NPR logo Chechen Rebel Says He Ordered Moscow Bombing


Chechen Rebel Says He Ordered Moscow Bombing

This video image shows insurgent leader Doku Umarov as he claims responsibility for last month's deadly suicide bombing at Russia's largest airport. It was not clear when or where the video was recorded. Kavkaz Center/AP hide caption

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Kavkaz Center/AP

This video image shows insurgent leader Doku Umarov as he claims responsibility for last month's deadly suicide bombing at Russia's largest airport. It was not clear when or where the video was recorded.

Kavkaz Center/AP

A well-known Islamist leader in Russia has claimed responsibility for last month's suicide bombing at Moscow's busiest airport in which 36 people died.

Chechen warlord Doku Umarov said in a video that showed up online Monday that the "special operation" at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport on Jan. 24 was carried out on his order. Dressed in camouflage, the 46-year-old veteran militant from the turbulent North Caucasus vowed that more attacks are coming as a growing Islamic insurgency tries to force Russia to surrender control over its southern Caucasus region.

"There are hundreds of brothers who are prepared to sacrifice themselves," Umarov declared in the video. "We can at any time carry out operations where we want."

He also claimed credit for last spring's deadly bombing on the Moscow subway.

Umarov has long been a high-profile enemy of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and a powerful symbol of failures in Russia's security policy. In the North Caucasus, many Muslims say the government's aggressive hunt for suspected insurgents has alienated residents and helped insurgent groups recruit.

Umarov has called Russian leaders "racist" and vowed to create an independent Islamic state in Russia's south. He also voiced solidarity with Islamist militants in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

The Jan. 24 bombing of Domodedovo Airport killed 36 people and injured about 180. Russian investigators said the bomber was a 20-year-old man from the Caucasus region that includes Chechnya, but have not released his name or other details.

Top security officials briefed parliament Tuesday about the investigation in a closed session, but no details were immediately released.

"All residents of our country need to realize that we will have to live under the threat of terror for a long time to come," Vladimir Vasilyev, the head of parliament's security committee, told reporters.

The Chechen warlord has claimed responsibility for an array of terrorist attacks, including last year's double suicide bombing of the Moscow subway system that killed 40 people.

Russia's Federal Security Service, the KGB successor agency charged with fighting terrorism, refused on Tuesday to comment on Umarov's claim.

Over the weekend, another video was released in which Umarov also threatened more attacks, saying 2011 would be "the year of blood and tears" and that he could call on 50 to 60 suicide bombers if necessary. He appeared in the undated video with a young man whom he said was being sent to Moscow on a suicide mission.

Chechen rebels have fought two full-scale wars against Russian forces since 1994. Major offensives in the second war died down about a decade ago, but the Islamist insurgency has spread across neighboring North Caucasus provinces, stoked by poverty, official corruption and security force abuses against civilians.

The Islamist militancy that once focused on Chechnya's independence has taken on the broader goal of creating an Islamic state across the entire North Caucasus region. While attacks in Chechnya have become rarer under the brutal rule of a Moscow-backed regional strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, attacks on police and officials in neighboring provinces happen almost daily.

Putin said last week that foreign special services are often more efficient in dealing with the terrorism threat and that there is a need to learn from their experience. "We need to give them their due — they generally work more efficiently," he said. Putin also acknowledged that high unemployment in the North Caucasus creates a breeding ground for terrorism.

Umarov, who became the top Chechen military leader in 2006, is seen more as an ideological than a military figure, as many terrorist cells operate autonomously and shun centralized command.

The Obama administration placed Umarov on a list of terrorist leaders after he claimed responsibility for the Moscow subway bombings and a November 2009 train bombing that claimed 26 lives.

NPR's David Greene contributed to this story, which contains material from The Associated Press.