Moscow airport blast: Apparent terror attack

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Brian Michael Jenkins
Monday, January 24, 2011; 2:30 PM

An explosion at an unsecured section of Domodedovo Airport, on the southeast outskirts of Moscow, killed 29 people in a waiting area for arriving passengers Monday afternoon, in what appears to be a terrorist attack. <br><br>Brian Michael Jenkins, an expert on terrorism and transportation security at the Rand Corporation, discusses the incident, aftermath and U.S. monitoring of the situation. <br><br>

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Rocci Fisch: Please stand by.

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Rocci Fisch: Thank you.

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Terror attack: What is your immediate reaction to the blast?

Brian Michael Jenkins: I suspected immediately that it was a terrorist attack as there have been previous attacks against air and surface transport in Russia.

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Pittsburgh: Has any group or cause yet claimed credit for the bombing? Chechens?

Brian Michael Jenkins:

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Rocci Fisch: Timeline: Russian attacks

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Local/International target: Previous terror attacks in Moscow were on local targets like the metro, theatre, etc. Does this tell us anything about source of this terror attack?

Brian Michael Jenkins: In 2004, Chechen terrorists sabotage two airliners flying out of Moscow, killing more than 80 people.

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Fairfax, Va.: Sounds like Medvedev was angered that security there at the airport was a bit lax. This true?

Brian Michael Jenkins: This embarrasses the Russian authorities.

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Secondary Devices: Any word on if secondary devices were located??

Brian Michael Jenkins: No word yet on secondary devices, but this is always a concern.

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Religion separatism terrorism: Hello, was this attack related with separatism within Russian Federation or Islamic fundamentalism?

Brian Michael Jenkins: The Chechens are primarily separatists, but over the years, the struggle has increasingly taken on the rhetoric of Islamic fundamentalism.

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Airport security: How does security at Russian airports compare with that at U.S. airports?

Brian Michael Jenkins: Our security focuses on keeping weapons and bombs off airplanes, not on protecting the airport.

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Washington, D.C.: It sounds like the bomb was not flown to Moscow, that it came from outside. How often does this happen?

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security: Why do you think security was so lax at the Russian airport ?

Brian Michael Jenkins: Not sure exactly how many incidents there have been, but certainly there is ample precedence for this type of attack.

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Handover: Will this terrorist attack in Moscow prompt U.S. leadership hand over wanted Chechen terrorist, such as Ilyas Akhmadov?

Brian Michael Jenkins: The U.S. does not yield to terrorist demands or threats.

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Chechnya Again?: Though global islamists are often associated with funding and other activities in Chechnya, isn't it an isolated Russian problem that has no real spill over potential for other countriies?

Brian Michael Jenkins: They seek international sympathy for their cause, and may not want to alienate it with terrorist attacks abroad.

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Moscow Terror Attack: First, the nature of Russian terrorism is political (think Irish Rep Army) not religous. While Chechens are Muslims, they are generally not inspired by Koran, however lately religion plays a more profound role in Chechens' terror campaign. Here is the question - should not we have security cameras everywhere in airports, including the international arrival gates where large crowds are typical - that was the location of the Moscow blast. Thanks.

Brian Michael Jenkins:

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Objective: I understand the history of attacks on Russian transit nodes, but is there any indication of larger significance or symbolism to this attack? Or, simply a soft target of opportunity?

Brian Michael Jenkins: This is speculative, but the fact that the Russian President was about to depart for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and will now have to cancel or delay his trip makes the attack that much more embarrassing to Russian authorities.

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Recalling the Madrid trains attack: The Spanish government initially blamed Basque separatists for the Madrid train attacks, despite a substantially different modus operandi; they turned out instead to have been perpetrated by Islamic terrorists. So, does the Moscow airport attack follow the Chechen MO, or might the perpetrators have been a different group?

Brian Michael Jenkins: We can only say that this looks like another attack in an on-going campaign, but for definitive answer, we have to await more information.

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Security: Would existing airport security anywhere really have prevented this type of an attack? I don't recall ever having to go through security of any kind to enter the arrivals area at U.S. airports either....

Brian Michael Jenkins: We do not secure the arrivals area.

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Moscow Blast: Do you think this is a typical Chechnyan tactical strike? Did they have forewarning of the event?

Brian Michael Jenkins: As for forewarning, we know that the Russians were aware of the continuing terrorist campaign but we do not know if the authorities had any specific intelligence regarding this attack.

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package: Is there confirmation that this was a suicide bomber? The blast seemed pretty large. Could it have been a back pack?

Brian Michael Jenkins: It could have been a left suitcase or backpack.

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security: Wait, but WashPost reports that this was/outside/International Arrivals, and that the people gathering baggage were in fact protected from the blast. Doesn't that also make it outside the security zone? What systems are considered to have failed?

Brian Michael Jenkins: In fact, if in the area where people meet arriving passengers, there was no failure of security.

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Chechens in Afghanistan: I would like to note that the Chechen issue ceased to be an isolated fight. There were reports of Chechens killed in Afghanistan?

Brian Michael Jenkins:

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Handover followup: Does not keeping Akhmadov in the U.S. constitute a threat to U.S. citizens? At least, makes our dialogue with Russia more difficult?

Brian Michael Jenkins: We seek Russian cooperation on terrorism, but we have been critical of Russia's brutal responses to the Chechen struggle.

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Russia traveler: As a frequent traveler to Russia, and this airport in particular, I can say that security is definitely lax at the airport. Although there are metal detectors at most of the entrances, they are often not used. If anything, the police use it to profile people, and take Caucasian looking people out of line. After the 2004 bombings security increased, but it has since lapsed back again. security for those flying in and out of Moscow is somewhat better. They use the full body scanners, but the monitors don't always appear to be staffed.

Brian Michael Jenkins: The size of the bomb meant that he was not going to attempt to smuggle it on to a plane, but instead set it off in the accessible part of the airport.

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Upcoming trip: I just booked a trip to Russia for this summer--flying into St. Petersburg and out of Moscow. How concerned should I be?

Brian Michael Jenkins:

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Next steps from Moscow: What would be the reaction from Moscow's government?

Brian Michael Jenkins: The biggest concern for the government is that the attack means there is an active operating terrorist cell somewhere at large in Moscow and it may strike again.

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Response: What kind of response can we expect from Russia?

Brian Michael Jenkins:

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More re objective: Wasn't the REAL objective to attack foreigners, so as to draw their respective nations into this too?

Brian Michael Jenkins: There are no frontlines, no home front, no distinction between combatants and civilians, everything can be attacked.

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Brian Michael Jenkins: Brian


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