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IS-K, the Terrorist Islamic group behind Moscow concert attack is a big threat


By Girish Linganna

Despite efforts by President Vladimir Putin and Russian state-controlled media to attribute Friday's fatal Moscow theatre attack killing 139 persons to Ukraine, additional information is surfacing about the jihadist organization IS-K, which has declared responsibility for the incident.

The identity or nature of IS-K: IS-K stands for Islamic State-Khorasan, a branch of the internationally banned terrorist organization Islamic State, operating primarily in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The group has chosen the name Khorasan, refering to a territory w ithin an old Islamic state that included those countries and stretched upwards into Central Asia.

The Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) has existed for nine years, but it has recently become the most formidable branch of the Islamic State group. It is known for its extensive influence and its exceptionally harsh and brutal tactics.

Together with the remaining leadership of the group in Syria and Iraq, IS-K aims to establish a global Islamic caliphate or State governed by a very strict version of Sharia, Islamic law. In Afghanistan, it conducts an intermittent yet lethal insurgency against the nation's rulers, the Taliban, due to ideological differences.

In 2021, during the chaotic evacuation from Kabul airport, it executed a suicide bombing that resulted in the deaths of 170 Afghans and 13 US service members. The subsequent year, it attacked the Russian embassy in Kabul, resulting in at least six fatalities and wounding additional individuals. According to the BBC, the group has launched indiscriminate attacks targeting various locations, including a maternity ward, bus stations, and police officers.

In Russia, it has conducted multiple minor attacks, with the latest occurring in 2020. Already this year, the FSB, Russia's internal security agency, has reported thwarting several terrorist plots. Identifying the Perpetrators: Russian state media reports that the four individuals arrested and charged are Tajiks from Tajikistan, the Central Asian republic that was once a part of the Soviet Union. Their visibly injured and bruised appearance in court clearly indicates they have undergone particularly severe interrogation, to the extent of torture.

The issue here is that under standards, their confessions will be considered invalid. This is because individuals will say whatever it takes to end their suffering, including admitting to events that are not true.

Reports have surfaced indicating that one of the individuals was observed conducting surveillance of the location in early March. This coincided with the period when the US alerted Russia to an impending terrorist threat targeting a public area, a caution that the Kremlin initially disregarded as “propaganda.” Another report suggests that at least two of the assailants had recently arrived in Russia, hinting that they were a “hit team” dispatched by IS-K, instead of a sleeper cell composed of locals.

IS-K views much of the as enemies. Russia ranks prominently among their targets, in addition to the US, Europe, Israel, Jews, Christians, Shia Muslims, the Taliban, and the leaders of all Muslim-majority countries, whom they regard as “traitors.”

The hostility of the Islamic State towards Russia stems from the Chechen wars in the 1990s and early 2000s, when Russian military actions heavily damaged the Chechen capital, Grozny. Majority of Chechnya's population practices Islam, making it a predominantly Muslim region within Russia.

In recent times, Russia has become involved in the Syrian civil war, supporting its ally, President Bashar al-Assad. The Russian air force has conducted numerous airstrikes on both rebel and civilian targets, resulting in the deaths of a significant number of fighters linked to the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda.

In Afghanistan, IS-K sees Russia as a supporter of the Taliban, leading to their attack on the Russian embassy in Kabul in 2022. They also hold grudge towards the harsh Soviet occupation of Afghanistan that lasted for a decade, from 1979 to 1989.

Furthermore, there's the internal scenario within Russia itself. IS-K perceives Russia predominantly as a Christian nation, and in their video released following the Moscow attack, they talk about targeting Christians. Tajik and other Central Asian migrant workers occasionally face harassment and scrutiny from the FSB, as it aims to prevent terrorist activities.

Lastly, Russia, a country presently preoccupied with its extensive conflict against neighboring Ukraine, might have just presented an opportune target for IS-K. It was a location where weapons were accessible, and their opponent's vigilance was diminished.

Several questions about this entire incident still lack answers.

For instance, how were the assailants able to roam freely around the Crocus Hall for almost an hour without any visible sense of haste? In a nation known for its pervasive police and special services presence, especially the FSB, these attackers acted as though they were confident they wouldn't be confronted by a police SWAT team.

Additionally, there's the matter of the weapons – not merely handguns, but also sophisticated, modern automatic assault rifles. How did they manage to obtain and clandestinely bring these into the venue without detection? Their rapid arrest is also unexpected, as noted by the BBC.

Contrary to many jihadist attackers in similar situations, these individuals were not equipped with suicide vests or belts, unlike those who choose death over being captured.

Nevertheless, it was not long before the Russian officials – the same ones who did not prevent the most significant terrorist plot in 20 years from happening right under their nose – managed to apprehend the suspects and bring them to trial.

This has led some analysts to consider the possibility of an “inside job” orchestrated by the Kremlin or a “false flag operation” aimed at rallying public support for the conflict in Ukraine, according to the BBC.

According to the BBC, there is no concrete proof backing this theory, and US intelligence has affirmed their belief that the Islamic State was responsible for this horrific attack.

Putin, who announced during the weekend that the four assailants were apprehended while attempting to flee to Ukraine, mentioned that it remains unclear who orchestrated the attack. He emphasized the need to investigate “the reason the terrorists attempted to escape to Ukraine after their crime and who was there to receive them.”

Putin further asserted that Ukraine has attempted to shift focus away from its military defeats by launching attacks across the border into various Russian areas. He added that “acts of bloody intimidation, such as the Moscow terror attack, seem to be a logical link in this sequence.”

(IPA Service)





The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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