This Day In History: January 24

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On January 24, 2011, a bomb explodes in the international arrivals hall of Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport, killing 35 people and injuring 173 others. The Caucasus Emirate, a militant jihadist group based in Chechnya, claimed responsibility, adding to a string of terrorist attacks stemming from the conflict in Russia’s Caucasian territories.

In the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, the North Caucasian region of Chechnya experienced decades of unrest. While Russia officially re-established control over the region in 2009, an increasingly jihadist insurgency continued fighting government forces. Bombings by Chechen separatists and jihadists were common throughout Russia in the 2000s—Chechen terrorists had also destroyed two aircraft after smuggling bombs through security at Domodedovo in 2004. The Caucasus Emirate was founded by Duka Umarov, the former president of the breakaway Chechen Republic of Ichkeria who declared his state a Salafist emirate in 2007. The emirate claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian train in 2009 and a bombing that killed 40 on the Moscow metro in 2010.

The 2011 attack occurred around 4:30 p.m. An improvised explosive device filled with wire and shrapnel exploded in the international arrivals section of the airport. Among the dead was 29-year-old Anna Yablonskaya, a Ukrainian playwright who was on her way to receive an award. Russian authorities believed that foreign nationals were the primary target, and suspected Chechen radicals, but were unable to identify the culprits or even discern if the attack was a suicide bombing for some time. Eventually, they identified the bomber as a 20-year-old Chechen, Magomed Yevloyev. Umarov claimed responsibility on behalf of the Caucasian Emirate the following day, railing against Russia and other “satanic” foreign powers.

Four men, including Yevloyev’s 15-year-old brother, were eventually arrested in connection with the bombing. Three received life in prison, while Akhmed Yevloyev received a 10-year sentence. Though the insurgency in the Caucasus continues, the Domodedovo attack is the last major attack in Russia for which the Emirate claims responsibility. Though Umarov remains at large, his forces are now heavily depleted, not only due to casualties and battle fatigue but also due to a number of his fighters leaving to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The bombing demonstrated not only the continued problem posed by Chechnya to the Russian state but also the complex web of identities and allegiances that make the Caucasus a hotbed of sectarian conflict and a source of manpower for extremist ideologies.