December 5, 2003: Suicide bombing of train in Russia

A probable Chechen suicide bomber killed 46 people and wounded more than 170 in an attack on a Russian train in December 2003

A probable Chechen suicide bomber killed 46 people and wounded more than 170 in an attack on a Russian train in December 2003.

YESSENTUKI, RUSSIA – Interfering unnecessarily in the affairs of a neighbouring state may invite unwanted repercussions.

In some ways you have to feel for Russia these days. The former Soviet Union controlled a huge empire across much of Asia and, together with its allies, vied for world domination with the US (and its allies) for half a century.

The Soviet Union is of course no more and the Russia it left behind is a mere shadow of its former geographical expanse (but still the planet’s single largest nation by far – almost twice as big as my own Canada), although current President Vladimir Putin sure is trying to fix that. Whether it is interference in US elections or power projection in the Middle East and Africa it seems that Russia is keen to recover its former status.

Power projection does have its own drawbacks, however. Interfering in the affairs of another nation can invite retribution, sometimes in the form of terrorist attacks. And no better example can be found than that of Chechnya.

This region in the southwest Caucasus region is a quasi autonomous republic in the Russian Federation. It has long had a reputation for lawlessness and a reluctance to be subject to the whims of anyone else, Russia included. Going back to the time of the Tsars, Moscow has been trying to impose its will on the region, with little success. In turn, Chechnya has produced a number of Islamist extremist groups, one of which was probably responsible for today’s featured attack.

On this day in 2003 a bomb exploded on a train traveling from Kislovodsk to Mineralnye Vody in Russia’s Stavropol region northwest of the Chechen border. Authorities blamed a suicide bomber for the attack, which killed 46 and wounded more than 170.

The ground will burn under their feet.

Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, vowing to find the perpetrators

The attack may have been timed to disrupt parliamentary elections in Russia. Officials prevented a separate terrorist attack in the southern region of Ingushetia and detained two women in a car laden with explosives and weapons.

Russia’s involvement/interference in Chechnya did not abate. And while we all agree that terrorists must be apprehended and prevented from carrying out their spree of wanton violence, meddling unnecessarily in a region’s affairs strikes me as a bad way to go about this.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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