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The terrorist alert that Putin ignored

The terrorist alert that Putin ignored

The United States had already warned of the Islamic State attack in Moscow, but the Kremlin ignored it. The US embassy in Russia issued an alert on March 7 stating that it was “monitoring reports of an attack in Moscow planned by extremists, potentially targeting large gatherings, including concerts.” Apparently, the Islamic State-Khorasan, known as ISIS-K, the Afghanistan-based branch of the group, had been planning an attack in the Russian capital for some time. The terrorist organization is not new to the United States. It is the same one that in 2021, during the American evacuation from Afghanistan, attacked more than a dozen American service members and dozens of civilians.

Despite the tension between the two countries over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States claims to be “horrified by the reports of the terrorist attack,” and wanted to convey its “condolences to the Russian people for the lives lost and those injured in the attack” through a statement on the website of its embassy in Russia. A message to which the Secretary of State has joined, Antony Blinkenwho has said that his country condemns the attack and “stands in solidarity with the people of Russia who mourn the loss of life.”

Although Washington’s warnings did not provide many more details about the nature of the attack in the Russian capital, they did make it clear that Ukraine had nothing to do with what could happen, despite the Kremlin’s latest hints. The US State Department assures that they would not have used the word “extremist” if the attack order had come from Kyiv. The message from the spokesperson for the National Security Council was also along the same lines, John Kirbyensuring that the White House “had no indication at this time that Ukraine or Ukrainians were involved.”

“The U.S. government also shared this information with Russian authorities in accordance with its long-standing policy of ‘duty to warn’ potential targets” of the dangers they face, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrianne Watson. As in January, Washington warned Iran of a possible attack before two bomb attacks killed dozens of people at an event in memory of a former Iranian general.

Russian forces ignored the March 7 warning, thinking it was an attempt to scare their people at a time of confrontation between the powers over the invasion of Ukraine. In fact, its president, Vladimir Putin, responded to this alert 12 days later, ensuring that it was “obvious blackmail”, a “provocation” to “intimidate and destabilize our society.” This is despite the fact that the Russian authorities themselves had reported several incidents related to ISIS in recent days. On March 3, the state agency RIA Novosti reported that six members of the group had died in an anti-terrorist operation in Ingush Karabulak.

Less than a week later, Russian security services neutralized a cell of the Vilayat Khorasan organization that was planning an attack on a synagogue in Moscow, and on March 20, the commander of an ISIS battle group was detained.

The US Embassy turned a deaf ear to Kremlin officials’ denial of its intelligence reports and continued to urge Americans living in Russia to remain alert and informed, avoiding large gatherings. In fact, shortly after the attack, the North American embassy in Russia posted a statement on its website informing that the travel alert is level 4 and it is recommended not to travel to Russia.

According to US officials, most of the plots the group has organized in Europe have been foiled, which is why the branch was believed to be more weakened.