Counter-Terrorism: Hard Times in Southern Russia

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February 25, 2006: In Russia, the Caucasus province of Kabardino-Balkaria saw its capital Nalchik raided by several dozen armed Islamic terrorists last October. After several months of investigation, the Russians believe they know what brought this all about. Kabardino-Balkaria is one of many areas in the Caucasus that Russia conquered in the last two centuries. When the Russians came in, many of the locals were still worshiping their ancient pagan gods, some were Moslem, and many were a little bit of both. After the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, decades of anti-Moslem policies disappeared, and those who were so inclined, were able to worship freely. Islamic charities from the Persian Gulf (mainly Saudi Arabia) sent in preachers and money to build mosques and preach to those who were Moslem in name only, Christian, or still slightly pagan. This appealed to many young people, and before long, there were some serious Islamic radicals. No one was looking to start an Islamic revolution, but there was unrest over the government corruption (a carryover from the Soviet days). The Islamic radicals found common cause with Islamic radicals from Chechnya, and local gangsters. The organized crime connection comes from the fact that Chechens have dominated organized crime in Russia (that's another story) since the 1950s. These criminals are feeling the heat from outsider gangs with better government connections. For example, the local branch of the national anti-drug police are apparently deep into the distribution of drugs.

The situation in Kabardino-Balkaria is fairly typical when it comes to Islamic terrorism. The terrorists have local issues they want addressed, and the form of Islam imported from the Middle East (especially Saudi Wahhabism) tends to encourage violent solutions, led by Islamic radicals. Unfortunately, the Russians have confronted this sort of thing before (most recently in the 1920s) and know what solutions work. Unfortunately, the traditional solution results in a high body count. The old school brutality also never had to deal with the Internet and satellite news networks. Despite that, the Russians are not showing much restraint, and are demonstrating a very violent intolerance for Islamic terrorism.

 


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