The Islamic terrorists responsible for Friday’s bombing in Moscow probably chose the subway as their target for the same reason Palestinian terrorists choose buses. They are public spaces, filled with crowds. When a bomb detonates in a contained space like a bus or train, the ricocheting shrapnel shreds limbs and flesh and breaks bones. The shock waves crumple internal organs, shatter eardrums and tear lungs. It usually causes a fire, suffocating and burning those victims still alive. This is partly why suicide attacks, on average, kill four times as many people as other forms of terrorism.
The Chechen people will be broadly blamed in Russia for this attack, but it is militant Islam that is responsible. The Chechens have been struggling against the Russians since the late 18th century. But during the mid-1990s, Chechen leaders rejected total independence from the Russian Federation in favor of greater autonomy within Russia. During this time, militant Islam hijacked the Chechen cause, turning a legitimate struggle for self-governance into a savage jihad.
Unlike the Palestinians and their terrorists, the Moscow bombers do not enjoy the popular support of the Chechen people. Chechens rightly understand that terrorism is a wholly destructive force. They have witnessed how the infiltration of radical Islam over the last decade into their beleaguered struggle has led to nothing but tragedy. In fact, most Chechens correctly blame the current round of fighting, which began in 1999, on the Islamic militants. The tragedy is that the Russian-Chechen conflict has a solution, but the jihadists ensure it will never be reached.
Instead, tens of millions of dollars in funding from Osama bin Laden and oil-rich Gulf states have poured into Chechnya. According to The Wall Street Journal, Zacarias Moussaoui – accused as the 20th 9/11 hijacker – was once a recruiter for al-Qaedain Chechnya. Most eerie of all, a German trial in October 2002 revealed that Mohammed Atta – the 9/11 plot’s ringleader – had planned to fight in Chechnya.
As a result of their fanatical ideology and the bloodshed it has triggered, the Islamic militants have worsened a terrible situation. Chechnya is a place of ruin where schools no longer operate, tens of thousands have perished or been made refugees and the dream of a self-governing Chechnya has dissolved into thin air.
“They’ll tell you they are fighting for Islam,” one Chechen Muslim religious leader said. “But our grandfathers and fathers gave us Islam, and that Islam shows the way to heaven. Their Islam is the way to hell. Guns, bombs, fighting. That is not Chechen Islam.”
Chechnya is just one more battleground in Osama bin Laden’s global holy war. The Moscow subway bombers were part of the same international union of suicidal believers who have brought bombing devastation to Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Israel, Kashmir, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Afghanistan, the Philippines and Kenya. In their wake they leave nothing but murdered innocents, destabilized nations and human suffering. Theirs is a sick, violent faith composed of manipulated religious tradition, crazed conspiracy theories about diabolical enemies, and pathological cults of suicide and murder. The list of terrorized countries above demonstrates why Islamic militancy is the most dangerous movement of this century.
In televised remarks after the bombing, Russian President Vladimir Putin called terrorism “the plague of the 21st century.” He is right.
Every act of terrorism is a crime against humanity, because it violates perhaps the central moral lesson of the 20th century: It is never acceptable to target and murder innocent people for reasons of politics. If civilization is to survive, terrorism must be understood in the same way as slavery and genocide – universal crimes that no circumstances can justify – and that must be unequivocally condemned.
Joey Tartakovsky is a Daily Nexus columnist. His column runs Mondays.