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Russian Intelligence Says Islamic State, Al Qaeda Pose Threat To Caspian Region

By Vusala Abbasova September 11, 2018

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After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, fighting terrorism became a global cause, including in the Caspian region. / Steve Allen / Shutterstock

The fight against terrorism could be taking a new turn, according to Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.

“A new global challenge may be the alliance of IS and Al Qaeda,” said Sergei Kozhetev, an official at the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, last Monday according to Interfax. “The unification of these terrorist organizations may lead to the creation of a hybrid terrorist holding,” he added.

It was not long ago when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS (sometimes abbreviated IS), and Al Qaeda were competing for influence. Both groups are rooted in Wahhabism – an extreme religious movement. After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, fighting terrorism became a global cause, including in the Caspian region.

Russia

The largest Caspian country, and the only one where Islam is not the majority religion, has been the scene of terrorist attacks since the early part of the 21st century. In 2002 Russia witnessed a hostage crisis in a Moscow theater that resulted in 120 victims. 2003 is remembered for the Tushino bombing in the northwest of Moscow, and 2004 for a Russian aircraft bombing. Also in 2004 was a siege of a school in Beslan that took lives of over 300 people, half of which were children. More recently, Russia suffered an attack on the Saint Petersburg subway, in 2017.

Russia actively supports the UNSC Counter-Terrorism Committee and plays one of the leading roles in international counter-terrorism cooperation, primarily within the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Independent States Anti-Terrorism Center. The Russian government has reportedly urged the world community to unite forces against what it perceives to be a common enemy. Russia’s counterterrorism policy is considered an integral part of its state policy according to the Kremlin, to ensure Russia’s national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Terrorist acts are prosecuted by the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

The Russian government has been supporting the Syrian government in its seven-year-long conflict with jihadists that joined the country’s rebel forces in a civil war, which has taken lives of over 500,000 people and displaced millions more.   

Azerbaijan

Terrorist attacks have for several times taken its bloody tolls on Azerbaijan, a country located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia in the South Caucasus region. One of the most tragic and deplorable acts of barbarity against the Azerbaijani people, the Khojaly massacre, was committed by Armenian forces on February 26, 1992. As part of Armenia’s state-sponsored ethnic cleansing and genocide policy against the Azerbaijani people, this mass terror act took the lives of 613 people, including 106 women, 63 children, and 70 elderly people. Khojaly is a city in Azerbaijan's historically and internationally recognized Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has been occupied by Armenia since early 1990s. The next deadliest wave of terror in Azerbaijan has come in 1994, when the country was hit by two terror strikes in March and July in the Baku subway that killed around 30 people and injured about hundred.

After September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York, Azerbaijan was among the first countries that were ready to assist the U.S. government in the global war against terror proclaimed by the former U.S. President George W. Bush. Within the started campaign, Azerbaijan opened its airspace to flights of the U.S. Air Force and provided its Western partner with all necessary information, as well as dispatched its contingent of servicemen to serve under allied forces in Afghanistan.

Azerbaijan has been an active member within regional security organizations that are focused on counterterrorism efforts, including those of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Last year the country approved a program on cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other forms of violent extremism for 2017-2019 within the CIS. Participation in illegal armed formations is a serious crime in Azerbaijan and is subject to severe punishment.

Iran

For decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been suffering from terrorist attacks both locally and internationally. In 1998, the Taliban along with Al Qaeda killed 11 Iranian diplomats and journalists in Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. In 2017, ISIS committed its first terroristic attack in Tehran, blowing up the Iranian Parliament and the Mausoleum of Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran resulted to 17 civilians dead and 43 injured.

Currently, Iran conducts consistent operations against the terrorist groups and gangs on its territory and abroad. Over the past year, Iran conducted more than 20 intelligence “missions” against terrorist groups and gangs in the northwest part of Iran. Meanwhile, Iran supports the Syrian government in its fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Kazakhstan

Central Asia’s largest country consistently increases its efforts to fight terrorism and prevent the spread of extremism. A terrorist attack in the Kazakhstani city of Aktobe in 2016 resulted in seven deaths and more than 37 injuries. The government harshly criticized religious movements and banned extremist groups such as Al Nusra Front, a Salafist organization. Along with these groups, IS and Al Qaeda are banned from forming and recruiting within Kazakhstan.

Turkmenistan

Security in Turkmenistan is thought to be volatile due to territorial proximity to Afghanistan. Turkmenistan is home to vast hydrocarbon resources, making it a possible target for the Taliban. Although the government in Ashgabat maintains neutral status, Turkmenistan supports the UN’s initiative on the creation of international counterterrorism coalition.