In the Shadow of Chaos

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Rakhshanda Mehtab

On 22nd March, a concert hall in Moscow saw the bloodiest attack Russia has ever witnessed in years. A few days following the fifth inauguration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, gunmen broke into the facility, leaving 140 people dead and 80 critically injured. The attack is similar to the APS massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan, where terrorists attacked an Army public school on December 16, 2014, killing one hundred and thirty-six children. It was the world’s largest children’s death toll from a single terrorist strike. This recent, terrible incident in Moscow, raises grave concerns about who is behind the attacks and who benefits the most from such crimes.
The attack was promptly attributed to the Islamic State. The Islamic State, or Daesh, group claimed the attack and said that it was the deadliest strike in European history. The terrorist organization has multiple branches, including one in South and Central Asia. Its headquarters are in Syria and Iraq.
Since its formation in 2013, ISIS wreaked havoc throughout Asia. The group was merciless in its targeting of civilians and law enforcement, as seen by the massacre of Yazidi civilians in Iraq and the bombings of Beirut, Jakarta, and Sri Lanka. ISIS-K, a branch of ISIS that has conducted operations in Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, surfaced later in 2015. It seems to try to separate itself from rival organizations by launching mass-casualty assaults, aggressive propaganda in various languages, and inciting violence against adversaries. In recent times, ISIS-K has directed its attention towards Afghanistan. It has executed devastating attacks at the Kabul airport, targeted Iranian military personnel, and most recently, attacked a Taliban bank in Kandahar.
ISIS has a longstanding animosity against Russia and Putin. These extremist groups have frequently posed a threat to Russia’s security, with Daesh Khorasan previously bombing the St. Petersburg metro in 2017, killing 15 people. The recent Moscow attack by ISIS-K may have been motivated by a variety of reasons, including vengeance for the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. ISIS-K’s grievances against Russia, like those of many other jihadist groups, include Russian support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad dictatorship, as well as Russian cooperation with Iran and other Middle Eastern states that Sunni jihadists consider adversaries. In the wake of Russia Russia-Ukraine war, Moscow is desperate to rebuild its workforce after losing millions in the Ukraine bloodbath so they have relaxed their visa policies. Because of the low visa requirements now, these migrants can travel and penetrate easily into countries like Russia and Turkey. This militant organization appears to have taken advantage of security flaws by prioritizing the recruitment of Central Asian immigrants.
According to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), ISIS-K, like its parent organization (ISIS) seeks to establish a “pure Islamic state,” which the group defines as a “global, transnational caliphate” administered by Sharia law. It is strange that ISIS, although claiming to promote the cause of Islam, has never stopped Israeli attacks on innocent Palestinians
With ISIS-K now fighting the reigning Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which has relatively excellent connections with Russia, the Moscow bombing could have been designed to highlight the difference between how ISIS-K battles Russia, which oppresses Muslims, and how the Taliban collaborates with Russia.
The recent development in Russia-Afghan relations is very significant. Since ISIS-K is the common enemy of both the Taliban and Russia, the Taliban movement’s designation as a terrorist group is being reconsidered by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan also hailed Moscow’s decision and stated that it was crucial to foster confidence between the two nations. In the future, a military collaboration may be considered to combat these militant groups
Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to punish those responsible for the ‘brutal terrorist act’, claiming that four armed men who attempted to flee to Ukraine have been apprehended. He said that Russia is interested in the client of the assailants even if he is aware that Muslim radicals attacked Moscow. He questioned who was in Ukraine awaiting their arrival at the time of the attack and why the terrorists sought to flee.
ISIS is composed of fanatical Muslims, but their attacks appear to help the United States. The initial appearance of ISIS justified the US military engagement in the Middle East in the eyes of the American people. What remains to be answered Who genuinely gains from the atrocities committed by ISIS-K? While they are targeting Russia, Iran, and Afghanistan, their existence contributes to the US narrative of regional instability. Russia must conduct a transparent inquiry to identify any potential connections or intricacies that are hidden beneath the surface. The intentions behind these acts warrant a thorough and unbiased inquiry.

The writer is an IIUI graduate and a freelance columnist. She can be reached at rakhshandamehtab@gmail.com