving the insurgency into the mountains and into neighbouring provinces. The rebels seek an independent Caucasus emirate that adheres to Shariah law.
Caucasus rebels have claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks over the years, including a double suicide bombing on the capital’s subway system in March 2010 which killed 40 people. One of the subway stations hit was under the Federal Security Service headquarters in downtown Moscow. The service, the main successor to the feared Soviet KGB, is known by its Russian language acronym, the FSB.
“This time, the terrorists are out to show that it’s not just the Russian public who are defenceless,” said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent security analyst. “There is always a message,” he said. “If the message with the metro bombings was to show the FSB that they are not out of reach, then the message here is that foreigners should keep away from Russia, it’s a dangerous place. The point was to scare off foreigners, not to maybe kill them but to hit Russia’s image, (and) its economy as an investment destination.”