Militant-linked violence remains a “chronic problem” in Russia’s North Caucasus region, the U.S. Department of State said in its annual report on global terrorism threats.
“Terrorist attacks in Russia continued to emanate from the ongoing unrest in the North Caucasus,” the report, released on Thursday, said. “Radical militants calling for a Caliphate within the Caucasus continued to constitute the main terrorist threat.”
A total of 529 terrorist attacks, which killed 218 people and injured 536 others, were registered in Russia as of mid-December last year, the report said.
The bloodiest of the attacks were carried out in Russian capital on March 29, when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Moscow’s busy metro during morning rush hour, killing 40 people and injuring some 100 others. Other major terrorist attacks occurred in the volatile North Caucasus region, particularly in the republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Chechnya, and Kabardino-Balkaria.
“While these attacks were designed to cause mass civilian casualties, far more numerous were attacks targeting security forces and government facilities in the region,” the report said.
In December last year, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed amendments to the country’s Criminal Code increasing punishment for perpetrating a terrorist attack and promoting terrorist activities. In July, Russia amended its anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing regulations as part of the government’s fight against terrorism.
The Russian authorities have also moved to improve the poor economic conditions in North Caucasus republics and curb unemployment, which are believed to be the main factors driving local residents to join militant groups. In December, Prime Minister Putin announced the creation of a special commission under his chairmanship intended to address the issues of socio-economic development of the region.
Al Qaeda, Iran remain top threats
Al Qaeda “remained the preeminent terrorist threat” to the United States in 2010, the report said. “Though the AQ core in Pakistan has become weaker, it retained the capability to conduct regional and transnational attacks… In addition, the [Qaeda’s] affiliates have grown stronger.”
In May 2011, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. raid on its compound in Pakistan.
The report named Iran as “the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2010.”
“Iran’s financial, material, and logistic support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy,” it said.
According to the report, the United States also continues considering Cuba, Syria and Sudan as countries supporting terrorism.
The report stressed the increasing role of the internet in organizing terrorist attacks.
“In a troubling trend, English-speaking militants increasingly connected to each other through online venues like militant discussion forums and video-sharing platforms, which encouraged both violent behavior and individual action,” it said.