On 27th November 2009 a bomb attack took place on the Nevskii Express (pictured below) travelling from Moscow to St Petersburg, with a crank claiming that this had been carried out by a Russian cell of Combat 18 based in St Petersburg. This never rang true, and the main theory at the time of the explosion was that it was the act of Islamist terrorists, probably Chechens. Earlier this week, the culprits were finally sentenced for this act of terror, but rather than being Chechens, they were all Ingush males from the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia said to be members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Interfax reports that four of the men were sentenced to life imprisonment on the following counts: “the organisation of and participation in an illegal armed formation”; “banditry”; conducting a “terrorist act”; “murder”; “attempted murder”; the “illegal trafficking of weapons” and the “illegal preparation of weapons”. A further six were given 15-year custodial sentences. The attack that these men prepared and perpetrated claimed the lives of 27 passengers and wounded a further 132.
Although Ingushetia and Chechnya split from each other in the 1990s, both still technically remain in the Russian Federation and are hotbeds of Islamism. Russia has suffered from a series of serious Islamist terrorist attacks that have not received the attention that they often deserve in the Western media (e.g. Moscow Metro, March 2010; Kizlyar, March2010; Nazran, April 2010; Vladikavkaz, September 2010), and tensions with the Muslim peoples of the northern Caucasus remain high, as evidenced by a spate of clashes in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and its surrounding district. If it were not for the strategic importance of Chechnya occasioned by the fact that oil pipelines happen to cross its territory, it could well be to Russia’s benefit to let the ‘republic’ and the other Islamic peoples of the region – such as the Ingush – become independent.