Moscow attack: Why did ISIS-K target Russia? – Times of India

On a seemingly ordinary Friday evening near Moscow, a shocking and deadly attack unfolded at a concert, casting a shadow of terror over the region. Camouflage-clad gunmen, armed with automatic weapons, mercilessly opened fire on unsuspecting concertgoers. This harrowing incident resulted in at least 60 fatalities and left 145 wounded, marking it as one of the deadliest attacks on Russian soil in decades, reminiscent of the tragic 2004 Beslan school siege.The Islamic State, particularly its Afghan branch known as ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for this act of violence through its Amaq agency on Telegram, according to US intelligence. This attack not only reflects the brutal capabilities of ISIS-K but also exacerbates the already tense geopolitical landscape, especially in the context of Russia‘s strained relations with the West post the 2022 Ukraine invasion.

Here is all you need to know about ISIS-K:
What is ISIS-K and its origins?

Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) is an affiliate of the larger Islamic State militant group, emerging in eastern Afghanistan in 2014. Named after a historical region covering parts of today’s Iran, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan, ISIS-K gained infamy for its brutal tactics and extremist activities. Although its strength has waned since 2018 due to concerted efforts by the Taliban and US forces, the group remains a significant threat in the region. The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2021 has reportedly reduced America’s capacity to combat and gather intelligence on such extremist factions.

What previous attacks has ISIS-K conducted?
ISIS-K has been responsible for numerous attacks, mainly in and around Afghanistan. These include devastating bombings at mosques, a deadly assault on the Russian embassy in Kabul, and a significant attack at Kabul’s international airport in 2021, which resulted in numerous civilian and military casualties, including American troops. Their history of violence demonstrates their capacity to strike targets with little warning, posing a continuous threat to regional and international security.

Why did ISIS-K target Russia?
The attack signifies a notable escalation in ISIS-K’s operations, underlining the group’s animosity towards Russia and President Vladimir Putin.
One of the reasons ISIS-K may have targeted Russia is linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military interventions in the Middle East, particularly in Syria. Putin dispatched Russian troops to Syria to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, explicitly aiming to combat ISIS and other extremist groups. This move, intended to maintain Assad’s hold on power and assert Russian influence in the region, directly opposed ISIS’s goals and territories. Consequently, this involvement against ISIS in Syria could have contributed to ISIS-K’s motivation to target Russia, viewing it as a direct adversary due to its actions in the Middle East.
Experts suggest that ISIS-K views Russia as an oppressor of Muslims, contributing to their antagonism. Furthermore, ISIS-K’s ranks include militants from Central Asia, who bear their own historical grievances against Russia, thus fueling the group’s motivation to carry out such attacks on Russian soil.

How did the US respond to the attack?
The United States has confirmed the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the Moscow concert attack through intelligence sources. Prior to the attack, the US had apparently warned Russia about potential terrorist threats targeting large public gatherings, based on intercepted plans for terrorist activities in Moscow. Despite issuing a public advisory to Americans in Russia and sharing this information with Russian authorities, the tragic event unfolded, underscoring the persistent threat of global terrorism and highlighting the complexities of international intelligence sharing and security cooperation.
(With inputs from agencies)

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