35 people have been killed in an explosion at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport and over 165 others are said to have been injured in what the Investigative Committee believes to have been a terror attack.
According to an airport spokesperson the more seriously injured have been taken to local hospitals while others were treated at the airport, some of the victims are believed to have been foreign citizens.
Investigators believe the incident was a terrorist act committed by a suicide bomber. The bomb was detonated in the arrivals area of the international terminal at the airport at 4:32 PM local time as passengers met with loved ones and collected their baggage.
It has been reported the bomber may have been wearing a vest containing the explosive which was packed heavily with shrapnel.
Police are also searching for three suspects in connection with the attack after watching airport security footage. In addition, it has become apparent Russia’s Federal Security Bureau knew of the possibility of a suicide bomber, but their information was to incomplete to act.
As of yet, no one has taken credit for the attack. Investigations into the incident are ongoing and security has been tightened at all Moscow area transportation hubs.
The US reaction, in a statement by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on behalf of US President Barack Obama said:
“I strongly condemn this outrageous act of terrorism against the Russian people at the Domodedovo Airport. I want to express the solidarity of the American people with the Russian people in the aftermath of this premeditated attack against innocent civilians. Michelle and I offer our deepest condolences to the Russian people, who have suffered greatly at the hands of terrorism. We share your sorrow and a resolve to stand with you in our common fight against those who use terrorism for their political goals. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims and we are praying for a successful recovery for all of those who were injured.”
Fred Burton, the vice president of intelligence at STRATFOR, a strategic intelligence firm, said he and his colleges were not surprised by the attack.
“We have been writing about the soft target threat for quite some time,” he said. “The natures of airports in general, they are a very logical target set.”
Airports have repeatedly been targets in the past, and even with security measures, there are accessible areas of the airport where many members of the public can enter without passing any security check points.
“If you think about it from a terrorist’s perspective, you are able to get into that kind of an environment and be successful with an improvised expletive device with low probability of getting caught,” Burton said.
In fact, he said he was suppressed there have not been more attacks of this nature, especially in the United States, given the easy access to non-secure areas of American airports and their modern open designs.
Moving forward, he explained is it highly important intelligence agencies have cutting edge technology and information resources for surveillance, citing new technologies used to capture images of potential suspects.
At this point, based on the crime scene, there is a good chance Russian security forces have a working file on the suspect and his or her connections and global intelligence groups will cooperate to prevent further incidents.
Investigative journalist Wayne Madsen said he finds the location of the attack to be very interesting, given the upcoming World Cup and Winter Olympic events.
“It’s a message,” he commented. “I think it’s to hurt Russia’s international image and that’s why this particular location was chosen.”
Airports are easier targets, especially in open and less secure areas. To prevent future incidents, it may be wise to add a new layer of security using common sense approach, adding identity check points in and around the terminals, he said.
“What do you do? Do you putting security on people entering the actual terminal itself? Maybe that’s going to be necessary now,” Madsen said. “Open societies do not mean societies where people can go around and blow themselves and blow others up with them or staged team revolutions that start out as street protests and wind up as full scale coup d'état and revolutions. That’s not what an open society is.
Madsen argued the US should make sure no aid from US government agencies or projects is reaching groups who use terror, such as opposition groups in Chechnya and Dagestan and should help by focusing its resources on global terrorism, not rounding up alleged Russian spies domestically. In addition, US based think tanks and advocacy groups to make certain their international partners and supported groups are not involved in terrorist activities in the region.
Professor Kimberly Marten, the chair of political science at Barnard College of Columbia University in New Yorkcalled the incident a terrible, yet predictable, tragedy.
She said the attack will boast, as intended, international ramifications. It was targeted at an international terminal at a major airport, around a time when flights would be coming and going to and from a number of nations. In addition, it prevented Russian President Dmitry Medvedev from attending and speaking at the Davos World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
The time and location of the attack is significant and was designed to send a message to the international community in light of the fact Russia will soon host both the Winter Olympics and World Cup, she added.
“The leaders were trying to send a message to get as much international attention as they could, probably to try to derail Russia’s efforts to get more international investments in the Russian economy,” she commented. “We also have to look at why people in the North Caucasus tolerate this, why they give their support to the terrorist rather than turn them into the police.”
Marten explained there is a problem of mistrust, the people of the Caucasus look negatively at Moscow. The problem has become systematic and must be addressed to prevent future attacks.
Moving forward Russia needs to start with police reform, she argued. Russia needs to eliminate corruption and police brutality in order to better work with the people and gain trust.