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Religious Extremism Finds Fertile Ground

Published: October 18, 2005 (Issue # 1114)


MOSCOW The indiscriminate suppression of unofficial Islamic organizations in Kabardino-Balkaria combined with poverty and historical grievances have created fertile ground for a virulent strain of religious extremism, as manifested by Thursdays violent raids.

The coordinated attacks in the republics capital, Nalchik, ended a relative lull throughout the North Caucasus region since last years horrendous hostage-taking drama in Beslan and demonstrated a lasting commitment to trying to destabilize the region in the hope of wresting swathes of it from Moscows control.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a continuation of the tactic of staging attacks to destabilize an increasingly number of areas in the North Caucasus, said Alexei Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

In the past year, networks of insurgents and terrorists have staged almost daily, smaller-scale attacks on police and other officials in Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya and other ethnic republics of the North Caucasus.

Several hours after the launch of the daring multipronged assault on key government facilities in Nalchik, the web site of these networks posted a statement claiming they had been led by the Kabardino-Balkaria-based group Yarmuk.

Yarmuk comprises the Kabardino-Balkaria part of the North Caucasus network of Islamic militants who are often, but not always correctly, referred to in Russia

as Wahhabis. Yarmuk, which has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks on police in the republic since 2004, coordinates it actions with Shamil Basayev, the most notorious terrorist of the North Caucasus.

Thursdays claim of responsibility was confirmed by Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov, who accused Anzor Astemirov, a Yarmuk leader, of having organized the Nalchik attacks.

Much of the responsibility for the rise of Yarmuk must be borne by the longtime leader of Kabardino-Balkaria, Valery Kokov, who tolerated no political or religious dissent in the mostly Muslim republic. Using a tactic employed by other strongmen running North Caucasus republics, he labeled all alternatives to the local branch of the Spiritual Board of the Muslims of Russia as Wahhabis and harassed them.

Kokov resigned in September and was replaced by Arsen Kanokov, a pro-Kremlin State Duma deputy and businessman.

The 15 years of Kokovs strong-handed rule radicalized unofficial Muslim organizations to such a degree that some of their members have gone underground and taken up arms to fight the local regime in alliance with the insurgent and terrorist networks operating across the North Caucasus, experts on the region said.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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