The New Great Game Round-Up: January 5, 2014

Turkey: NGOs, Al-Qaeda & Erdogan, Beijing Blasts Double Standards, Kremlin Under Pressure After Volgograd Bombings & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

2013 was a memorable year for the Russian city of Volgograd. At the beginning of February, Russia celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad, which ultimately denied the German war machine access to the crucial oil fields near Baku and led to the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII. In commemoration of this decisive battle, Volgograd will from now on be renamed as Stalingrad for a few days each year.

But 2013 will also be remembered because the important industrial city has become the latest target in the ongoing terror campaign plaguing the Russian Federation:

Consecutive Volgograd suicide bombing kills at least 15 (PHOTOS, GRAPHIC VIDEO)

A terrorist attack in the Russian city of Volgograd has killed at least 15 passengers on a trolleybus. The explosion comes just one day after a separate suicide bombing in the city killed 18 people and injured scores of others.

104 people were injured in twin blasts and 33 were killed, according to the Emergencies Ministry.

Kremlin Under Pressure After Volgograd Bombings

Already in October of last year, a female suicide bomber set off a bomb on a bus in Volgograd killing six people and injuring 37. According to Russian investigators, the attack was carried out by Nadia Asiyalova, a Dagestani national and wife of militant Dmitry Sokolov. Sokolov had joined a terrorist group in Dagestan's capital Makhachkala and was recently killed by Russian security forces. Another member of the insurgency in Dagestan, Pavel Pechenkin, is allegedly responsible for one of the latest suicide bombings. This indicates that the terror attacks in Volgograd can be traced back to the Islamist insurgency in Russia's North Caucasus, which continues to keep local law enforcement officers busy:

Two Militants Killed in Russia’s North Caucasus

Two militants were killed by the Russian security forces in the republic of Dagestan in the North Caucasus on Thursday following an anti-terror operation, the authorities said.

Russian Terror Plots Foiled after Suspected Militants Killed

Three suspected militants alleged to be planning attacks for the Russian holiday season were killed Monday in a counter-terrorism operation, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAK) said. 

The suspected leader and two other alleged gang members died in an exchange of fire with law–enforcement officers who had surrounded a house in the town of Chegem in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.

With the Winter Olympics in Sochi only one month away, the North Caucasus' security situation takes top priority in Moscow and the Kremlin is certainly alarmed by the latest suicide bombings. After all, Volgograd is about at the same distance from Dagestan as Sochi and an ideal target for practice. Furthermore, both the leader of the Caucasus Emirate Doku Umarov and his boss, Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, have threatened to cause problems with regard to the Olympic Winter Games. Only one day before the first suicide bombing hit the railway station in Volgograd, one of Doku Umarov's close associates was killed in Dagestan:

Member of Russia’s most-wanted terrorist Umarov’s gang killed

Russian law enforcers have killed a close aid of Doku Umarov, the most notorious terrorist leader in the country, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee reports.

The slain militant was identified as Islam Atiev, 23, who was a member of the gang led by Doku Umarov. Police suspected him of numerous attacks on officers, some of which involved the use of improvised explosive devices.

A confrontation between three militants hiding in a house in the Khasavyurt region of Dagestan in Russia’s south and security troops on Saturday involved a blast in the building, sources from local law enforcement told Interfax earlier.

Although the Caucasus Emirate has so far not claimed responsibility for the attacks and Russian authorities have not mentioned any "Saudi trace", some voices in the Russian and Iranian media suggested that the House of Saud should be directly held accountable for the December 2013 Volgograd bombings:

Russian press calls for crackdown on terror

Kirill Benediktov, writing in Izvestiya, expects further attempted terrorist attacks in Russia until the Olympics in Sochi are over, and believes the attacks are intended to discredit Russia.

''There is no doubt that the Salafist regimes of the Persian Gulf, primarily Saudi Arabia, have been supporting Islamic terrorism in Russia… Russia is now strong enough to afford unfriendly measures towards the regimes that have been using the Wahhabi fifth column in order to destabilise the situation in our country,'' says Benediktov.

There is certainly no doubt about Saudi Arabia's support for Islamic terrorism in Russia but it is important to ask to which degree Riyadh is an independent player and not acting on orders from Washington. We have to remember that the United States is ultimately the creator and sustainer of terrorism directed against the Russian Federation. Russia's Foreign Ministry merely hinted at the geopolitical dimension of the attacks when it issued a statement urging international players to stop dividing "terrorists as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ones, depending on current geopolitical aims." This message was probably directed at Washington and is reminiscent of many Russian statements over the past few years regarding terrorist activities in Syria. For now the Kremlin refrains from striking Saudi Arabia and focuses instead on assuring the Russian population that everything is under control. President Vladimir Putin issued an order to enhance security measures in every Russian city and in Volgograd in particular where subsequently a massive anti-terror operation was launched:  

"Vikhr-Anti-terror" in Volgograd: more than 700 detainees

The operation "Vikhr-Anti-terror", launched after the attacks in Volgograd, ended today with more than 700 detainees. "Across the region, the police together with dog experts checked about 6 thousand objects, including 2500 residential units, with a careful examination of attics and basements, 37 bus stations and 23 railway stations", the department of the MIA in the Volgograd region reported.

At the same time, they managed to arrest 12 wanted offenders, as well as 70 suspects of various crimes.

It is unclear whether any real terrorists were among the 700 detainees or if the police captured only criminals and illegals migrants. At any rate, Moscow wants to show that it is in control of the security situation in Volgograd as well as in the North Caucasus. In the aftermath of the suicide bombings, Russian Special Forces in Dagestan reportedly proved their ability to identify and eliminate terrorists who committed mass killings in Russia:

Suspected Moscow metro bomber killed in Dagestan

One of the suspected terrorists who allegedly launched an attack on the Moscow metro was killed on Thursday during a special operation in Khasavyurt, Dagestan; a source in the republic's law-enforcement agencies is quoted as saying. 

Marat Shakhshiitov was believed to have been killed last February, but it turned out that he was alive.

The 2010 Moscow Metro bombings, which were perpetrated by Doku Umarov's Caucasus Emirate and resulted in the death of at least 40 people, are anything but forgotten and Russia's terror problem continues to give Russian leaders headaches. While several politicians demand a tough response, there is still strong opposition in Russia's State Duma to excessive anti-terrorist measures such as "total surveillance" and the reinstatement of the death penalty. Nevertheless, President Putin has vowed to pursue terrorists to their "total annihilation" in his traditional New Year's Eve address and so we can expect at least some changes in the legal framework:

Putin Signs Law Punishing Separatism with Jail

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law would make spreading separatist views a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in jail.

Lawmakers said the legislation was an effort to curb increasing public support for the idea of relinquishing mainly Muslim territories in the restive North Caucasus.

If Putin succeeds in annihilating all terrorists will also depend on the foreign puppet masters of the North Caucasus insurgency. Bandar Bush and the House of Saud are of course not the only players supporting terrorism in Russia on behalf of Washington. 

Turkey: NGOs, Al-Qaeda & Erdogan

NATO member and close U.S. ally Turkey plays a vital role in this regard. As discussed previously, the Kremlin is especially fed up with Turkish aid organizations like Imkander. Since Imkander supports the Caucasus Emirate, individuals associated with the Turkish NGO who are doing "aid work for Chechens" risk being assassinated by a Kremlin hit team even if they live in Turkey. Another Turkish aid organization known for its support of the "Chechen rebels", the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), made major headlines in Turkey this week when it was caught red-handed delivering weapons to the "Syrian rebels":

Suspicious of arms shipment, Turkish army stops truck bound for Syria 

Turkish gendarmes reportedly discovered weapons and ammunition after pursuing a truck bound for Syria in the southern province of Hatay on Wednesday.

Acting on a tip, gendarmes stopped a truck that allegedly belongs to an aid organization on a road between Kırıkhan and Reyhanlı near the Syrian border.

A significant amount of ammunition and weapons were discovered, according to local reports. When news reports appeared in the media, the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) strongly rejected any link to the seized truck in a written statement.

The truck was escorted by Turkish intelligence officers (MIT) who along with Hatay Governor Celalettin Lekesiz tried to prevent security forces from executing a search warrant ordered by prosecutors. Police officers who followed and stopped the vehicle have reportedly been relieved of their duty and almost all state units were mobilized to prevent an inspection. Although the regional director of the IHH was allegedly also on the truck, the Turkish NGO denies any links to the truck and insists that it delivers only humanitarian aid to Syria. However, this is not the first time the IHH has been implicated in gun-running to Syria and considering IHH's history, nobody should be surprised [emphasis mine]:

Shooting the Messenger: A Look at the Facts on the Turkish Aid Group IHH

On December 5, 1997, Turkish police raided the IHH headquarters office in Istanbul and arrested its principal leaders. Following their preliminary inquiry, on April 27, 1998, Turkish investigators launched a formal legal case against the IHH. According to a report produced by French counterterrorism magistrates, the inquiry was spurred by the sale of an AK-47 assault rifle to an IHH leader by "a member of the illegal organization VASAT." Turkish police reported seizing a series of disturbing items from the IHH in Turkey, including an explosive device, two sticks of dynamite, bomb making instructions, and a "jihad flag." The French magistrates report noted that:

"It appears that the detained members of IHH were going to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya... The essential goal of this Association was to illegally arm its membership for overthrowing democratic, secular, and constitutional order present in Turkey and replacing it with an Islamic state founded on the Shariah. Under the cover of this organization known under the name of IHH, [IHH leaders] acted to recruit veteran soldiers in anticipation of the coming holy war. In particular, some men were sent into war zones in Muslim countries in order to acquire combat experience. On the spot, the formation of a military unit was assured. In addition, towards the purpose of obtaining political support from these countries, financial aid was transferred [from IHH], as well as caches of firearms, knives, and pre-fabricated explosives."

The really remarkable thing about the whole story is not that Turkish intelligence and aid organizations deliver weapons to terrorists but that somebody tried to expose Ankara's support of al-Qaeda in Syria. "Somebody" is in this case Hizmet, the vast movement of CIA-backed cleric Fethullah Gülen, which wields enormous influence over Turkey's police, judiciary and media. Turkey is currently experiencing a major power struggle between the country's two most powerful men and formerly close allies, Fethullah Gülen and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Gülen movement targets Erdogan among others by exposing the AKP government's backing of al-Qaeda not just in Syria but in general:

Report: Al-Qaeda suspects flee after Turkish gov't blocks raid

Al-Qaeda-linked Yusuf Al Qadi and Osama Khoutub, who are among the suspects in a major graft probe, have reportedly fled Turkey after the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) blocked a police raid on Wednesday as İstanbul police refused to comply with orders of prosecutors to detain several suspects in the second leg of the investigation.

Gülen's mouthpiece Today's Zaman used the opportunity to emphasize the close ties between terrorist financier Yasin al-Qadi and the Erdogan family. In the past, Erdogan publicly defended al-Qadi when links between the Saudi businessman and Erdogan's right hand, Cuneyd Zapsu, were criticized:

"I know Yasin, I believe in him as I do in myself. He is acharitable person who loves Turkey."

But al-Qadi's activities in Turkey could now cause some problems for the Prime Minister. In addition to establishing extensive trade connections, the terrorist financier regularly met with Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT), and after one such meeting Yasin al-Qadi and Osama Khoutub ended up in a Susurluk-style car crash. Gülen-controlled media have publicized much of this in last few days but they will not dare to mention that al-Qadi is a Gladio B operative who had previously the backing of Fethullah Gülen and that he took part in the now infamous pre-9/11 meetings at the U.S. embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, where illustrious characters like Bandar bin Sultan and Ayman al-Zawahiri showed up. After all, the Gülen movement itself plays a central role in the Pentagon's Operation Gladio B.

Beijing Blasts Double Standards

Speaking of Gladio B, on the same day the second suicide bombing struck Volgograd highlighting Russia's terror problem, Beijing was reminded that efforts to destabilize Xinjiang continue as well:

8 terrorists killed in Xinjiang attack

Eight terrorists were shot dead and another one captured by police during a terrorist attack early Monday morning in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, authorities said.

The nine terrorists attacked a police station wielding knives at around 6 a.m. in Shache County in the Kashgar region. They also threw explosives and set police cars on fire.

In light of this new attack, the Chinese government did not appreciate Washington's decision to send the last three Uyghur inmates held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp to Slovakia. According to Beijing, the Uyghurs are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is not implausible since most of the Uyghurs at Guantanamo were captured near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in late 2001 and were believed to have trained with the Taliban:

US denounced for not returning Uyghur terrorists

"China has always requested the US transfer the Chinese inmates detained in Guantanamo Bay detention center back to China and firmly opposes the US decision to send these detainees to a third nation for settlement, as well as any countries that receive them," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular briefing.

He stated that the Uyghur terrorists, who are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a terrorist group listed by the UN Security Council, were not only a threat to China's security but also the security of the receiving nation. China also hopes the relevant countries act within international obligations and transfer these terrorists back to China, he added.

Qin also urged the United States not to send "the wrong signal to violent terrorist forces" and to abandon double standards regarding terrorism. Washington's approach to anti-Chinese terrorist activities has repeatedly been criticized by Beijing and a recent op-ed article in the Global Times raised the issue again with regard to the latest attacks in Russia and China:

Double standards on anti-terrorism threaten endeavor

Washington's double standards on the anti-terrorism issue still remain stubborn. Following the suicide bombings earlier this week, Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson of the US State Department, said on Monday "we condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks in Volgograd." But concerning the terrorist attack on the same day in Shache county of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Harf said in a statement that "We continue to call on the Chinese government to permit its citizens to express their grievances freely, publicly, peacefully and without fear of retribution. We also call on Uyghurs to not resort to violence, for the Chinese security forces to exercise restraint."

Washington's double-standard approach to terrorism, together with its paranoia on Xinjiang or Tibet related issues, has damaging, erosive effects on international anti-terrorism endeavors.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here

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  1. Joshua Roberts says:

    a geopolitical tour de force, as always.

  2. tonywicher says:

    Washington, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, Britain and France are all part of the same Anglo-American financial empire. Saudi Arabia, along with Kuwait, UAE and other Sunni oil kingdoms, and Turkey churn out these terrorist irregular troops through their madrassas and then use them to attack targets the empire wants to take down, such as Syria, Iran, Russia and China. Washington is as much a colony of the empire as Saudi Arabia at this point. The U.S. presidency is occupied by an impostor who is an imperial agent. The imperial objective is nothing less than world hegemony, and they threaten a world war where they can strike first and win. The rest of the world is uniting economically and militarily against the empire into a new Eurasian zone . It is gaining in economic power as the imperial financial system collapses. What we must do in this country is free our country from the imperial forces that have hijacked our government. We should attack them at the points of their greatest weakness. First, break up the “too big to fail banks” by re-enacting Glass-Steagall in full force. This will break the financial grip of the empire on our economy. Second, push for re-opening the investigation into 9/11, beginning by demanding the release of the 28 redacted pages from the 9/11 report. Combine this with demands to expose the relationship that currently exists between the U.S., the Saudis, and Al Qaeda as manifested in Benghazi, etc.

    If I were Putin, I would be seriously considering bombing Riyadh. It might start world war III, so he probably won’t do it, but still, think about. Just one little “precision” bomb, just one almost painless “surgical” strike to take out the top 34 members of the Saudi royal family in response to the 34 innocent people killed in Vogograd. Who would miss them?

  3. So what is going in Turkey? Erdogan and Gulen seemed to work hand in hand against Asad. Gulen’s media supported Erdogan during his Taksim Square trouble. Why are they suddenly at war? Is it that Erdogan has good relations with Putin and is unwilling to cooperate in terror operations in Russia?

  4. Hi Christoph, what’s your source exactly for al-qadi having been present at the Baku embassy meetings?
    I only know of Sibel mentioning al-Zawahiri and Bandar.

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