LONDON (Reuters) - Islamist rebel leader Doku Umarov said on Monday he had ordered a suicide bombing that killed 36 people at Russia’s busiest airport last month.
Umarov, 46, speaking in a video carried by the Islamist website www.Kavkazcenter.com, said there would be further such attacks in pursuit of an independent Muslim state governed by Sharia law in Russia’s Caucasus region — a territory embracing Chechnya, Dagestan and other nearby territories.
Umarov appeared in the video, apparently made on the day of the January 24 attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, wearing combat fatigues, talking quietly and hesitantly.
“The special operation today in Moscow ... was carried out on my orders,” said Umarov, who styles himself the Emir of the Caucasus.
“These special operations will continue ... to show the chauvinist regime of (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin in Moscow ... that we can carry out these operations where we want and when we want,” he said, pointing a finger toward the camera.
The attack bore the hallmark of Caucasus rebels but Monday’s video was the first time Umarov had claimed direct responsibility for it.
Putin launched a war in late 1999 that crushed a rebel government in Chechnya and has made re-establishment of Kremlin rule there a personal political priority. The military operation has largely subdued insurgency in Chechnya, but Islamist rebels now operate with increasing force in neighboring Dagestan and Ingushetia.
Violence is fed by poverty, corruption, clan rivalries and religious militancy. President Dmitry Medvedev has called insurgency in the Caucasus the biggest threat to national security in the vast multi-ethnic country stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific.
The attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport took place in a crowded terminal building on a busy late afternoon. Russian officials say the suicide bomber was a 20-year-old native of the North Caucasus.
Umarov appeared in a separate video on February 5 declaring that Russia faced a year of ‘blood and tears’ if it refused to abandon its North Caucasus territories. He appeared with a young man he described as a ‘brother’ being dispatched to Moscow to carry out an unspecified operation.
He said he was visiting the Riyadus-Salikhiyn battalion, which took responsibility for the 2004 Beslan school massacre, where more than 320 people died, as well as more recent actions such as a September market bombing in Vladikavkaz in the North Caucasus.
Writing by Ralph Boulton; editing by Tim Pearce