Security officials in Russia and Kyrgyzstan have determined who set off the bomb in St. Petersburg’s metro system yesterday, but the case is far from solved. NBC News reports that a Kyrgyz national with suspect ties to Islamist groups was responsible for both the bomb that detonated and the one that did not — a fortunate turn of events in more ways than one, as his DNA was recovered on the second bomb, which was disguised as a fire extinguisher:
A suicide bomber born in the Central Asia republic of Kyrgyzstan was behind the grisly attack on the St. Petersburg subway, Russian authorities said Tuesday as the death toll rose to 14.
Investigators said body parts of the suspect, Akbarzhon Jalilov, 22, were found in the third car of the mangled train.
His DNA was also found on a second, shrapnel-packed explosive device that was found at another station and safely defused, the country’s Investigative Committee said in a statement.
Case closed? Not really, because there are a number of different groups that have animus toward Russia, and not all of them are in Syria. The Islamist uprising in Chechnya, for instance, goes back more than 230 years, and is still ongoing as a guerilla fight in the Chechen mountains. Moreover, the presence of Putin in St. Petersburg could point to a more domestic intent:
The attack came as Vladimir Putin was visiting the city, his birthplace. A Kremlin spokesman said it was “noteworthy” that it coincided with the president’s presence, but did not elaborate.
Also noteworthy: no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. The LA Times makes note of this in their report today, along with some references to economic and political tensions between Russia and other former Soviet satellites in central Asia:
St. Petersburg residents on Tuesday laid flowers outside the city’s subway where a bomb blast a day earlier killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens. Thousands of miles to the east, authorities in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan identified one suspect as a Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came while President Vladimir Putin was visiting the city, Russia’s second biggest and Putin’s hometown. …
St. Petersburg, like Moscow, is home to a large diaspora of Central Asian migrants who flee poverty and unemployment in their home countries for jobs in Russia. While most Central Asian migrants in Russia have work permits or work illegally, thousands of them have received Russian citizenship in the past decades.
Russian authorities have rejected calls to impose visas on Central Asian nationals, hinting that having millions of jobless men across the border from Russia would be a bigger security threat.
Normally, ISIS doesn’t take long to claim responsibility, and their silence is at least a little curious. Adding to the curiosity is a terrorist attack at nearly the same time that killed two police officers in Astrakhan, a Caspian Sea city near Kazakhstan, and just a few hours’ drive from Chechnya. The odds are against the two being linked, but it’s not an impossibility either.
For now, even if this identification holds up, there seems to be little evidence on which to determine the motive for the attack other than radical Islamism, and even that may be a sketchy conclusion at the moment.