Posts Tagged ‘Security’
Screenshot of my computer last night. I was trying to date each video.
Umarov has done what he set out to do. He has proven that he is capable of carrying out some kind of attack. And he has already done that. Or rather, he has proven that Riyad-us-Saliheen is still operational, and capable of infiltrating Russia proper.
Now all Umarov has to do is sit back and wait. Because anything that happens in the next month or so will be blamed on the North Caucasian insurgency (aka: Caucasus Emirate).
The murder spree in Stavropol this week is a prime example. The authorities now allege the crime was committed by men from the Zolksy Jamaat (a militant group) from Kabardino-Balkaria in revenge for the fact that they were nearly wiped out back in October. This sounds a little too cut-and-dried to me. There are too many unknowns about the Jamaat system for the cops to make that claim with any authority. Therefore, I am not ready to dismiss the organised crime theory.
Meanwhile, it took the authorities 2 weeks to round up six suspects in the car bombing in Pyatigorsk. And they are still looking for the organisers of the twin bombings in Volgograd.
So Umarov wins (again).
Journalist hops commuter train in Krasnodar bypassing security on January 5th. Ends up in Sochi (250km away) where he passes several different sets of cops and soldiers, who don’t even notice him. Conclusion: it would not be that hard for a terrorist to avoid security measures set up for Sochi.
Note: this experiment took place after the double bombings in Volgograd, but before the Olympic security regime in Sochi went into effect.
h/t Paul Goble
With just 40 days until the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, a suicide bombing took place this afternoon in Volgograd, Russia. Media reports 18 dead and 60 injured so far, but that number is expected to rise. It appears that the perpetrator of the attack was a female, keeping in line with previous attacks of a similar nature. The suicide attack on a Volgograd bus in October was also committed by a woman.
On Friday evening, a car bombing took place in Pyatigorsk, Stavropol. I expect we will know more about how the bomb used in the Pyatigorsk attack was constructed and what it was made with in the next few days. While they did manage to blow out quite a few windows and killed 3 men, the act itself appeared to be amateur. Caucasian Knot reported [ru] that the location chosen did not experience high traffic, with a local saying that she thought the attack was against the police and not civilians. However, if the goal of Pyatigorsk was psychological (and it appears that it was), the amount of physical damage inflicted was immaterial.
These people are not strategists, neither are they experienced. Even so, the likelihood of similar acts in the next 6 weeks is very high. The goal is psychological – striking fear into the hearts of the authorities, and making them panic. Unfortunately, what that means is that there is no way to predict the next target. The selection of Volgograd and Pyatigorsk seems to indicate that the terrorists cannot manage to travel much farther than that. Either due to problems with papers, or not enough money to bribe their way through checkpoints. Or maybe they’re just not trying. Maybe being closer to Sochi is the goal rather than a strike in Moscow.
I am on the road for the rest of the day. Here are some links to follow for updates on Volgograd:
RT’s liveblog (in English): http://rt.com/news/volgograd-suicide-bombing-updates-940/
A Twitter list: https://twitter.com/rm867/lists/sochi-2014
I have been promising to write this for quite some time, but have never managed to get around to it. The Winter Olympic & Paralympic Games in Sochi are set to begin in about 6 weeks, and the security threat needs to be addressed.
The Canadians wrote a report in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and their media got hold of a copy and released it this week [http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/12/15/notorious-russian-terrorist-could-target-westerners-at-satanic-olympic-games-canadian-intelligence-document/]. However, the report is heavily redacted and offers nothing new in the way of information.
Meanwhile, Stratfor has mapped out the security measures in place for the Olympic Games in Sochi. Which is helpful for those of us who are visual, but I still think that the great threat is to the so-called ‘soft targets’ outside the zone the FSB has set up. But what are those targets?
Security is being tightened around public transportation, especially trains. In April of this year, the Moscow Times reported that “Russian Railways… introduced additional security checks at entrances to 32 major train stations across Russia.” They also implemented other security checks, and gave railway workers more authority to conduct searches of passengers if they feel the need to.
This is a necessity because of past terror acts on trains, including the Sapsan and the Nevsky Express.
The Sapsan is high-speed train that began operating in 2009 between Moscow and St Petersburg. The security services allege that it was the target of a terror act in August 2011 that they managed to foil. This past Tuesday, a Russian newspaper reported that 2 young men rode on the roof of the Sapsan wearing ski-suits and helmets. They were caught, and fined 100 rubles (approximately $3). An amusing story, but it does open up some questions about their methods, and how they were able to do so in the first place.
The Nevsky Express is another high-speed train that also operates between Moscow and St Petersburg. Twice terrorists have hit the Nevsky Express: first in August 2007, and again in November 2009. The second attack resulted in the deaths of 27 persons. The railway promised to put up cameras to monitor the train route, but it is still unclear if they followed through (I’d appreciate any updates).
A new high-speed train has been added to connect Moscow to Adler, where many sporting events will take place during the Olympics. While this has not been hit, an attempt on it cannot be ruled out.
Trains would be relatively easy and inexpensive to hit. A few kilos of TNT on a track would be enough to derail a train, if done right. A train derailment in July on the way to Adler shed light on this. The authorities denied the derailment was the result of an act of terror, though they never offered proof. And the security services cannot monitor every kilometre of track at every moment, even if security cameras have been installed.
Another threat to public transport is that of a suicide bomber on a bus. The terror attack on a Volgograd bus this past October showed that suicide bombing is still a popular method. The infusion of ethnic Russians in the Daghestani branch of the IK, in particular, makes it easier for them to get past checkpoints. Attacks on similar targets, normally outside the scope of the federal authorities purview cannot be discounted.
A plane hijacking or bombing would be more difficult to accomplish, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility. In October of this year, I wrote about a story about a man who attempted to bribe his way onto a plane for under $50. He ultimately failed, but the security risk from the systemic corruption that Russia faces cannot be over emphasized.
I would not discount the possibility of Umarov’s death next month. However, while this would be a victory in the short-term, it would be nothing more than a publicity stunt, as Umarov’s control over the IK is negligible. And in making the threat to Sochi only about Umarov, the Russian security services would be downplaying the true threat and risk to the Olympic games.
The IK is too atomised to effectively carry out a series of coordinated attacks at this time. This is partially due to the Russians’ counter-terrorism efforts, and partially due to poor leadership. Umarov is not a strategist, and it does not appear that anyone else in the IK is either. Nevertheless, a series of lone wolf terror acts cannot be discounted. The infrastructure is still in place in many cells of the IK, particularly in Daghestan, which is where the suicide bomber in Volgograd came from.
As with any public sporting event on the scale of the Winter Olympic Games, it is impossible to fully guarantee security of the fans or the athletes. The risk is even greater for Sochi since it is located near a region that has been experiencing a low-grade civil war for over a decade. The British and American Governments have both issued travel warnings to those attending the Olympic Games. The British even provided a map [h/t Rod McLeod] telling people to stay away from areas bordering Sochi. While the Russian security services are doing their best to protect Sochi, but it may not be enough.
EDIT: It appears that the authorities are preparing the public for Umarov’s sudden death. Kadyrov said today that he hopes (prays?) that Umarov is already dead, and they are just looking for his body. This could be Kadyrov just posturing, but it will be interesting to see where it leads.
The Kremlin accepted the resignation of Kabardino-Balkaria’s chief, Arsen Kanokov, on Friday. A short announcement posted on the President’s website simply stated that Arsen Kanokov had resigned and was being replaced by Yuri Kokov, the former chief of the Interior Ministry’s anti-extremism branch, Department E.
There had been rumours for at least the last 18 months that Kokov wanted Kanokov’s job. A series of arrests in June 2012 of local officials seemed aimed at Kanokov’s relatives and allies. Kokov’s name popped up then as a possible rival to Kanokov, though nothing seemed to come of it. Then six months ago, an ally of Kanokov’s was gunned down in Moscow. His murder was never solved.
A later announcement on the Kremlin’s website showed a photo of Putin meeting with Kokov to discuss the acting chief’s new job. At one point, Putin noted that Kanokov had done a lot for the republic, saying:
Many problems still remain, but on the whole, the dynamic is positive. This applies to the budgetary provision and concerns the development of infrastructure. But, I repeat, the unresolved problems are, of course, much more.
Given Putin’s words and phrasing, it seems likely that Kanokov was relieved of his duties because of the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi. Tensions remain high in the region of the North Caucasus and fears of a terror attack during the Olympics are very real. Yuri Kokov’s appointment speaks to the fears associated with the upcoming event. As former chief of Department E, his experience in fighting extremism likely provides a feeling of security for the federal authorities. Russia has spent close to $51 billion (if not more) in the Olympic games, and Putin has a lot riding on its successful outcome.
Kanokov fought the terrorist threat in his republic as best he could, but his efforts were not acceptable by the Kremlin’s standards. In replacing Kanokov with a security expert, the Kremlin is again attempting to replicate the model of Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechnya. However, that model is not effective. Putin has already tried this in Daghestan this year with disastrous results. The strong leader role that the Kremlin has assigned to Abdulitipov has only turned Daghestan into a war zone, with daily shootouts and bombings. Even the Kremlin’s gold standard — Ramzan Kadyrov — does not fully control Chechnya, though most of the information about acts of terrorism in that republic are hushed.
The terrorist threat to the Sochi Olympic games remains very real, but with less than 100 days remaining to the event, it seems unlikely that replacing Kanovkov will have any real impact.
With a little more than 100 days to go until the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Sochi, security has become a central focus. Any security system has its weak spots, but as two incidents this week have shown, there are too many holes in Russia’s system.
The first incident was a bus bombing in Volgograd on Monday afternoon [http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/10/a_suspected_black_wi.php]. A female suicide bomber boarded a bus and blew it up. As I wrote over in my Global Voices column [http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/10/23/in-wake-of-suicide-bombing-russians-question-their-security/], some in the Russian blogosphere were quick to point out that after 14 years of Putin, Russia’s security apparatus still cannot protect its citizens.
The second incident actually took place last month, but came to light only yesterday. RIA Novosti [http://en.ria.ru/crime/20131023/184311460/Passenger-Skips-Russian-Airport-Checks-for-Bribe-Worth-47.html] reported that a man in Yakutsk bought a domestic plane ticket on a discount, using a false passport. When he arrived at the airport, he bribed a security officer to let him through “pre-flight inspection” with a bottle of cognac and a box of chocolates worth approximately $47. The police arrested the culprit before boarding the plane, but the fact that he got as far as the departure lounge is worrying.
Two stories, two different outcomes, but both reveal the single greatest threat to security surrounding the Winter Olympics in Sochi. There has been a lot of outrage about the security system put in place by the Russian security services for Sochi 2014. A report [http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/06/sochi-olympic-venues-kremlin-surveillance] by security experts Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan “found that phone and Internet networks in Sochi have been retrofitted with a surveillance system, known by its Russian acronym Sorm, which allows the FSB to eavesdrop on phone and data communications in the city [Sochi]” [http://www.themoscowtimes.com/olympic_coverage/article/all-communications-traffic-to-be-monitored-at-sochi-olympics-report-says/487352.html].
But what good is a state of the art security system if a man can bribe his way onto a plane for under $50?