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9/27/15

Terrorism Islamist threat forces Putin′s hand

It's been a good week for President Vladimir Putin. Apparently all is quiet in eastern Ukraine, he opened a new Grand Mosque in Moscow that will accommodate up to 10,000 people and he's had conversations with Israeli and Arab leaders about his peace plans for the Middle East and Russia's role in Syria. And right about now his aides will be polishing the speech he's set to deliver to the United Nations in New York next week.

It's expected that the speech will present a plan similar to that he proposed in 2012 to ease Syria's President Bashar al-Assad out of power and may also outline his plan for a coalition of nations who will band together and fight the "Islamic State" (IS) group.

Analysts have speculated that Putin is either attempting to strut large on a global stage and provide some kind of counterbalance to a US-centric world, or that he's protecting his military assets and naval access to the Mediterranean from Syria, or that he's trying to divert attention away from the annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine. And there may be elements of those involved but there's also much more to it than that.

Russia has approximately 20 million Muslims as part of its indigenous population, most are in the Volga-Urals region or in the caucuses in republics like Dagestan and Chechnya where it's already fought two wars with separatists. Its close neighbors include a number of Muslim republics including Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran and Afghanistan.

And over the past few years it's had its fair share of terrorist incidents attributed to Muslim extremists. I won't name all of them but here's a few in no particular order: the 2011 Domodedovo Airport bombing (37 killed), the 2010 Moscow metro bombing (36 killed), the 2004 Beslan school bombing (385 killed), the 2002

Moscow theatre siege, the 2013 Volgograd bombings, the 2004 almost simultaneous bombings aboard two aircraft that killed 89, and the 1999 apartment block bombings that killed almost 300 and were the justification for the second Chechen war. (It's alleged that the apartment bombings were plotted by the then KGB to justify its second war.) In total almost 3,000 Russian have been killed as a result of about 105 terrorist actions from 1994-2004 according to Johnston's Archive - a research site that pulls together figures from various sources.

Read more: Islamist threat forces Putin′s hand | Europe | DW.COM | 27.09.2015

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