Radical Islamists of the North Caucasus are not the only ones threatening Russia’s security on the eve of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. They are being supported with weapons, money and “spiritual” guidance from major figures of Sunni radical movements such as Salafi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Terrorist attacks that took place in Volgograd last December received a formal approval from radical Islamic religious authorities like Abu Abd Al-Rahman Al-Maqdisi of the Minbar al-Tawhid w-al Jihad pro-Al Qaeda radical movement. He issued a fatwa, according to which attacks in Volgograd were declared to be in full compliance with Sharia law.
Al-Maqdisi has dangerous followers. A leader of the Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate) terrorist organization, Doku Umarov, called for terrorist attacks in Sochi in the middle of last year, when he announced a cancellation of a moratorium on terrorist attacks outside the North Caucasus republics that he himself established in 2012. There were news reports that Umarov has been killed by the Russian security services, but no independent verification.
Terrorists have strong political and religious motivations. If they successfully execute a terrorist attack before thousands of cameras, hundreds of thousands of Olympic fans, and hundreds of millions of viewers around the world, their struggle to build a Sharia state (emirate) in the Caucasus region will get global publicity.
However, despite the increased terror threat, Russia chooses to limit its cooperation with the U.S. and western allies in the fight against Islamists. As a result of insufficient cooperation between Russian and American intelligence services and a history of mutual espionage, the U.S. will send fewer security experts to Sochi than to any other Olympic Games during the last decade. The Kremlin simply does not want to see a large number of American security forces in Sochi.
North Caucasus terrorists are cold-blooded killers who collaborate with al-Qaeda. The current head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, visited North Caucasus in 1996 and called it one of the main fronts of the “holy war” against the West, and was considering creating a new base for al-Qaeda there after it was expelled from Sudan. Al-Qaeda is publishing an on-line propaganda journal in Russian.
Russia has long been a goal for the radical Sunni Islamists. In October 2012, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, called Russia the main enemy of the Sunni Arab world. Russia came to the defense of Syria’s pro-Iranian Alawite regime of Bashar El-Assad and therefore needs to be punished for this policy, Qaradawi said.
Islamic radicals in the North Caucasus were ready to blow themselves up even without al-Qaradawi’s encouragement and Al-Maqdisi’s fatwa. The clerical blessings is making things much worse.
Hopefully, the Russian authorities will be able to prevent bloodshed during the Olympic Games in Sochi and other Russian cities. Innocent civilians have been killed for almost 20 years by the same people who send “martyrs” to spread death in, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan Syria and other countries.
When it comes to terrorism, it is time for Russia to recognize that it is in the same boat with the West.