Why would ISIS attack Russia?

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the massacre at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow on Friday night.

As Russian media says the death toll is expected reach 143, the question many are asking is why would ISIS attack Russia?

How it happened:

  • At least 5 gunmen with automatic weapons stormed the Crocus City Hall on Friday night, where rock band Picnic was performing. They fired into the crowd and detonated explosives.
  • At least 187 people were injured, with the official death toll expected to climb to 143 on Sunday.
  • Russian police have arrested 11 people in connection with the attack, including four directly involved.
  • On Saturday, ISIS posted a photo of four people it claims carried out the attack on Telegram and issued a statement reading; “The attack was carried out by four IS fighters armed with machine guns, a pistol, knives and firebombs.”
  • Ukraine claims to have “nothing to do” with the attack.

Why would ISIS attack Russia?

ISIS was most likely motivated to attack Russia for two key reasons.

1) Russia’s support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime in the war against IS that erupted in 2012.
2) Russia’s occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and a long-held view since that Russia has been complicit in suppressing Islam.

ISIS and ISIS-K (the particular branch of ISIS that is reportedly responsible for the Moscow terror attack) have stated intentions to terrorise Russia in the past.

“IS-K has been fixated on Russia for the past two years, frequently criticizing Putin in its propaganda,” Colin Clarke of Soufan Center, told SBS.

Recruited on telegram

ISIS has carried out numerous smaller-scale attacks in Russia over the past decade.

More recently, Russian intelligence thwarted a planned attack on a synagogue in Moscow earlier this month.

Last month, a Russian national accused of having Islamic State links was arrested in Poland and another was arrested working at the construction site of a new nuclear facility in Turkey. 

According to Islamic politics expert Greg Baton, “opportunity and personnel” likely led the group to “select a soft target in Moscow, as much as anything else”.

Video circulating online shows one of the attackers from Friday’s Crocus City Hall attack claiming to have been recruited on Telegram.

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