Ashgabat, 3 Jan—The Volgograd bombings have shaken Russia and reverberations would be felt in Central Asia, slowly, unevenly, but surely.
The first bomb was detonated on Sunday (29 Dec) at the main railway station of Volgograd and the second on Monday (30 Dec) at a trolley bus. The total death toll from both the incidents is above 50 and in addition several dozens have been wounded.
Clearly, these were acts of terrorism. Who did it and why is being sorted out but some clues are available already.
Both the bombs were identical and the targets similar.
No group or organization has claimed responsibility but the first bomber has tentatively identified as a Russian citizen who had converted to Islam and pledged allegiance to the Caucasus Emirate, an Al Qaeda affiliate group active in Chechnya, Dagestan, North Ossetia and other areas in the region.
Doku Umarov is the self appointed Emir of the Caucasus Emirate and has called for disruption of the Sochi Olympics.
This organization is known to have committed several major acts of terrorism in the territory of the Russian Federation in the past.
Bill Van Auken, in his article ‘Saudi Arabia and CIA Behind Terror Bombings in Southern Russia?’ tries to build the case that Caucasus Emirate of Doku Umarov is being financed by the CIA and Saudi Arabia. He goes to the extent to assert that Putin had been asked to withdraw his support for the Assad regime in Syria and in return had been offered that no disruption to Sochi Olympics will take place.
It is difficult to verify independently the veracity of his assertion but his article can be found here: http://www.globalresearch.ca/saudi-arabia-and-cia-behind-terror-bombings-in-southern-russia/5363184
Dr. Ariel Cohen, whose views are almost always aligned with the interests of the American establishment, also concurs that Caucasus Emirate is the source of these acts of terrorism though he gives another twist to the whys of it.
His article ‘What Russian terrorists hope to accomplish ahead of Sochi Olympics’ can be found here: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/12/31/what-russian-terrorists-hope-to-accomplish-ahead-sochi-olympics/
Journalist and author Neil Clark looks at the Volgograd incidents from a different angle, calling for a uniform approach toward terrorism. He introduces several valid nuances to his argument. His interview with RT can be found here: http://rt.com/op-edge/volgograd-bombings-western-inconsistent-approach-971/
Anthropologist Dr. James Barry sheds some light on historical aspects.
He says that Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) was the city where in 1944 the Soviet Union defeated the Nazis and in recognition of this feat the city was named Stalingrad.
He says that it was Stalin who deported about half a million Chechens to Kazakhstan and those who survived could return to their land after 13 years, long after the death of Stalin. Chechens, he says, have historic reasons to strike the city that was once named after Stalin.
Then he argues that the Muslim Circassian people were exiled by Czar Romanov to the Ottoman Turkey in the 19th century and the land that was snatched from them included Sochi where the Winter Olympics will take place in less than a month.
His article, titled ‘Centuries-old dispute haunts Sochi Olympics’ connects some dots convincingly. It can be found here: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/centuriesold-dispute-haunts-sochi-olympics-20140101-305w8.html
What is indisputable on the strength of the current evidences is that the Caucasus Emirate is behind these bombings. What is known already is that Caucasus Emirate, an organization that aspires to establish a hardline Islamic state in the northern Caucasus is allied with Al Qaeda.
Beyond that, we know nothing for sure for now.
It is important to note the ruthless sophistication of these bombings.
The chosen places in both cases were crowded at the time of bombings. There were large numbers of women and children at the scene. And many among the dead and wounded are women and children.
The timing was most brutal.
New Year is the most important people’s holiday in the entire CIS space. It is dearer to people’s hearts than any other festive occasion. The bombings were obviously timed to send the whole nation into mourning and anger.
The timing is also relevant to Sochi Olympics that would be the most expensive Winter Olympics in the history: more than $ 50 billion have been spent on its preparations already.
Some conspiracy theories are bound to arise and some of them would be anchored on the proximity of Volgograd to the Ukrainian border and linking the Russian bailout of Ukraine, thus preventing closer alliance between Ukraine and Europe. Someone is quite likely to speculate that someone for or on behalf of Europe had engineered the bombings to hit Putin and his Russia where it hurts most.
Russia has interrogated more than 10000 persons already and some 700 are in custody, pending further investigation. This is a wide net and understandably so.
Volgograd has consequences for Central Asia. Here are some points:
- The policies and decisions in Russia usually get replicated with various degrees of dilution or concentration in Central Asia. It would be important to watch how Russia responds and see how far that gets copied in Central Asia.
- No matter where things go from here, the Central Asian governments would be well advised to resist the urge to start a war on Islam. There is the need to appreciate that use of force or general crackdown is not an answer. If anything, it would be counterproductive, as has been seen elsewhere in the world.
- The antidote to Islamic extremism is also within Islam: The Sufi way of Islam is soft in interpretations and easy for the followers. The propelling force is love, not fear.
- For Sufism to be of any help in maintaining stability and peace in Central Asia, it would be necessary to build it on generic, pre-Order Sufi masters. That would prevent fragmentation. Luckily, the mausoleums of such Sufi masters are in nearly every Central Asian country, for instance Khoja Yusuf Hamdani in Turkmenistan and Khoja Ahmed Yasavi in Kazakhstan.
- The governments in Central Asia should sponsor some basic Islamic education for children to teach them the basics as seen by the Sufi interpretation. This would prevent the youth from drifting into the camps of extremist elements. The absence of any religious education at official level is one reason why extremist elements can hook the youth.
- The Central Asian governments should scramble to decrease the rural/urban disparity and any other factors that create discontentment and resentment in the youth.
- The ethnic minorities in each country should be brought fully into the folds of the mainstream society in terms of opportunities.
Probably totally unrelated to Volgograd but of some importance in a wider context, it is important to recall that 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife Sophie in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, and, therefore, the start of the World War I. /// nCa