October 22, 2013 | Policy Brief

The Volgograd Suicide Bombing in Context

October 22, 2013 | Policy Brief

The Volgograd Suicide Bombing in Context

A female suicide bomber carried out an attack in the southern Russian city of Volgograd on Monday, killing 6 and injuring 33 civilians on a commuter bus.  According to Russian sources, the suicide bomber, Naida Asiyalova, was 30 years old and born in Dagestan. This is the first suicide attack outside the North Caucasus in nearly three years. It was captured by a nearby motorist’s dashcam.

According to Reuters, Asiyalova was married to 20 year old Dmitry Sokolov, a reported explosives expert who moved from the Moscow suburbs to join the low-level Islamist insurgency in Dagestan. A police source was quoted saying, “By all appearances, he prepared Naida Asiyalova for her suicide bombing.” Russian sources describe Sokolov as a militant in Dagestan with ties to two previous attacks in Dagestan.

While previous female suicide bombers, nicknamed “black widows,” often carried out attacks after the loss of their husbands, early reports indicate that Asiyalova may have had a terminal illness

As of today, no Caucasus-based group has claimed direct responsibility for the attack, but several are suspected. The North Caucasus republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria are hubs of radical Islamist activities. Doku Umarov’s Caucasus Emirate (CE) is the most high-profile group operating in the Caucasus, designated as a terrorist entity by the Russian Federation, United Nations, and the United States. CE is recognized as the al-Qaeda affiliate in the region. Kavkaz Center, the media hub for CE, while not claiming direct responsibility, called Asiyalova a “hero” and praised her action.

There are plenty of reasons for Caucasus Islamists to hold a grudge against Russia for its regional policies, but there is now also reason to believe that Russia’s pro-Assad policies in Syria could have been a motivating factor for this attack. Recent French intelligence sources allege an increased amount of mujahidin pouring into Syria from the Caucasus, particularly Chechnya.

Foreign fighters from the Caucasus are gaining the experience and training necessary to carry out attacks both in Syria and at home. And as Moscow continues to back Assad’s military campaign against the Syrian opposition, these fighters are also developing a deeper hatred and desire for revenge.

Regardless of whether or not Asiyalova was tied in any way to Syria, it may only be a matter of time before new attacks in Russia take place with links back to the Levant.

Boris Zilberman is Deputy Director of Congressional Relations at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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