16.04.2024 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

The Terrorist Attack in the Moscow Region and the Turkish-Russian Partnership

The Terrorist Attack in the Moscow Region and the Turkish-Russian Partnership

The terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall concert venue and the numerous innocent victims have made March 22 a new black day in the calendar of atrocious crimes against humanity. Russia is not a country that can forgive such a crime against itself and, of course, retribution against the organizers and perpetrators is inevitable. The whole question presently relies on the time needed for an objective investigation of the criminal case of “March 22,” but the forms and means of response by the Russian security services will not make us wait long.

“We will punish everyone who prepared this blow against Russia and our people” — these words of President Vladimir Putin are directed at two recipients: those who committed the terrorist attack and those who will execute that retribution. It remains for the results of the investigation and the operational work of the security agencies to identify the true organizers of the crime.

Who was the organizer?

As is publicly known, ISIS–K (ISIS Wilayet Khorasan), a terrorist organization banned in Russia, which is deployed in Afghanistan and is in opposition to the ruling Taliban (an organization also thus far banned in Russia), claimed responsibility for the organization of this terrorist attack. The stated motivation for the attack was the alleged persecution of Muslims by Russia during the two Chechen wars, in Syria and other parts of Asia. However, such irresponsible accusations against Russia are very far from reality, since Moscow has been fighting separatism and various manifestations of extremism (including terrorism) in Chechnya, and in Syria, at the official invitation of the legitimate authorities in Damascus, Russian forces are successfully participating in the fight against international terrorism.

In all cases, political statements of any international terrorist organization (including ISIS, banned in the Russian Federation) can never be justified or be considered as ‘fair’ due to the criminal methods of their struggle. The competent authorities of Russia are currently investigating the terrorist attack of March 22 and, as President Vladimir Putin rightly noted, “the investigation of this crime must be conducted professionally, without political bias.”

This means that Russian law enforcement agencies and special services are studying and testing different operational scenarios. Presently, in both foreign and Russian public media, many experts cover the tragic event of March 22 at Crocus City Hall and try to present their theories of what happened, basing them on the information they have. This is natural and understandable to expect (although there are also quite incompetent or politically biased assessments). At the same time, regardless of who says what, it is neither journalists (and the supposed ‘experts’ they consult) nor politicians, but law enforcement agencies and special services that will make the final judgement. Simply because, as President Vladimir Putin noted, “we have paid a very high price, and any analysis of the situation must be extremely objective and professional.”

It is already publicly known that there was preliminary general information given about the prepared terrorist attack against Russia from the United States and, as it turned out later, Iran. The Russian side, according to public data, took note of such warnings and took proactive measures to identify the fact, place and participants in the likely offence. Perhaps that is why the terrorist attack did not take place on March 9 during the performance of the popular Russian singer Shaman, or anywhere else. However, special services cannot prevent everything in such situations due to scarcity of operative data that would actually signal the impending attack. Otherwise, there would not have been the famous terrorist attack of 9/11 in New York or the Hamas operation “Al-Aqsa Stream” on October 7 in Israel, when the CIA and Mossad had been presented the intelligence, yet still missed the blow.

As we know, on January 3, this year, Iran was the target of a similar brutal and large-scale terrorist attack in the cemetery in Kerman, for which ISIS-K (banned in the Russian Federation) also took responsibility. Both then and now, the intelligence services of the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel publicly and hastily declared their non-involvement.

A “Ukrainian trail” in the terrorist attack of March 22 cannot be ruled out from the outset. This connection is both directly and indirectly suggested: not only by the escape route of the detained four perpetrators of the crime (i.e., to the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine), but also by the ongoing military-political Russian-Ukrainian crisis and Russia’s Special Military Operation, and the known sabotage-terrorist actions undertaken by the GUR and SBU special services of the Kiev regime since 2022.

Finally, Russian special services obviously have relevant operational data which, once verified and processed, will bring closer the solution of the crime and the taking of adequate measures against its organizers. The nature, time, place, forms, and preparation of the perpetrators of the terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall, as well as preliminary general data from the US and Iran about the crime being prepared, suggest that behind the shadow of ISIS-K (an organization banned in the Russian Federation) there is most likely a serious foreign intelligence service involved (indeed, perhaps several intelligence services, where there is a main one — the organizer, and an auxiliary one — the partner and coordinator).

Is there Anything Random about the March 22 Terrorist Attack?

Several points are unusual in this attack:

a) It took place during the holy month of Ramadan, which is sacred to all Muslims, and here, radical Islamists committed a terrorist attack and massacred innocent people including Muslims; for example, the list of those killed by terrorists on March 22 in Crocus City Hall also includes Vagif Huseynov, a Muslim Azerbaijani).

b) The place of the terrorist attack, which is selected in advance by the organizer at the stage of planning and carefully studied according to various parameters, was chosen not merely as a place of mass gathering of citizens (shopping mall or concert hall), but as a well-known venue belonging to a prominent businessman, the Muslim Azerbaijani Araz Agalarov, who has connections in high places (including a business acquaintance with former US President Donald Trump and family relations with the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev).

c) For some reason, the organizer of the attack chose only Tajik nationals as the perpetrators (at least, the four detained persons are Tajiks), while in most cases religion is the sole uniting factor and usually people of different nationalities are involved.

d) The Crocus City Hall attack was thoroughly and professionally organized, with lightning-fast action resulting in mass murder and the burning down of the concert hall. This, however, is in a stark contrast to the subsequent highly unprofessional escape of the same perpetrators from the crime scene, using one conspicuous car.

e) Islamic terrorists usually use masks at the crime scene, where the target venue is equipped with numerous means of surveillance (cameras) and there is a high probability of the escaped witnesses filming the perpetrators, but this was not observed in this case.

(e) None of the so-called “shahids” wore protective equipment or suicide vests.

Shadows of a Foreign Secret Service behind the Terrorist Attack 

It seems that foreign intelligence services were involved in this case and needed the attack to undermine the domestic political situation in Russia, to initiate inter-ethnic and inter-confessional strife, panic and disorder, and, perhaps, for other purposes that are not yet publicly known.

Iranian journalist Khayal Muadzin believes that the pattern of the terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall reminds us that the US CIA and Israel’s Mossad are behind this crime, as in other similar cases in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Iran). Omer Celik, an official spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), suggested that the terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall could not have been carried out without the support of foreign intelligence.

If it was the US intelligence services, why did they warn their Russian colleagues (albeit in a fragmentary way) beforehand through their own channels? Here, it would be appropriate to recall Victoria Nuland’s promises of “nasty surprises” and “asymmetric warfare” against Russia, which proved to be “highly effective,” and her hasty resignation on March 7.

If this is Mossad trying to secretly use Islamic radicals against Russia in order to divert the attention of Muslims worldwide from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, or as a kind of “revenge” against the Russians for their objective and balanced position in the Gaza conflict, it will only aggravate the already precarious position of Tel Aviv and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It is known that the British intelligence service MI-6 (SIS) has extensive experience in carrying out such subversive operations in Asian countries. However, as a rule, the British are the organizers and actively use the operational, technical and organizational capabilities of their Asian partners (including the intelligence services and subversive organizations of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey).

The “Turkish Trail” in the Terrorist Attack 

Meanwhile, when the perpetrators of the terrorist attack were detained in the Bryansk region, one of the terrorists (Shamsidin Fariduni) stated on camera that he had arrived in Moscow from Turkey, where he had allegedly received help with the paperwork. How could Turkey help a Tajik from the post-Soviet space visit Russia and, as it turned out, not one but two of the detained Tajiks?

In particular, Fariduni travelled from Moscow to Istanbul on February 20, checked into the Fatih Hotel and returned on March 2. His accomplice, Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, arrived in Istanbul on January 5, stayed in the same hotel and on the same day, March 2 (i.e., 20 days before the Crocus attack) returned to Moscow together with Fariduni. Such coincidences obviously do not just happen, and the investigation may consider the Fatih Hotel as a terrorist accommodation facility.

Meanwhile, Turkish intelligence services and radical organizations (e.g., the Grey Wolves) have experience of cooperation with ISIS, an organization banned in Russia, not to mention the special partnership with British intelligence and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s friendly relations with SIS head Richard Moore (former UK ambassador to Turkey).

Russia is always ready for a constructive partnership with any state, including Turkey, on combating international terrorism. It should be noted that immediately after the terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall and the information about the “Turkish trail,” namely the arrival to and departure from Istanbul of two of the detained assailants, Turkey carried out an exemplary and large-scale operation in several stages to detain persons suspected of links with ISIS (an organization banned in Russia) in the Istanbul area and other 30 provinces of the country. Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya reported the detention of about 250 people.

Of course, Turkey is an important partner of Russia, one with whom Russia has developed multifaceted relations (including security relations). The promptness of the Turkish side after the terrorist attack, on the one hand, testifies to the special attitude of President Erdoğan to these types of crimes in general and to the Russian side in particular, but on the other hand, it demonstrates some kind of populism and may be nothing more than smoke and mirrors in an attempt to show special friendship with Russia. Many times in the past Turks have detained many persons with identical suspicions and accusations but released all or some of them after a while.

For example, this was the case with the fighters of Muhammed Tokcan’s group after the hijacking of the MV Avrasya in January 1996, some of whom (in particular, Ertan Coşkun) in March 2001 took part in the hijacking of the Russian Vnukovo Airlines Tu-154 airliner in Saudi Arabia. And on October 1, 2023, Turkish authorities in the Ordu Province released an Iraqi citizen wanted on terrorism charges with an arrest warrant after a brief detention in police custody.

The Turks arrested a lot of people on the same day with similar charges, but they did not inform Russia about the revealed information about a possible terrorist attack (at least in the same general manner as did the USA and Iran). Besides, it sounds strange from the side of Turkish partners to claim that the Russians did not ask them before March 22 about a possible terrorist attack. Russia had no information about the “Turkish trace” of a possible crime, so what could it have asked the Turks about?

The Turkish side rushed with the results of the inspection of the two detained Tajiks and stated that they did not have residence permits and therefore did not attract the attention of the special services.

Russian military correspondent Semyon Pegov from WarGonzo claims that Islamic militants from ISIS-K (an organization banned in Russia) were trained in Turkey at one of the terrorist organization’s secret camps in Istanbul before the terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall.

It is worth noting that the information about the training in Turkey of terrorists who staged the attack in Krasnogorsk on March 22 has not been officially confirmed at the moment. Turkey has refugee camps from Syria and other war- and poverty-torn Asian countries. This environment is a potential recruiting ground for terrorists. In addition, we remember that in Turkey there have been a number of major anti-Russian terrorist attacks in the recent past (first of all, the shooting down of the Russian SU-24 aircraft on the Turkish-Syrian border, the brutal murder of Russian pilot Lt. Col. Oleg Peshkov by Grey Wolves militants, and, finally, the shooting of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov). However, in neither of these cases was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan connected with these crimes, and all of them were viewed through the prism of attempts of hostile forces to undermine trust between Moscow and Ankara, to prevent the development of mutually beneficial Turkish-Russian strategic partnership, and to discredit Erdoğan himself. In July 2016, the same interested external and internal forces tried to assassinate Erdoğan himself and carry out a coup d’état.

Finally, the local elections on March 31 in Turkey, for the first time in 20 years, resulted in the landslide victory of the pro-Western opposition People’s Republican Party. Especially important was its success in the country’s major cities — Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, etc. Does this mean that the same Istanbul administration patronizes the functioning of the above-mentioned terrorist camps for their subsequent use against Russia in the joint interests of NATO (including in Ukraine)?

In Turkey, democracy and opposition parties won the municipal elections, and Erdoğan and the ruling AKP lost. But Russia cannot lose in the fight against international terrorism. So far, Erdoğan’s domestic policy is failing in the economy and local elections. The latter has a negative impact on trade and economic relations with Russia, as the problem of bank payments for transactions with Russian companies has not been resolved. If the Turkish complicity in the terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall is confirmed, Moscow may raise serious questions for Ankara.


Alexander SVARANTS — Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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