Moscow Says St. Petersburg Suspect Was Suicide Bomber From Kyrgyzstan
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Russian investigators say a 22-year-old suicide bomber from the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan carried out the attack in St. Petersburg yesterday afternoon. That explosion on a subway train left 14 dead and 50 hospitalized.
For more on what has unfolded since Monday, we turn to Nathan Hodge, Moscow bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. He was in St. Petersburg earlier today. Nathan Hodge, welcome to the program.
NATHAN HODGE: Thanks for having me on.
SIEGEL: And what's known about the young man who is believed to have been behind this attack?
HODGE: Well, the details are still just emerging. Earlier in the day, Kyrgyz officials were only telling us that they believed that it was someone who was born in Kyrgyzstan who had acquired Russian citizenship, and the phrase suicide bomber was not even being used. Russians initially had just told us that there was just signs that pointed to this being a terror attack.
But then later in the day, Russia's investigative committee said that its investigators had concluded that they had found forensic evidence of genetic traces of Akbarjon Djalilov on a bag that contained an explosive device that was found disarmed at a separate subway station not very far from the site of yesterday's explosion.
So these details, again, are just emerging. We've seen some images that are purported to be of the attacker, but we're only just learning about this. So we're only just trying to draw the earliest kinds of conclusions about what may have motivated this attack.
SIEGEL: And so far still no claim of responsibility by any radical group.
HODGE: That's correct. Therefore it's very early to say whether or not there is any kind of connection to any militant group or any radicalism. But again, the information that we've been receiving has been fairly scant at this stage.
SIEGEL: And the fact that the suspected suicide bomber was from Kyrgyzstan - what does that say to Russians, and what does Kyrgyzstan connote in the context of Islamism?
HODGE: Kyrgyzstan really doesn't have any kind of connotation I think in the larger Russian public imagination as being a source of Islamic extremism. Most U.S. listeners as well and Russians as well are quite aware of the long history that Russia has faced with terror attacks that have emanated in large part from the North Caucasus region. And Islamist groups based in the North Caucasus, including a group called Caucasus Emirate, have claimed credit for some of the more dramatic and horrific attacks that have taken place, for instance, on airports and other public areas.
So for Russians, I think that this is all relatively something new. But what observers of Islamic State recruitment patterns have said in recent months is that they do see efforts by recruiters to radicalize or to find recruits among this population of Central Asian migrants to recruit them to go to Islamic State-held territory.
Again, it's too early to say whether this has anything to do with the Islamic State. There's no there's no claim of credit here. But we have seen reports by experts saying that they do believe that they see a pipeline for jihadi recruits to be recruited among the migrant population in Russia who make their way eventually to the Middle East. And the big fear of the Russian authorities is that some of those people will make their way back and plot attacks here.
SIEGEL: That's Nathan Hodge of The Wall Street Journal joining us from Moscow. Nathan, thank you.
HODGE: Thank you.
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