Attack highlights security challenges

2024-03-25 08:18:39China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Russia observed a national day of mourning on Sunday after the Moscow concert hall massacre on Friday, which President Vladimir Putin called a "barbaric terrorist attack". China Daily looks at the solidarity shown toward the attack victims and the calls made for concerted global efforts to counter terrorism.

The deadly attack on a concert hall outside Moscow on Friday has raised serious concerns about security in Russia, as experts call for increased international collaboration to combat terrorism worldwide.

With the death toll reaching 137, including three children, and more than 150 individuals injured, Russia's President Vladimir Putin declared a national day of mourning on Sunday.

It was the deadliest attack on Russian territory since the Beslan school siege nearly 20 years ago, when Islamist militants took more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children, hostage. That siege resulted in the deaths of 334 people.

In a televised address, Putin, who called the attack "a bloody, barbaric terrorist act", cast the enemy as "international terrorism" and said he was ready to work with any state that wanted to defeat it.

The Kremlin said Putin had held conversations with the leaders of Belarus, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in which all sides affirmed their willingness to work together to fight terrorism, Reuters reported.

Following the attack, Russia bolstered security measures at airports, transportation hubs and throughout Moscow, and large public events across the country were canceled as a precautionary measure.

Wan Qingsong, an associate research professor at the Russian Studies Center of East China Normal University in Shanghai, said Russia now faces significant pressure in tackling extremist threats and maintaining security within its borders.

"Russia has assumed a pivotal role in the global fight against terrorism, exerting significant influence that cannot be ignored. However, it has been grappling with security vulnerabilities, which have been exploited by terrorist organizations, resulting in numerous attacks."

Alexander Bastrykin, head of Russia's Investigative Committee, had reported that in 2022 a total of 4,729 offenses involving foreign nationals were reported, leading to the opening of 4,231 criminal cases, Wan said. This figure represents a threefold increase compared with the numbers reported in 2021.

"It is evident that behind these recent assaults, there are foreign influences at play, and terrorist entities and operatives have proliferated rapidly, particularly in smaller cities where security measures are weaker," Wan said.

Precarious climate

"So in this precarious security climate, the most important thing is to stabilize the situation and prevent more terrorist incidents and casualties."

Last year the Investigative Committee underscored the prevention of extremist and terrorist crimes as one of its top priorities, Wan said. Putin presided over two pivotal meetings of the Standing Committee of the Security Council.

One such gathering, in February last year, was dedicated to counterterrorism measures, and the other, in October, concentrated on combating the illegal trafficking of weapons and ammunition in Russia.

Experts also said the world must work together to tackle increasing security threats.

After Friday's attack, several countries condemned terrorism and called for a global push to counter it.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia condemned what it called "the armed terrorist attack", stressing the "importance of fighting and combating all forms of extremism and terrorism".

Qatar reiterated its "firm position on rejecting violence and terrorism, regardless of motives and reasons".

Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed its stance in "rejecting terrorism and violent extremism in all forms and manifestations", and "continues to underscore the urgent need for a concerted international effort to eliminate the scourge of terrorism in a comprehensive and effective manner".

The United Nations Security Council offered its condolences and urged all states "to cooperate actively" with the Russian government and other authorities to hold perpetrators and backers of "these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice".

Zhu Yongbiao, executive director of the Research Center for the Belt and Road at Lanzhou University in Gansu province, said: "Terrorism presents a common threat to all members of the international community, and no single country can effectively address this global challenge alone. Collaboration among all nations is the sole feasible approach.

"Faced with constraints on deepening international cooperation, Russia may seek to advance its counterterrorism cooperation agenda through engagements with pertinent countries and international bodies because it is going to host the BRICS summit and other international events this year."

Catalog of deadly assaults in capital

Here is a timeline of major attacks on Moscow in the past two decades.

1999:A bomb blast on Sept 13 at an eight-story apartment building in southeast Moscow kills 118 people. The attack was one of five on apartment buildings that left 293 people dead over a two-week period in Moscow and southern Russia.

2002:A group of 21 male and 19 female Chechen militias storm Moscow's Dubrovka theater on Oct 23 during a musical and take more than 800 people hostage. The standoff with security forces lasts two days and three nights.

It ends when the security forces inject gas into the theater to overpower the attackers and then storm it. A total of 130 hostages are killed.

2003:Two female suicide bombers, identified by Russia as Chechen separatists on July 5, blow themselves up during a rock concert at the Tushino airfield near Moscow, killing 15 people.

2004:A little-known Chechen group detonates a bomb in a packed Moscow subway during rush hour on Feb 6, killing 41 people.

2011:A suicide bomber strikes in the arrivals hall of Moscow Domodedovo International Airport on Jan 24, killing 37 people.

2021:Two female suicide bombers blow themselves up on the Moscow subway on March 29. Forty people are killed.

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