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The Caucasus Emirate

Terrorist bombings of apartment buildings, markets and the metro have been ripping Russia apart for 11 years.

Although the media focus mostly on terrorist attacks in Moscow, most of the bombings took place in other cities — especially in the North Caucasus, where it was much easier for militants to execute them.

Terrorist attacks in Moscow attract the most attention. When they happen “somewhere in the North Caucasus,” few people are concerned. Few remember that the bombings of 1999 began not in Moscow apartment buildings in September but in Vladikavkaz in March. Who recalls how many times markets have been bombed in Vladikavkaz? Who can remember the horrible bombing of a commuter train in Yessentuki in the Stavropol region on Dec. 5, 2003, that left 47 people dead, or the bombing of a Samara marketplace on June 4, 2004?

The authorities have always tried to minimize the attacks in the hope that people will forget about them. Sometimes, they even understate the number of victims. I will never believe that only 40 people died in the bombing at the Avtozavodskaya metro station on Feb. 6, 2004. After all, three train cars that were jam-packed with rush-hour passengers were completely destroyed. And I cannot believe that only 10 people were killed in the Samara market bombing, where eyewitnesses reported seeing mounds of corpses.

And what about the simultaneous bombings of the two airplanes bound for Volgograd and Sochi on Aug. 24, 2004? For three days following those attacks, the authorities claimed that the airplanes crashed because of “mechanical failures.”

Most of these terrorists attacks were not carried out by Chechens but by other nationalities who were set on fighting a jihad. Ingush militants carried out the Vladikavkaz market attacks. The 1999 bombing in Buinaksk, in Dagestan, was carried out by local militants who were fighting to install “pure Islam” in the republic.

Several Moscow blasts were orchestrated by two men from the republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia — Achemez Gochiyayev and his brother-in-law Khakim Abayev. Gochiyayev also staged a series of simultaneous bombings in late 2000 and early 2001. He was joined by Denis Saitakov, a Tartar, and Rustam Akhmyarov, who is half-Bashkir, half-Russian.

Ever since Yunus-Bek Yevkurov took over as president of Ingushetia in October 2008, the republic no longer was a safe haven for militants. As a result, the virtual Caucasus Emirate went on the offensive.

It is unlikely that the number of militants in the North Caucasus has dramatically increased, but their status has changed radically. Businesses throughout the region pay the radicals protection money, and officials who have bribed their way into influential Moscow positions do not dare to refuse paying kickbacks or protection money to the Wahhabis. In the North Caucasus, you have to play by local rules. If you betray one militant, another will kill you.

Under such conditions, it was clear that it was only a matter of time before another terrorist attack would follow the bombing of the Nevsky Express train in November. And considering the unique way that the authorities battle terrorism, we can expect that they will continue their ruthless war on terrorism by breaking up more marches of political dissenters and extorting more money from businesses.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.

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